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Contenders was launched in to merge existing regional tournaments into a structure to support the Overwatch League. Contenders consists of several global divisions with a number of teams within each, which may include both professional and amateur players.
Contender teams may be affiliated with an Overwatch League team as an academy team , and up to two players per academy team can be signed to two-way contracts to be moved between their academy team and Overwatch League team.
Contenders was launched in the first half of with five divisions with 12 teams each: Korea replacing the Overwatch Apex tournament , China replacing the Overwatch Premier Series , and Pacific replacing Overwatch Pacific Championship for other Asian-Pacific countries , and adding in North America and European divisions.
Prior to the second Contenders season, Blizzard added two additional divisions, for Australia and South America, bringing the total to seven.
The top eight teams from the Open Division within each region are also invited to Contenders Trials, a weekly promotion and relegation tournament to compete in the following week of Contenders.
Blizzard also added a regional limit of the number of "import players", which are those that live outside the division's region, to a maximum of three.
Overwatch 's development started around , around the same time that esports and spectator-driven video gaming were starting to gain wide popularity due to accessibility of live streaming platforms.
According to Nate Nanzer, who was Blizzard's global director of research and consumer insights prior to being the league's commissioner, Blizzard considered the potential if they were the ones in charge of setting up these competitions.
Overwatch League was formally announced at BlizzCon in November Teams would provide competitors with salaries and benefits and would help "cultivate team and player development".
For Blizzard, the costs of running the league would be offset by traditional revenue streams that professional sports league have, such as promotion and advertisement, and physical League merchandise.
Kotick also said that due to the digital nature of the esport, Blizzard can also obtain revenue from virtual league-based items to fans, and additional sales of Overwatch and other games, and they are able to include more lucrative "over-the-top advertising opportunities that wouldn't exist in traditional sports".
Blizzard sought out potential team owners, aiming to include teams that were localized to a geographic area.
Blizzard believed having such local teams would spark more interest in esports from spectators and potential sponsors through new activities around supporting their team.
Blizzard anticipated the Overwatch League would have a seven-figure payoff for the winning team at the end of a season. Little information about the league came out of Blizzard following the initial November announcement for the next several months, leading to some speculation that the league was having trouble.
However, during this time, Activision Blizzard was working behind the scenes to engage potential team owners, wanting to hold back as to provide large comprehensive announcements rather than trickles of information.
Robert Kraft had been previously interested in investing into esports; he and Kotick had met earlier in when Kotick was looking to invest in an NFL franchise, where Kraft told him they were looking to seek investment in an esports team.
The first seven teams were revealed in July , and additional teams announced in the months following. In September , Blizzard announced that they would make permanent use of Studio 1 at The Burbank Studios in Burbank, California , which it converted into the " Blizzard Arena ", an esports venue which was initially used for both Overwatch Contenders and Overwatch League matches.
In July , it was discovered that the Major League Baseball association had issued a trademark dispute for the logo that Blizzard registered for the league, stating in their complaint to the United States Patent and Trademark Office that they felt Blizzard's logo was too similar to their own and may cause confusion.
To support spectating on broadcast and streaming media, Blizzard implemented cosmetic modifications to the game. Each team was given dedicated character skins with their respective team colors, names, and logos to use in matches.
Teams get a portion of the revenue of their team's skins. Blizzard has also worked to create an AI -based cameraman that can follow the action of the game as well as select key instant replays.
X" Morello, and Mitchell "Uber" Leslie. The permanent nature of teams with the Overwatch League, compared to promotion and relegation formats, would give opportunity for team owners to find additional revenue models by running their own stadiums and the merchandising opportunities for these, according to Morhaime.
This would then lead to more divisional play, with teams playing primarily other division teams at regional stadiums during the regular season to minimizing the cost of overseas travels.
However, Blizzard would still offer intra-division matches during the regular season. ESPN also identified that South Korean investors would not likely be invited, given that their products lack a global distribution, while many of the main Chinese investors already have possible conflicts of interests with other esports leagues.
While the first season saw all players under contract, Blizzard does not rule out the potential for players to form trade unions , with Nanzer stating that such a decision would be left to the players.
Teams would play half their games at this home stadium, and the other half away at others. In their scheduling, Blizzard would arrange for teams to play away games in geographic clusters and through more divisional matchups, as to minimize travel on players.
While there are still plans to expand to 28 teams, Nanzer said that they would maintain 20 teams for the third season in so that team owners can focus on the scheduling logistics first.
The league launched in with twelve teams, each based in a global city. Eight additional teams were added in the league's season.
As of the season, 20 different teams have competed in the league, with two having won at least one Grand Finals title. Preseason play for the inaugural season began on December 6, The official season began January 10 and continued through June , with a six-team championship series to crown the season winners in July.
Intel and HP were the league's first sponsors, in multiyear agreements including the provision of HP gaming computers and Intel processors.
Viewership of the first night of play through the English broadcast of Twitch reached over , viewers, while never dropping below , once play started, exceeding typical Twitch viewership numbers; additional viewers not included in this include those watching the other language broadcasts on Twitch, and MLG's own streaming media.
Prior to the end of the season, Blizzard had stated their intent to add six expansion teams for the second season, bringing the total number of teams to For the season, existing teams began re-contracting existing players, trading players with other teams, and bringing on any players from affiliated Contenders teams starting August 1 and ending September 8.
All unsigned players became free agents at this point. From September 9 to October 7, the expansion teams had exclusive rights to negotiate with the free agents to build their team.
Following October 7, all remaining free agents were free to negotiate with any team in the league. Teams were expected to have signed a minimum of eight members by early December, and had until early to build and change their roster to the maximum size.
The regular season began on February 14 and ran until August Each week featured twelve matches across Thursday through Sunday.
Each team played a total of 28 games during the regular season, seven per stage, which means that teams had one or two matches each week or may even have a bye week, addressing issues related to fatigue and mental health of players that had arisen during the first season, in which teams played 40 games.
The season's All-Star Weekend was moved up earlier to between Stages 2 and 3. Blizzard signed Coca-Cola in a multiyear deal as the league's official non-alcoholic beverage sponsor, covering not only Overwatch League games but also Contenders, Open Division, and World Cup , as well as for the annual BlizzCon event.
Pete Vlastelica, CEO and president of Activision Blizzard Esports, served as league commissioner until he moved onto a new position within the company in October Blizzard provided flexibility in planning the schedule for teams to develop the necessarily logistics of hosting homestand events, including providing accommodations and practice areas for visiting teams during those weekends.
Both leagues see similar issues in logistics, and coordinate efforts when applicable. Divisions were converted into conferences, with each conference having two divisions each.
Stages were also eliminated, with teams still playing 28 games through the season with a planned mid-season All-Star break.
Due to restrictions put in place to counteract the COVID pandemic , the league suspended all homestands and announced that it would instead move to online play after less than a month.
The New York Excelsior were also forced to temporarily step back from the league in order to comply with a stay-at-home order.
Soon after the switch to online play, the league abandoned the original conferences and instead divided the teams into two regions North America and Asia-Pacific to account for the geographical spread of the teams.
Teams exclusively competed within their regions for the duration of the regular season, with the only inter-regional matches taking place at the very end of the playoffs period.
The season also introduced mid-season tournaments, featuring three across the regular season: the May Melee, Summer Showdown, and Countdown Cup, all still split by region.
In October , Activision Blizzard announced that commissioner Pete Vlastelica would step down to take on a new position following the Grand Finals.
The season introduced a new double-elimination playoff format involving all 20 teams, albeit with brackets still split by region . The two top teams from each region were selected to advance to the inter-regional Grand Finals Weekend, which was its own double-elimination bracket.
Both teams competed from separate locations in South Korea. On July 11, , Blizzard also announced a U. German sports channel Sport1 , which broadcasts to Switzerland and Austria in addition to Germany, made a two-year deal with Blizzard games live starting in the second season, partnering to form a new eSports1 sister channel.
For the season, YouTube reached an exclusive deal to serve as broadcaster for all Activision Blizzard esports events, including the Overwatch League, Call of Duty League, and Hearthstone , replacing Twitch.
Alongside the agreement, Activision Blizzard also reached an agreement to use Google Cloud Platform as its preferred infrastructure provider for its game servers.
Some commentators observed that of the more than players selected for teams for the first season, none of them were female.
The Houston Outlaws said that there would have been a language barrier issue with her potential teammates, and complications related to co-ed housing for teams.
The team also claimed that if they had brought her on board, there would have been issues from external commentators about whether it was a press stunt or an otherwise legitimate reason, and the nature of this legitimacy would shadow her career.
Other teams like the London Spitfire and the New York Excelsior had looked to Geguri as a free agent but in the end desired to work from an established set of players that had already worked in leagues in the past.
Team owners recognized that they want to make the player roster more diverse, but this in part requires making the community around Overwatch less toxic and more inviting.
Additional concerns were raised following several league-issued fines and suspensions issued against a number of players based on their conduct.
Journalists found that some players carried over the toxic nature from their days as YouTube or Twitch broadcasters, in which players would often routinely ridicule their opponents; many of the fines and suspensions follow from similar behavior displayed at the league level.
The Overwatch player base outside of the league has also had issues of toxicity , which Blizzard has been trying to handle through better reporting tools.
In addition to requiring the league players to follow the code of conduct, Blizzard is also watching how these players behavior on off-league broadcasts, and would fine players if they engage in toxic or inappropriate behavior even if not part of a league session, as well as publicizing when the league takes such actions.
After the conclusion of the first stage of the inaugural season, ESPN reported that the revenue projections for the league has exceeded its expectations, with some insiders claiming that the league's revenue was four times greater than initially planned; this was in part through its Twitch streaming deal and new advertisers, such as Toyota and T-Mobile , that came on board a few weeks into play.
Entering the third season, concern had been raised on the stress of the league on its players. Fifty players had dropped from the league during the first two years, with several of them citing the stress the league places on them and mental health issues.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Professional esports league. Overwatch Contenders Open Division.
See also: Gameplay of Overwatch. X" Morello left to right were part of the inaugural broadcast team. Main article: Overwatch League season.
Archived from the original on March 2, Retrieved March 2, USA Today. Archived from the original on November 28, Get official Overwatch League jerseys , hats, hoodies, tees, and much more including Overwatch face coverings for every fan from the official online store of Overwatch League.
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Prize expires December 31, if not redeemed into the Overwatch game and will not be replaced. Overwatch game license is required to redeem prize in the Overwatch game.
Blizzard account required. Platform account may be required. For complete rules, see here. In December, Twitch Studios announced that auditions were open for Stream On: a live interactive game show that lets viewers discover The only thing better than watching anime is debating your favorites with friends.
Show your colors and earn rewards with the Overwatch League on Twitch. Feb 21 - By Noreen T.