By Petar Vukobrat
September 16, 2018
It still feels perhaps a bit strange even to write these words – “competitive Overwatch calendar year.” It wasn’t that long ago that Overwatch was deemed as a niche esport. Too small to gather a big following and yet too big to be completely ignored.
There were stories about Blizzard trying to franchise the Overwatch League, which at the time didn’t even exist. It was all a big cloud of smoke, filled with uncertainty.
However, this year in just a couple of months, the Overwatch calendar appears to be bustling since there were over a couple of hundred competitive OW games played. Many of which were quite spectacular might I add.
Overwatch has become one of the main esports in the world (still somewhat arguable, but the viewership numbers and sponsorships are undeniable), and the grand finals were broadcasted on ESPN.
It was consistently getting better numbers than most other esports on Twitch – League of Legends included, and for a game that isn’t nearly as popular or dominant on the market that’s quite the achievement.
Fortunately, if you’re hooked on competitive OW, there are more than enough competitions spread across the Overwatch calendar throughout the entire year.
The point of this article is to deconstruct and better showcase all important tournaments and competitions on the Overwatch calendar throughout the year. So without any further ado, let’s get started!
The biggest and most prestigious tournament of the year. It is considered that the very best and most skilled players compete in the League on a weekly basis, and that’s not far from the truth.
There are some exceptions overall, as not all countries and regions are represented equally (China stands out as a perfect example). It’s the only Overwatch tournament where you can tune in weekly and witness the highest level of play.
The fact that the OWL was able to reach a certain high production standard from the very get-go is staggering. It was as if Blizzard simply created the Overwatch League in a vacuum, and presented it to the world when they deemed fit. Everything regarding the League screams “high value,” and it’s precisely one of the reasons why it caught everyone’s attention so quickly.
The League isn’t just a platform for the mechanically gifted players to shine; it’s also a marathon. It lasts for around seven months, which is far longer than any other league in esports. It can be grueling and, at times, somewhat repetitive – for both fans and players.
There’s an insane amount of money on the line – three and a half million in total per season, that’s divided through four stages as well as the season playoffs. The team that wins the entire League gets one million dollars. You should also take into consideration the possibility that a team could earn well over half a million dollars throughout the season as well if they were able to win in most Stage finals.
The inaugural season of the Overwatch League was, by all means, a complete success. It wasn’t perfect, but for a completely new esport is was about as good as it could have been. Blizzard will surely invest a lot more in developing their ambitious project, so we’re bound to get a lot more high-quality Overwatch in the future.
After the Overwatch League concludes, there’s quite a long three-month break. The teams that are in the League get to restructure and shuffle their rosters, and players get some well-deserved time off.
The World Cup group stages started off in August, and they last all the way through October.
Much like the Overwatch League, the World Cup is organized by Blizzard and has been held in 2016 and 2017 in Anaheim, California. The World Cup pits 32 nations from around the globe against each other, and only the very best get to advance and play in front of live audiences.
The top eight nations then go to BlizzCon and duke it out to lift the World Cup trophy. Pretty straight-forward.
It’s surprising just how close watching the Overwatch World Cup comes to traditional sports. There’s national pride, fan voting, as well as old and new rivalries. The BlizzCon arena in Anaheim is also pretty incredible, and it accommodates far more spectators than the Blizzard Arena in Los Angeles.
Generally, the World Cup is extremely fun to watch. Not only does an incredibly high number of people tune in every year to watch it, but you also witness some new talents rise through the ranks. Last year the South Korean DPS player Yeon-oh “Flow3r” Hwang was an absolute revelation – his Widowmaker and Genji play put many other established professional players to shame.
The only downside to the World Cup is the fact that it doesn’t last long, so make sure to tune in this November!
The Contenders league is an important tournament on the Overwatch calendar for up-and-coming young players who are aiming to reach the very top. It’s their best chance of showcasing what they’re made of. Even though it’s a “less important” league when compared to the Overwatch League, it is by no means small.
You have seven regions (Australia, China, Europe, Korea, North America, South America, and the Pacific) and the combined prize pool for all seven regions totals out at a bit over three million dollars. While that might sound like a lot, when you break it down per region and per team, it’s far less impressive. But players don’t participate in the Overwatch Contenders league for the money – they play to show their skills and get drafted.
And just because it’s smaller than the OWL, it doesn’t mean that the production value is bad – far from it. Obviously, you’re not going to get the same viewing experience, but for what it is – it’s great. The Contenders series is also a place where some very creative strats and team comps come to fruition. With less pressure to perform and win, teams are willing to experiment a lot more which can lead to some very exciting games.
Also, each Overwatch League team has to have an academy team, that is then competing in the “little leagues.” The point of Contenders is to diversify the competitive scene further, as well as to give young prospects the opportunity to shine.
While Contenders isn’t nearly as popular as the Overwatch League, it does have a faithful following.
Just about a month after the World Cup ends, there’s yet another competition. Unlike the World Cup, there’s no regional pride or prize pool this time around. These are just exhibition matches, and even though we’ve only had one so far, but it’s been pretty incredible.
The preseason is a great chance for fans to witness just how strong each team looks before the season begins. While it carries zero significance in regards to the overall season standings, it’s still a lot of fun.
It’s also the perfect chance for Blizzard to showcase any changes to the format, the arena, and the live viewing experience. And again, much like the World Cup, it doesn’t last for long. Three days at the beginning of December, and twelve relatively short Best of 5 matches.
Clearly there are many opportunities for some great competition on the Overwatch calendar and only time will determine how large it will grow.