There's been quite a bit of discussion around Blizzard's official Overwatch League and accessibility, given that reports say a slot in the big show could cost between $US15 million and $US25 million ($20 million and $33.5 million). Turns out, that isn't the only Overwatch esports league Blizzard is launching.
Today Blizzard announced Overwatch Contenders, which they're calling "a development league for aspiring Overwatch League professionals". Season Zero will start in North American and Europe over winter. It will take the form of an open signup, online-only qualifier with the goal of prying the top eight teams in each region from the woodwork. The prize pool for each Season Zero tournament will be $US50,000 ($67,017).
Season Zero will give way to Season One, in which eight qualifying teams from each region (a total of 16, competing in two separate tournaments) will duke it out across six weeks of round robin competition. Four teams from each region will then move on to their respective playoffs, where they will have a shot at dipping a giant golden ladle into a $US100,000 ($134,033) prize pool.
In 2018, Blizzard will also kick off the Overwatch Open Division, which will "offer emerging teams a path to Overwatch Contenders seasons in each region".
Tellingly, Blizzard added, "Of course, there is more than cash on the line -- with organisations looking to fill their rosters for the launch of the Overwatch League, all eyes will be watching this summer's competitive showcase." (It will be summer in the US, winter in Australia.)
Blizzard's reportedly been in talks with teams from regular sports (none of that newfangled "e" business) like the NFL, and it isn't a stretch to think that teams in the process of purchasing slots will soon be looking to recruit players. This does not, however, necessarily solve the problem of potentially prohibitive Overwatch League fees. Organisations endemic to esports can make a bit of money here, but is it enough for them to be sustainable?
The question, then, is what sort of teams will rise to the top of the heap. Will we be looking at top eights rife with familiar team names and resources like team houses, or will it be ragtag bands of folks who charged out of their bedrooms and onto the big stage? Sounds like Blizzard is hoping for a little of column A and a little of column B, which... may or may not work very well. We'll just have to wait and see, I suppose.