Overwatch League 2023 to introduce Contenders teams, new format
In preparation for its Overwatch 2 debut, the Overwatch League 2023 is undergoing a major change in structure, making it similar to other modern esports tournaments like VALORANT, with two separate stages and worldwide LAN competitions.
Due to a startling new competition format—professional versus amateur Overwatch League Contenders tournaments—inexperienced teams will have a chance to compete in the Overwatch League.
Blizzard has also decided that league rankings would no longer be based on point totals beginning in 2023 but rather on each team’s performance in the playoffs at the regional level.
The Western region’s Spring Stage qualifications will send two teams to the Midseason Madness Global Tournament. Meanwhile, the Eastern region’s Spring Stage qualifiers will set the seeding for the Spring Stage Knockouts.
In late February, there will be a series of tournaments to choose the Contenders from the North American and EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) regions. On March 23, a three-week pro-am tournament will begin in the West, including a 20-team field with OWL and Contenders teams.
The 20 teams will then be seeded into four groups of five for two weeks of round-robin group play, followed by a single elimination tournament with the top eight teams. A $100,000 reward will be given to the pro-am event victor.
Twelve teams will be chosen to compete in the Spring Stage Opens from the Open Division and Contenders teams. The best teams from this round will advance to the Spring Stage Knockouts alongside their Overwatch League counterparts from the East.
The best four teams from the West will advance to the Midseason Madness LAN competition, including two from both the Spring Stage Qualifiers and the Spring Stage Knockouts. There are also the top two teams in the East, for a total of six teams in the double-elimination event.
In the East, 12 teams will represent their divisions in the Spring Stage Opens after competing in South Korea, Asia-Pacific (APAC) and Australia/New Zealand (ANZ).
The Summer Stage will then begin and follow the same pattern as the Spring Stage. Teams in the West will begin Circuit play immediately, while the best of the East’s Contenders will advance to the Summer Stage Qualifier tournament.
OWL 2023 teams
Blizzard has explained that the new East division has a more “open ecosystem that provides Contenders teams the option to play in official Overwatch League competition.”
With the addition of two “new” squads, Seoul Infernal, formerly called Philadelphia Fusion, and Vegas Eternal, previously Paris Eternal, this may be an effort to strengthen the non-NA areas.
On February 8, LA Valiant announced it would move to the West division for the 2023 season, meaning the East would have only six teams, namely Chengdu Hunters, Guangzhou Charge, Hangzhou Spark, Seoul Dynasty, Seoul Infernal and Shanghai Dragons.
Meanwhile, the West division features Atlanta Reign, Boston Uprising, Dallas Fuel, Florida Mayhem, Houston Outlaws, London Spitfire, LA Gladiators, LA Valiant, NY Excelsior, San Francisco Shock, Toronto Defiant, Vancouver Titans, Vegas Eternal and Washington Justice.
Strained relationship with China prompts changes
The most significant changes for the Overwatch League revolve around the publisher’s strained relationship with China.
Overwatch 2 and other Blizzard games were practically banned in mainland China, and the league’s East Region was thrown into upheaval when NetEase, Inc ended its partnership with them.
The situation of the Chinese-based OWL clubs also has been in turmoil for weeks, and there is a lot of doubt about the Chinese teams’ participation as the competition approaches.
Hundreds of players are available as free agents this offseason, and their futures are still uncertain.
However, Miller reassured fans that the league had been “working directly with teams” to guarantee minimal disruption to their preparation for the season after services were turned off in China.