This article is part of our Overwatch series.
I know we already get almost too much Overwatch to keep up with thanks to the Overwatch League, but what if I told you there’s more? I realize it’s insane to think about just how much Overwatch gets played every week, but hear me out. Despite the action taking place across five major regions across the world, Overwatch Contenders is something that you’ll want to keep an eye on the Contenders scenes around the world, and I’ll tell you why.
1) Contenders is where you can see some familiar faces
Ever wonder what happened to former Team USA and Cloud9 support Adam “Adam” Eckel? How about Lunatic-Hai Genji player Lee “WhoRU” Seung-joon or former RunAway main tank, Ryu “Kaiser” Sang-hoon? These players and more can be found in the Contenders scene, with the three aforementioned players competing in the North American region. Seeing some players that might have barely missed the OWL cut the first time around is refreshing, since it can give you a good sense of which veteran players are still able to compete at the highest level. Moreover, once these guys make it into the OWL one day, you can say you’ve been watching them in Contenders for awhile. “What’s Contenders?”, they will surely ask. At which point you will stare off into the distance, wondering how much sunlight you lost by watching Contenders. Don’t worry, it’s worth it.
2) Contenders plays on the newest patches
Have you heard a lot about Sombra buffs potentially changing the balance of the game? Want to see it in action? Look no further than Contenders! While we have to wait weeks for these patches to hit the OWL, teams in the developmental leagues are constantly innovating ways to deal with popular strategies on patches you can play in the live client. Avid viewers might even see some of the same strategies created by Contenders teams one day adopted by OWL squads, showing that Contenders tournaments around the world are the crucible of competitive ingenuity. For instance, while Zenyatta reigns supreme in the OWL right now, he’s almost a liability in Contenders thanks to Sombra’s presence, so teams have replaced the Omnic monk with Moira, drastically changing the way teamfights play out. These innovations, along with some good old fashioned cheese strats, are what Contenders are all about.
3) Contenders lets you meet the stars of tomorrow
Ever hear of hitscan DPS Dalton “Dalton” Bennyhoff? In case you haven’t, watch this.
He plays for Toronto Esports in the NA Contenders tournament, which is the same team that new San Francisco Shock support Grant “moth” Espe played for, showing that San Francisco realizes the wealth of young talent in Contenders. Not everyone in Contenders will shine, certainly, but Contenders will certainly help rookies make a name for themselves as they try to woo OWL teams into buying out their contracts, and watching these players grow from amateurs to stars is a long and rewarding journey. And with the OWL being a long-term investment from all parties involved, you can expect that many of these players will surely find a home on OWL rosters before long.
4) Regional broadcasts let you experience the joy of regional OW again
The OWL is a global league, and it’s been a while since a truly regional tournament took place. Now, thanks to Contenders, we can watch Europeans play other Europeans with European casters, we can watch the Australia region do what the OCE region does best: use some of the best accents in the world to deliver high paced action. Korea, of course, is second to none in terms of regional experience, with Contenders Korea acting as a pseudo-descendant of the much loved OGN APEX Series, which captured Korean and global hearts with breathtaking spectator/camera work, top-tier play, and incredible storylines. Trust me, watch a full match day of Contenders Korea and tell me you don’t go through an emotional roller coaster. I'll wait.
5) Supporting Contenders is a crucial step in supporting the long-term growth of Overwatch
Most people who watch OWL will look at Contenders and decide they don’t have the time for it, which is fair. Consider this, though: the Overwatch League’s lofty goals for its first year get only more seemingly impossible to fulfill as the years stretch on, and these early years are where OWL has the greatest chance to fail. Watching Contenders not only helps the long term growth of the OWL, but the game as a whole. Strong, healthy academy and challenger teams are all vital parts of esports ecosystems, adding layers of depth and stability to a league that might need it once teams go local. What’s more, who’s to say if some of the teams not already sponsored by OWL teams get picked up as academy teams going forward? What if Contenders teams and OWL teams develop relationships similar to MLB and AAA baseball squads? Who knows? You won’t, if you don’t watch.