Blizzard is making cutbacks to its Overwatch Contenders League, a competition designed to help Overwatch players and teams reach their professional potential. Seasons are getting longer, but now there are going to be only two seasons each year. The maximum number of teams in each region will be cut down and all non-Academy teams will have to re-qualify if they want a place in 2019 seasons without their Season Three placing taken into account.
Prizes are going to be more heavily weighted toward top teams. North America is getting split into two regions, each with eight teams. That team number goes for every region – they’re all getting dropped from 12 to eight, though that change has yet to be confirmed in China. Any Academy team that’s not already in Contenders will be invited to 2019 Season One, though regular-season relegation rules will apply once again with Season Two.
Qualification for 2019 isn’t a given for all the top teams through the end of the year, though the announcement says “many top-performing teams from 2018 Contenders Season Three will automatically be qualified.” That all depends on how many Academy invitations are accepted, and teams left behind will have to re-qualify through Contenders Trials.
Teams are also going to be subject to “soft region locking,” meaning that they’re allowed only three non-resident players on the roster. That’s a change Blizzard says “will lead to the healthiest global competitive ecosystem in the long term.”
Most of these changes have been controversial since they were first leaked yesterday by sources including VPEsports, though today’s announcement doesn’t confirm every change from the leaks. Notably, a recorded meeting included a note that there will be “no offline finals” in Season Three. Blizzard may be hedging on whether that’ll still be the case by the time we get there, but there’s no uncertainty in that quote.