Back with a brand-new schedule and format, Contenders will be returning over the coming weeks of March to help satiate the appetite of fans everywhere who are starved of Overwatch esports.
The announcement sees Blizzard continue to embrace the regional formats that were introduced in 2020’s season. Teams in North America, Europe, South Korea, China, and Australia all vie for a global prize pool of $1.3 million in 2021.
Contenders in North America and Europe will run similarly to last year, in which an eight-team double-elimination bracket tournament will be played once a month. Trials, the path-to-pro tournament that acts as a qualifier of sorts for Contenders, will now be run half as often. This means Contenders teams will participate in at least two tournaments without the possibility of facing relegation in Trials.
In South Korea, Contenders will continue to run as a traditional 10-team league with just a few small modifications. Blizzard is introducing an inter-group round in between the group stage and playoffs that will help determine playoff seeding. The playoff format also changes slightly, with the adoption of a stepladder format where teams will be seeded according to their regular-season performance and a single loss meaning elimination.
Contenders China returns with the same format as it did in 2020. The only changes being made for the upcoming season include a reduction in the number of teams competing, down from 12 to just eight. The number of Trials tournaments will also be reduced from four to two this year in order to create more stability for Contenders teams.
In Australia, the tournament will be downsized again, as it was in 2020. In 2021, Australian Contenders will operate a single group, league-style format with a reduction in teams from eight down to six.
In 2021, just five major regions will compete for the title of best Contenders teams, after the loss of both South America and the Pacific regions.
“For the regions that Contenders will not be operating in including South America and Pacific, we are evaluating how to make it easier for 3rd party tournament organizers to successfully operate independent events inside their regions,” wrote Dan McHugh, product manager of Blizzard Esports, in a Reddit post made earlier this year,
For the five remaining Blizzard sponsored regions, they will commence their seasons in the coming weeks, for up-to-date information on broadcasting schedules for Contenders 2021, fans can visit the official Contenders website.