Photo by Joe Brady via Blizzard Entertainment

Overwatch League returns in March with ‘open ecosystem’ and pro-am tournament 

Especially in the East Region, Overwatch Contenders teams will get to join the action throughout the season.

Overwatch League fans are used to relatively long offseasons, with the esport often lying dormant between the Grand Finals in October and the advent of a new season the following spring. This offseason was especially brutal, with upwards of 100 players in the free agent pool amid an uncertain future. A broken partnership with NetEase also threw the league’s East Region into chaos as Overwatch 2 and other Blizzard games were effectively banned in mainland China. 

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To make a cohesive season, the Overwatch League is inviting some new players to the party in season six, according to the year’s first Community Update.

The 2023 season will kick off with a pro-am (or professional-amateur) tournament on March 23, where West Region teams—like the 2022 champions, the Dallas Fuel—will play alongside Overwatch Contenders teams.

League play proper, in both the East and West Regions, begins on April 27. 

Instead of the usual four stages, the season will be split into a Spring and Summer Stage. Both stages will end with a global tournament: the Midseason Madness tournament caps off the Spring Stage and Grand Finals close out the Summer Stage. During lulls in the stages, fans will be entertained by “Overwatch World Cup qualifiers and small tournaments during certain bye weeks,” according to a press release. 

Another big change is the removal of the League Points system. Instead of racking up points, teams will move on to tournaments and the postseason solely based on their records in regional qualifiers.    

East Region reconstruction

While the West Region will remain relatively similar to previous years, the East Region will feature a “more open ecosystem” in which Overwatch Contenders or Open Division teams can earn the right to compete alongside Overwatch League teams.

Tier-two teams will hold regional competitions in South Korea, Asia Pacific (APAC), and Australia/New Zealand (ANZ) to determine 12 teams that will move on to Spring Stage Opens. While East Region OWL teams battle it out in the Spring Stage Qualifiers, the tier-two teams will face off in the Opens. Top teams from the Opens will join Overwatch League teams in the knockout rounds for the Spring Stage, which determine Midseason Madness placement. 

Two teams will move on from the knockouts to represent the East Region in the Midseason Madness tournament. In theory, this means that Overwatch Contenders teams could be the top dogs in the East Region at some point this season. 

Four West Region teams will join them in the Midseason Madness tournament; two will automatically enter thanks to their records in qualifiers while two more teams will emerge from that region’s knockout rounds. 

This format will repeat for the Summer Stage, but select East Region Contenders teams will “automatically qualify” for the Summer Stage Qualifiers based on their performance in the Spring Stage. 

West Region pro-am tournament 

Overwatch Contenders teams from North America and EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) will battle it out in late February to determine who will join West Region Overwatch League teams in a three-week pro-am tournament that kicks off on March 23. 

Twenty teams, including the professionals, will enter the tournament. They’ll be split into four groups for round-robin play. The top eight teams will then go on to a single-elimination bracket for the final week. Every team will be hungry to win: one champion walks away with $100,000, a big prize to take even before the sixth season begins. 

More details on live events and specifics will be coming from the league, but event enthusiasts can at least rejoice a little: both the Midseason Madness tournament and the Grand Finals are confirmed to be live LAN events.  


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Author
Liz Richardson
Liz is a freelance writer and editor from Chicago. Her favorite thing is the Overwatch League; her second favorite thing is pretending iced coffee is a meal. She specializes in educational content, patch notes that (actually) make sense, and aggressively supporting Tier 2 Overwatch. When she's not writing, Liz is expressing hot takes on Twitter and making bad life choices at Target.