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New year, new league. Overwatch Contenders, the multi-region competition for aspiring Overwatch League players on the Path to Pro, returns in January with a few new rules. North America will experience another region shift, less total prize money is available for players, and region locks have been all but eliminated within the competition.
Overwatch Contenders operates in seven regions around the world: North America, Europe, South Korea, China, Australia, Pacific, and South America. In 2019, North America was split into two regions, East and West, to accommodate the large number of teams competing. In 2020, North America will go back to a single region. This is most likely due to the amount of North American academy teams, or Contenders teams owned by Overwatch League organizations, that have dropped out this year.
Regional restrictions have also been dropped for the 2020 seasons. In previous Overwatch Contenders seasons, teams could only have three non-resident players on any given team. A European team, for example, could only have three players from North America, South Korea, or otherwise. China is the only region that will still have these locks in place.
Overwatch League teams can now have more players on a two-way contract than ever before. A two-way contract allows a player to be signed to both an Overwatch Contenders academy team and an Overwatch League team. The specific rules are complex, but players are allowed to participate in a set amount of matches in each competition. Each Overwatch League team can now have four two-way players instead of the two players allowed in previous Contenders seasons.
Earlier this year, Contenders developers updated fans about a few big changes coming to the 2020 seasons. Both seasons of the competition will operate on a point system instead of the prior round-robin format. We now know more about the point system after the most recent announcement.
Each season will contain four Contenders Trials tournaments, which allow teams from Trials and Open Division to move up into Overwatch Contenders proper. Each season will also contain four Contenders tournaments. Regional playoffs will happen at the end of each season and will be filled out by teams who have “scored” more points through high-place finishes.
First place in any given Contenders tournament scores 100 points. Second place is 50 points, third and fourth place are 25 points, and the system scales down from there. Points for regional playoffs can only be accumulated in actual Contenders tournaments, however. Teams who do extraordinarily well in Contenders Trials tournaments won’t see those points “moved over” to regional playoffs.
The prize pool for 2020 has also been decreased. Around $2.5 million is set aside for the Overwatch Contenders 2020 prize pool, but the 2019 seasons boasted a $3 million prize pool.
A preliminary seeding tournament begins Jan. 6 for current Overwatch Contenders teams. The double-elimination tournament will take place over several weeks. The first Contenders Trials tournament, which may allow new teams to join the Contenders tournaments, begins Feb. 24.