The Overwatch League, the Overwatch 2 esports league that (somewhat ill-advisedly) adopted an NFL-like franchise model, died last year. The brainchild of former Blizzard president Bobby Kotick, it failed to flourish thanks to expensive buy-ins, the covid pandemic kneecapping in-person events, and more—but after it died, Blizzard promised something would come in its wake. And indeed, something has risen from its ashes: the Overwatch Champions Series, or OWCS.
Announced January 23 via blog post, the Overwatch Champions Series is Blizzard’s “new premiere international competitive circuit” open to players across three regions: North America; Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa (EMEA); and Asia. The league has partnered with the ESL FACEIT Group (EFG), an esports platform that will allow pro and amateur players to find Overwatch 2 tournaments, help people organize third-party competitions outside of the official OWCS pipeline, streamline statistics, and make the entire esports experience easier for players.
FACEIT has helped administer esports leagues for games like Rainbow Six Siege, Counter-Strike 2, and League of Legends. It’s a smart move to implement something like FACEIT, as without the city-based, franchise formula, the league will need a hub through which all pro and amateur players can gather, check stats, and find tourneys.
“A thriving esports scene is important to a game as competitive as Overwatch 2, and we’re very excited to be entering this next era for the franchise with EFG,” said executive producer Jared Neuss in a press release.
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This new league won’t be composed of city-based teams like the OWL was, but will instead follow an open-circuit model like competitive Dota 2 and CS:GO leagues. Tourneys will be made up of player-created squads that participate in open qualifiers in an attempt to make it to the main event in their region. In North America and EMEA, teams will battle it out in four competitive stages throughout 2024, along with two international OWCS competitions. “Each stage will feature an online Open Qualifier and Main Event where players can earn circuit points, which are used to determine international event qualification,” the announcement explains. According to the blog post, the OWCS will kick-off in NA and EMEA on March 1, 2024. I hope there’s a controller league.
The OWCS will even have its own major, in-person tournament ala the OWL Grand FInals, which once had DJ Khaled perform in-between matches. Thanks to a partnership with DreamHack (another ESL company known for putting on gaming conventions and esports tournaments), there will be two major OWCS events this year: a summer tourney in the middle of this inaugural season, and a major finale event in the fall. The OWCS Major will take place at DreamHack Dallas from May 31 to June 2, while the grand finale will finally bring a major Overwatch esports event to Europe—DreamHack Stockholm will host and crown the first-ever OWCS champs.
Though Overwatch 2 has struggled since it replaced the original hero shooter in late 2022, its esports league remained a beacon of hope and solidarity amongst the always passionate Overwatch community. It’s great to see that Blizzard has followed through on its promise to keep Overwatch esports alive through the OWCS. Now I just have to find a new team to root for.
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