Overwatch League 2023 has major changes in store for the Blizzard esports, including the addition of Contenders teams to the mix.

Approaching its first full season in an Overwatch 2 world, Overwatch League 2023 is undergoing a massive shift in structure. Formatted more like its contemporary esports competitors such as VALORANT, OWL 2023 will feature two split stages backed by global LAN events. And in a surprise twist, professional/Overwatch League Contenders tournaments will allow amateur teams a chance at Overwatch League participation.

The announcement came today from Blizzard in a blog post provided to Esports.gg, as well as a video community update with host Soe Gschwind, Overwatch League Head Sean Miller, and Matt “Mr. X” Morello. A number of changes are in store for OWL fans, so let's detail the biggest shifts.

Overwatch League 2023 in a nutshell

The biggest shifts for the Overwatch League revolves around the fractured relationship between the publisher and China. For weeks the status of the Chinese-based OWL teams has been in flux, and while there's still plenty of questions we now at least have a few answers.

With the season being split into Spring and Summer, the two global LAN events making a return are the Midseason Madness Global Tournament and Grand Finals. Blizzard says in the provided release that "as we enter our first full season in a free-to-play world, we’re committed to serving a wider player base than ever before." Part of this new mission comes in the form of a new dividing of the teams into East and West regions.

Blizzard describes this new East division as "featuring a more open ecosystem that offers Contenders teams the opportunity to compete in official Overwatch League competition." This could be in an effort to bolster the non-NA regions, especially as two "new" squads--Seoul Infernal (formerly Philadelphia Fusion) and Vegas Eternal (formerly Paris Eternal)--enter play.

The OWL Pro-Am Tournament

Overwatch Contenders has long felt like a forgotten aspect of the esports scene. However, that looks to change in Overwatch League 2023 as East Region Contenders teams potentially get the chance to earn their way into prominence.

Competitive play returns on March 23 with a three-week Pro-Am tournament in the West with both OWL and Contenders teams. Regular season play will commence on April 27. A series of Contenders tournaments in late February will determine which teams qualify to join the West region Overwatch League teams in a 20-team field.

<em>The 2022 Grand Finals champion Dallas Fuel.</em>
The 2022 Grand Finals champion Dallas Fuel.

Those 20 teams will divide into four groups of five, competing in two weeks of round-robin group play. The top two teams from each group will move on to an eight team, single-elimination bracket during the third week. The grand prize for the winning team is 100,000 USD.

In the East region, Open Division and Contenders teams will compete in a series to determine who gets to qualify for stage play. Regional tournaments in South Korea, Asia Pacific (APAC), and Australia/New Zealand (ANZ) will create a field of 12 teams.

The future of OWL

The new format and addition of Contenders teams will surely shake up the Overwatch League. Though, only time will tell if the changes help or if these amateur teams will struggle against the major teams. We'll have more information on the Spring and Summer seasons as they become available.

Stay tuned to Esports.gg for more on Overwatch League 2023.

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