Montreal is a city with a deep history in Overwatch. Montreal-based EnVision eSports EnVision eSports Inactive first emerged into the spotlight in 2017 and ended up competing in Contenders 2018 North America Season 1 against another Montreal-based team: Grizzlys Esports Grizzlys Esports Inactive .
However, both of those teams faded away out of Contenders and Overwatch entirely. During the Overwatch League offseason, two Canadian expansion franchises were announced but neither was in Montreal.
The city also hosted an Overatch tournament with Dreamhack Montreal in 2017 and 2018. However, there have been few large Overwatch events in Montreal outside of that.
The city's Overwatch fortunes changed with the recent reveal of the Montreal Rebellion, who will become a more permanent fixture within Contenders as the academy team of the Toronto Defiant. On top of that, the team will play its matches in an arena in downtown Montreal, giving fans an opportunity to watch at least seven Contenders matches a year up to a maximum of 14 matches in the current format.
"We did our surveys and people were willing to spectate esports teams in Montreal," Rebellion CEO Yannick "Babinski" Babin said. Thus the team formed a partnership with Esports Central Arena.
The Esports Central Arena will be located in downtown Montreal. The venue isn't finished yet and the team won't begin playing in the arena until the Contenders 2019 Season 2, according to the Rebellion's previous news release.
Image credit: Montreal Rebellion
The viewing experience should be unique for fans of Overwatch.
"The format is quite different because only our team is going to play on stage," Babin said.
Unlike in Overwatch League matches where the two competing teams share a stage with each other, the Rebellion will have the stage at the Esports Central Arena all to themselves. Contenders matches are all played online, making such a spectacle possible.
Babin says that the casting within the arena will most likely be the French broadcast. "We want French casting for NA Contenders because the Quebec market is mostly French," he said. Currently, the Rebellion are working to bring in a French broadcast, according to Babin.
Due to the spread of Overwatch League franchises throughout North America, Babin doesn't believe it's likely local arenas that act as homes for Contenders teams will become a thing in other locales on the continent.
Montreal, however, isn't quite the same as the rest of North America.
"People [in Quebec] don't have the opportunity to see esports competitively except maybe at Dreamhack once a year," Babin said. "I don't think there would be enough people to watch [Contenders in other regions], but Quebec is really different."
"Our people are super hype about Contenders. It's not really the same outside of here, like in the U.S., because it's like mainstream at this point right now compared to here where you never really had an esports team."
Babin recalled his team's first event: a watch party for the team's first Contenders match last week. The event gathered 50 people -- a number that may not fill up an arena but one he felt good about for a viewing party.
"I think [Montreal] is a good market for Contenders and I think we're going to attract some attention with the matches for next season presented in an arena," he said.
For those in Quebec who want to take a step up from the minors and watch the major league Overwatch League live, the opportunity may be closer to a reality than it would initially seem.
Babin says the Defiant may be working on plans to play some of their preseason matches next season in Montreal. It's no guarantee -- neither the team nor the league have finalized preseason schedules -- but the possibility is still there.
Either way, Overwatch should be a regular fixture in Montreal from here on out.