Blizzard and Banana Culture announced yesterday that they are partnering to launch the Overwatch Premier Series: a Chinese circuit featuring two seasons, a playoff finals, and another edition of APAC Premier throughout 2017. The prizepool for these three events amounts to $600,000 - four million Chinese Yuan - making it the largest event for Overwatch yet.
The structure of the circuit includes a Spring Season beginning March 16th, followed by a Summer Season, each with their own playoffs. The top eight teams of the year from both seasons will qualify for the Grand Final, an eight-team Chinese championship.
The top four from the Grand Final of the Overwatch Premier Series will also be given invites to APAC Premier 2017. The announcement states that, unlike the rest of the circuit, invitations will be given out to top Korean, Asia Pacific, and Western teams for APAC Premier 2017 - as was the case for its predecessor last year, which saw Rogue take 1st place.
The Preseason for Overwatch Premier Series (OWPS) is scheduled to begin on March 16th, running until April 9th. The regulation Spring Season will run from April 29th to June 11th, with Spring Season Playoffs between June 16th and June 24th.
There will be 10 teams in the inaugural OWPS Spring Season. The top eight qualify for playoffs, with the bottom two teams required to fight to avoid relegation. The Season will employ a circuit points system, running over the whole year.
Of the eight teams in Spring Season Playoffs, four will qualify directly for the Summer Season. This larger event will feature 12 teams; again, eight will move to playoffs while the bottom two play to avoid relegation.
The Grand Final of OWPS will feature the eight best teams of the year based on circuit points, incorporating results in both seasons.
At APAC Premier 2016, only one Chinese team made the semifinals despite eight home teams qualifying. Instability has been touted as one of the primary reasons that China has so far failed to compete on the world stage; the OWPS looks to provide a solid infrastructure around which team stability and improvements can be made for the top Chinese sides. The seeds of talent are definitely present in China, and now the Overwatch Premier Series has provided fertile soil (and a watering can full of money).