Update: At the request of the interviewee, the title has been changed to reflect the fact that it was ultimately his decision to end the Monthly Melee series, and an additional quote has been added to the bottom of the article.
The Overwatch Monthly Melee, previously known as the Alienware Monthly Melee, has been a staple of the North American Overwatch circuit since its conception in April 2016. Reports have been circulating that the event would be discontinued after June 1st, and these have now been confirmed by the head organiser MrAlexDanger.
The Monthly Melee began as the larger, more prestigious brother of the GosuGamer Weeklies, with ZP and Hex involved heavily with both casting and organisation. The event brought in large viewer numbers, with the casting and rotation of top teams creating a brand that is still well-recognised and respected over a year later.
From its humble beginnings, with the game still in beta and prizepools of only $500, the Monthly Melee grew to become a testing ground for promising NA teams. The latest editions have featured casting from some of the best talent in the scene and prizepools of $10,000. Their cancellation caused quite a stir in the fanbase.
The original leaked post from the OMM discord by Alex reads:
...Word has gotten around that the Monthly Melee will be cancelled after this month. These rumors are unfortunately true, and this will be our last event for the foreseeable future. I don't want to guarantee that there won't be another Monthly Melee after this month, but we're not planning events for June, July, or onward at this time.
Thank you for all of your hard work helping us make the Monthly Melee a great success for Curse and our friends Alienware, it's been wonderful to be a part of. As always, if you have questions please feel free to send me a message.
We approached Alex to get a more clear summary of why the Monthly Melees were being discontinued. He clarified:
In January I was already making plans to host events in May, June, and July later this year. By this time I had Blizzard looped into an approval process for many different aspects of our event, from branding/overlays and production changes to giving me available dates for our cast. When the topic of June onward came up we started running into issues.
In February, I was told that they [Blizzard] could not guarantee any dates for me past June 1st. Over the following two months I had several candid discussions with Blizzard's eSports team and various coordinators about continuing our event. This continued until finally we had to cancel our commitment to the Melee past June due to uncertainty.
Uncertainty has been a major theme within Overwatch since the announcement of the Overwatch League. Other tournament organisers have been finding it difficult to acquire licenses for offline events and DreamHack’s Director of Esports revealed in an interview with PVP Live that they were currently not pursuing licenses as large offline events did not make economical sense.
The uncertainty for the Monthly Melee is similar. “For two months it still wasn't 100% certain that we wouldn't be able to do events past June 1st,” Alex said, “we only came to that conclusion by late March. The entire time inbetween I was holding out hope that they would let us keep doing the Melees. By the time April rolled around I made the decision to end the Monthly Melee.”
There is no clear reason why the Overwatch Monthly Melee has been discontinued after its May edition though. “I was 100% willing to get into license talks to keep the Melee going,” Alex continued, “I was confident we were a big enough part of the existing community that a license wouldn't be a barrier to this. It was more so I was told all third party licenses were suspended past June 1st, which to my knowledge is true.”
It doesn’t seem that this suspension of third party licenses has applied across the board however. Other similar tournaments are reported to be in preparation stages, though are not ready to publicly announce. Alex is not sure what separates those events and the Monthly Melee. “I am aware that some events are happening past June, I'm not sure what their conversations look like with Blizzard,” he said, “maybe they figured something out.”
“I feel like I haven't been given a solid reason for the Melee's discontinuation, but it's Blizzard's decision to give me that info or not.”
He continued: "It might be bad to make the assumption that the Melee is too big to cancel, I just know that I have good relationships with the Blizzard esports teams and they love our event too."
"Their role in the Melee's transition from $5k to $10k prize pool was monumental, along with helping us get the event onto our main Curse Twitch channel. That experience has only made me more optimistic about the Overwatch League later this year, it's going to be an amazing year for esports and I'm excited to be able to say I had a role in that success by way of the Alienware Monthly Melee."
It is unknown whether the OMM is being temporarily halted for a number of months to focus on pre-OWL tournaments and the Overwatch League itself, or whether this is the last time we will see the familiar brand on our screens. As has become the norm, Overwatch fans must simply wait and see.