For what was to be the savior for all, Overwatch Contenders Season 0 serves only as a reminder of how underwhelming the Overwatch esports scene currently is.
The tournament had such incredible potential to showcase top level Overwatch. Featuring top-rate casters, a talented host, great staff, and most importantly, the best western teams, Season 0 had every tool necessary to put on a great show. Yet, the format has drawn almost unanimous criticism from the public with no sign of a response from the organizer and future curator of the entire scene: Blizzard.
Qualifiers were successful in terms of turnout, but had a suboptimal ruleset—teams entered a gauntlet without any seeding at all, forced to compete for a top 8 spot in order to progress through the tournament. Results were almost as expected, but the format forced twelve hours of matches on hopeful teams over a single day, with another set of matches to be played the next day should teams fail to qualify on the first try.
Worse, seeding was almost entirely meaningless in the case of North America. With exceptions made to Cloud9 for their trip to TaKeOver 2 and EnVyUs and Rogue for their long-time dominance, the entire NA scene was entirely staggered. Cloud9 took a forced 9th seed, creating a "group of death" situation in which Group D was significantly more difficult than any other.
On Europe's side, one team lost its sponsor during the tournament due to Overwatch's "turbulent" future, while another completely disbanded, forfeiting all its matches, as it was unable to secure a sponsor. Season 0 of Contenders was simply not enough to help secure sponsorships and allow teams to continue existing without a salary.
The horribly mismanaged stream schedule meant that viewers never saw Rest in Pyjamas compete with top-level Tracer Davin, and that the grudge matches between Laser Kittenz and Misfits or Cloud9 and Kungarna never saw the light of day.
The biggest problem is that no other tournaments exist upon the horizon. Open Division promises to allow teams to enter Overwatch Contenders down the line, but teams will likely have to struggle without sponsorships to get into a tournament that has been severely lacking during its first (zeroth?) season. Teams that failed to get into the top 8, such as the notable Cloud9, will have nothing to compete in outside of the World Cup for members that qualified for teams.
The moniker of "test run" is no longer acceptable. Every shortcoming handed to an Overwatch tournament is met with the same answer: "this is just a test for Overwatch League." Why must every event be a test run? What reason exists to even care about professional Overwatch if everything is a test run? Why do people spend their lives playing and following this game if it is still yet to be taken seriously by the organizer? Does a fundamental problem not exist when fans are forced to spam refresh on over.gg to keep up with matches that they do not have the ability to watch?
Twenty-four games occur per day at a minimum, but only four games are ever seen by the public unless special circumstances arise regarding tiebreakers. How can any viewer accurately follow the storylines of the tournament without even viewing the teams they follow? Why should they even watch an event that runs until 4 AM in the morning for the east coast? How can teams get exposure to satisfy organizations and sponsors when only one or two matches ever reach the stream? How can mix teams hope to represent an organization and gain a salary to actually stay afloat while they hope to compete in professional Overwatch's future?
Overwatch Contenders was supposed to answer all our questions about the Overwatch scene, but Season 0 has done nothing to assuage the community's doubts. The tournament pushed the boundaries with numerous tests—from working with free cam to adding regular replays—and held a sound show from a production standpoint, but the event overall has been a disaster from both a viewer's and a competitor's perspective.
There is almost certainly no chance that Blizzard would run such a poor event due to oversight given the experience behind their esports division and advisors, begging the question of why such a state of affairs came to be. Are they purposefully stifling the scene in order to show the stark contrast between no support and full support? Do the storylines of Contenders simply mean nothing to them? Or perhaps Overwatch viewers are simply ants, incapable of seeing the entire world as they focus only on the apple ahead.
Regardless of the excuse, Overwatch Contenders remains in a sad state of affairs, especially with the announcement of NA's playoff schedule with finals starting only at midnight Eastern time. Whether or not Blizzard chooses to address these issues, viewers have every right to expect more of the only tournament in sight.