Movistar Riders, a Spanish organisation known in Overwatch for housing a top European team, has decided not to renew contracts with its players after they expired recently. The players are officially free agents and are reportedly still deciding whether to stick together as a team or disband.
Movistar Riders have not been dropped due to a lack of results. After winning the PIT Championship EU and the HND Invitational, the team looked to be one of the strongest in Europe. They have followed that success up recently with a top four finish in TaKeOver 2, qualification for Contenders Season One, and just yesterday won the GAME Stadium LAN finals.
According to Dante, Movistar Riders met with the team yesterday and told the players that, despite their success, it was currently unsustainable for the organisation to keep an Overwatch team.
Movistar Riders contains some of the most explosive, skilled individual talent in Europe. Some of their players have already received offers, leaving the future of the team unknown. "It's gonna be hard to tell [players with offers] not to take them for the off-chance that a random org will pick us up," said Dante. Given the recency of the announcement, the players have not yet decided whether they will continue playing as a group or pursue options elsewhere on their own. Some of the former Movistar Riders are even considering moving to another game entirely.
Movistar Riders' Contenders Season One spot, per the tournament rules, belongs to the organisation. As with Ninjas in Pyjamas' spot which was passed down to the team captain to form Rest in Pyjamas, Movistar Riders are happy to give their spot to the players should they wish to continue, says Dante. Given their reasons for dropping the Overwatch team, it seems unlikely Movistar would wish to field another roster and keep the spot.
Another candle is lit, marking the next organisation to depart from the shores of Overwatch in a Viking funeral, and it becomes ever harder to ignore the questions about the stability of the scene. While previously dropped teams had poor results or were unaware of Contenders, Movistar Riders have made their decision with clear knowledge of their spot in the Contenders system and their ability within it. The organisation appears to have simply decided that with few tournaments and opportunities for exposure, the return was not worth the investment.
While some may perceive this as a blessing in disguise for the players, who are not locked into contracts for the start of OWL, Dante disagrees, citing the need to bridge the gap between being a free agent and an OWL commodity. "You can bridge the gap to OWL with an org and get paid so you can fully commit to practising - that way you have the biggest chance to get in OWL: either as a team via your org, or as a team being picked up by an org that is in OWL, or as an individual being poached."
It's hard to tell the best strategy for getting into OWL at this point for any player, as recruitment policies are likely to differ from city to city and there is such a buyers' market. "But without any support from an org," he warns, "bridging that gap makes the gamble that is Overwatch now even bigger."
There is also a lot of mystery surrounding the rest of the Overwatch scene outside of the Overwatch League. The OWL will be Blizzard's flagship project, but the majority of the year will be filled with an offseason and lower tiers like Contenders, according to their previous announcements. "We don't know where it's going," says Dante, "lately it's been going down hill if you see all the negativity from players and the masses of orgs pulling out. So if anyone were to want to play more safely, by changing game or pursuing something else, it seems reasonable especially if you don't have the support of an org."
"I don't think many players don't want to sign contracts unless they are just bad contracts right. I think most players would jump on the opportunity to sign for any decent org right now just to bridge that gap."
Dante continued: "Why would any org in OWL pick up free agents that have been gathering rust the last few months, while the amount of teams in OWL are gonna be limited so you can probably just cherry pick of players that have proven themselves playing for teams that don't make it in OWL the last few seasons."
It puts players and organisations in a tense waiting game to see how the Overwatch League, and the rest of Blizzard's proposed circuit, materialises and develops. While Overwatch may seem to be in a slump from the outside, looking back at this time a year later may redefine this period as a simple restructuring within the scene.
The advantage for the scene is that, with each fallen team, a huge injection of free agent talent is added for those building new rosters. Few can compare to the skill of Movistar Riders players, and they are unlikely to be homeless for long.
The former Movistar Riders roster was:
- Andreas "Logix" Berghmans (DPS)
- Johan "CWoosH" Klingestedt (DPS)
- Emil "destro" Krastev (Flex)
- Raymond "Kolsti" Tea (Tank)
- Dante "Dante" Zegveld (Support)
- Alberto "neptuNo" González (Support)