The sixth season of the Overwatch League will be its biggest yet, literally. With Overwatch 2 in its first full year and finally in the hands of players worldwide, the League is making sweeping changes to accompany this new state of things.
To start, the Philadelphia Fusion and the Paris Eternal are no more. Paris has “relocated” to Vegas to become the Vegas Eternal, and the Philadelphia Fusion have undergone a complete rebrand, relocating to Seoul to become the Seoul Infernal. The Paris to Vegas pipeline had been in the cards (heh) for a while, as the Eternal’s Call of Duty League sister team, the Paris Legion, had rebranded to the Vegas Legion at the end of the 2022 season.
For the Fusion, while the franchise is owned by Comcast Spectacor, most of the day-to-day operations are managed by notable South Korean esports organization T1. All of Fusion’s players are Korean, and the team had been based out of South Korea ever since the covid-19 pandemic forced the League to split into East and West regions. While it’s sad that Philly and Paris no longer have teams to call their own, it makes sense that at least South Korea — being one of Overwatch’s biggest markets in addition to China and the US — has more than one team to represent it. Europe deserves more than one team, too, and it definitely shouldn’t have lost one of its two for the sake of another American team.
However, the new format the League is proposing might be able to address some of this regional imbalance. Kicking off officially on March 23rd, the Overwatch League is opening up to allow Contenders teams to compete against Overwatch League teams. (In case you forgot or, more likely, never knew because Blizzard’s been abysmal about its Tier 2 promotion, Contenders is like the baseball farm system but for Overwatch esports.)
Starting in February, Contenders teams will play in tournaments to determine who will have the privilege to get their asses kic... pardon — play — against Overwatch League teams. Once again, the League will be divided into East and West regions, with both coming together for LAN tournaments in the summer and at the end of the season.
In the West, the League will kick off with a professional / amateur tournament pitting Contenders teams against OWL teams. After that tournament, regular play will resume with OWL teams only. In the East, the League will be expanded to permit Contenders teams to play against OWL teams all year long. This difference is likely because the four Chinese teams (Hangzhou, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Chengdu) cannot legally play Overwatch 2, or most other Blizzard games in the country, following an end to an agreement with NetEase to operate.
In an email to The Verge, Overwatch League head Sean Miller said of the situation in China, “The League is working directly with teams to ensure minimal disruption in their preparation for the season.”
What that means is anybody’s guess, but if my Dragons don’t play, I will be very upset.
I’m always excited by the Overwatch League, doubly so now that Contenders players will get the exposure they’ve needed for a while now. Hopefully, these season 6 changes lead to a more equitable and sustainable League in the future.
Overwatch League play begins March 23rd.