Blizzard faces a different kind of walkout; this time it’s players from the regional Overwatch Contenders tournament. After a competitive decision prematurely ended a match, players in the European Overwatch Contenders Summer Series tournament declined to play.
During Overwatch League Off Week, as teams rested from the beautiful chaos of the Midseason Madness tournament last week, Blizzard hosted an Overwatch Contenders tournament to fill the time. Much like Midseason Madness, the Overwatch Contenders Summer Series is a double-elimination tournament with a winner’s bracket and a loser’s bracket. Today’s European Winners Group Final – the game that would determine which team would go to the Grand Final and which team would fall in the Losers Group Final – was being played between 01 Esports and Munich Esports and was, according to several players involved and the rules of the tournament website, ranked among the top seven.
In the Overwatch League proper, it’s not typical for matches other than the Grand Finals to be best-of-seven. Knowing this, a Munich Esports player reached out to a Blizzard tournament administrator to confirm if the match was indeed best of seven and received confirmation and assurance that the winner’s final game was best of seven.
And with that, both teams played.
Munich Esports went up 3-0, but 01 Esports stepped up and started to turn things around by winning the next two maps, making it 3-2. This is where all hell breaks loose.
Blizzard tournament administrators abruptly called the match, citing that the game was supposed to be a best-of-five, not a best-of-seven. Since Munich Esports was the first three-card team, they took the win. This caused a major and furious backlash against Blizzard on social media as Munich Esports and 01 Esports players began sharing screenshots of conversations with tournament administrators confirming they had been told the match would be the best of the seven.
Since 01 Esports had to immediately play in the losing group against another team, they coordinated with their new opponents, Ex Oblivione, to basically strike.
Aron “ANJ” de Jong, a main support player on 01 Esports, spoke with The edge about what happened.
“Due to our loss, we had to play against Ex Oblivione in the losing group,” he said. “We agreed with them that this was unacceptable and that Blizzard could not treat players like this. We agreed with Ex Oblivione not to play the game, but we wanted to make a statement, so we decided to play the game but not actually compete.
In the broadcast below you can see that neither team is playing seriously; players stand and refuse to play the goal. It’s fantastic collective action that’s also kind of fun, especially as the actors start to realize that no one takes it seriously.
After this demonstration, the show was interrupted and then terminated. Shortly after, a tweet from Ex Oblivione player Helv sent the text of an in-game chat in which a tournament administrator threatened to disqualify both teams if they refused to play.
Players and fans start using the hashtag #ContendersStrike to draw attention to the issue, and it gained enough traction to become a trending topic on Twitter:
Overwatch Contenders released a statement on Twitter explaining what happened and next steps.
Ex Oblivione and 01 Esports will not be disqualified for their demonstration, and Munich Esports and 01 Esports will be able to continue the match on a best-of-seven basis. later are indicative of a larger problem with Blizzard and its treatment of semi-professionals. Surveillance esports.
“[Blizzard] must admit his lack of communication between Blizzard staff and teams,” @kevhx_general manager of Ex Oblivione, says The edge on Discord. “Too often we miss semi-critical information or receive it very late.”
Think of Overwatch Contenders as minor league baseball. It has its own structure, is run by third-party tournament organizers, and is the well from which future Overwatch League players are tapped. Unfortunately, Contenders players, coaches, and fans feel like they don’t have the proper support from Blizzard, especially since without a thriving amateur ecosystem, League teams would struggle to find talent for fill their ranks.
“It’s important to note that this decision by Blizzard isn’t the only reason for the roar,” 01 Esports tank @kraandopOW recount The edge in a DM. “Blizzard did a polite and poor job of communicating with the [Contenders] participants and it felt like the last straw.