Blizzard faces a different kind of strike; this time it’s players in the regional Overwatch Contenders tournament. After a competitive ruling prematurely ended a match, players refused to play in the European Overwatch Contenders Summer Series tournament.
In the Overwatch League off week, as teams rested last week from the beautiful chaos of the Midseason Madness tournament, Blizzard hosted an Overwatch Contenders Tournament to fill the time. Like Midseason Madness, the Overwatch Contenders Summer Series is a double-elimination tournament with a winners bracket and a losers bracket. Today’s European Winners Round Final – the contest that would determine which team would advance to the Grand Final and which team would fall to the Losers Round Final – was between 01 Esports and Munich Esports and was, according to several players involved and the rules of the tournament website, listed as a best of seven.
In the actual Overwatch League, it’s not typical for matches other than the Grand Finals to be a best-of-seven. Knowing that, a Munich Esports player contacted a Blizzard tournament administrator to confirm if the match was indeed the best of seven and received confirmation and reassurance that the winner’s final was the best of seven.
And with that, the two teams played.
Munich Esports went up 3-0, but 01 Esports stepped on the gas and started turning it around by winning the next two cards, making the score 3-2. It’s here when all hell breaks loose.
Blizzard tournament administrators abruptly called off the match, citing that the game was intended to be a best-of-five, not a best-of-seven. Since Munich Esports was the first team to have three cards, they got the win. This sparked a huge and furious backlash against Blizzard on social media as players from Munich Esports and 01 Esports began sharing screenshots of conversations with tournament administrators who confirmed they had been told the match would be the best of seven.
Since 01 Esports was immediately scheduled to play in the losers bracket against another team, they coordinated with their new opponents, Ex Oblivione, to essentially strike.
Aron “ANJ” de Jong, a main tank player on 01 Esports, spoke to The edge about what happened.
“Because of our loss, we had to play against Ex Oblivione in the losers class,” he said. “We agreed with them that this was unacceptable and that Blizzard cannot treat the players that way. 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 really compete.”
In the broadcast below you can see that neither team is playing seriously; players stand by and refuse to play the target. It’s a fantastic piece of collective action that’s pretty funny too, especially since the casters are starting to realize no one takes this seriously.
After this demonstration, the broadcast was paused and then ended. Shortly after, a tweet from Ex Oblivione player Helv text from an in-game chat in which a tournament administrator threatened to disqualify both teams if they refused to play.
Players and fans are starting to use the hashtag #ContendersStrike to draw attention to the issue, and it got enough attention to become a trending topic on Twitter:
Overwatch Contenders posted a statement on Twitter explaining what happened and the next steps.
Ex Oblivione and 01 Esports will not be disqualified from their demonstration, and Munich Esports and 01 Esports can continue the match as a best-of-seven. While this is the desired outcome for players, others believe that the miscommunication and subsequent fallout point to a bigger problem from Blizzard and its treatment of semi-professionals. overwatch e-sports.
“[Blizzard] have to admit to their lack of communication between Blizzard staff and the teams,” @kevhx_CEO of Ex Oblivione, says: The edge above Discord. “It happens far too often that 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 it is the source from which future Overwatch League players are tapped. Unfortunately, Contenders players, coaches and fans feel like it’s not getting the proper support from Blizzard, especially considering that teams in the League without a thriving amateur ecosystem would struggle to find talent to fill their ranks.
“It is important to note that this decision by Blizzard alone is not the only reason for the roar,” 01 Esports Tank @crandopOW tells The edge in a DM. Blizzard has politely done a bad job communicating with the” [Contenders] participants and this felt like the last straw.”