Blizzard Entertainment has announced that they will be changing the league structure for the 2019 Overwatch Contenders to have two seasons in the year and reallocating its US$3 million prize pool to “facilitate even more nail-biting competition around the world.”

Blizzard wanted the Overwatch Contenders — as the developmental league for the Overwatch League — to “shine an even bigger spotlight on rising talent” according to the announcement on the official Overwatch League website.

As such, all eight Contenders regions — namely North America East and West, South America, Europe, China, Korea, Asia-Pacific, and Australia — will determine their champions over the course of two competitive seasons.

Each season is split into four phases: Trials, a Regular Season, Playoffs, and a special tournament unique to each season.

The Season 1 Trials will act as a transitional tournament from the 2018 format and will feature eight teams in most regions, compared to 12 participating teams from before. This new format will have more Contenders teams than Open Division teams as slots for the regular season will be harder than ever to qualify for.

All Overwatch League academy teams, along with select top-performing teams from the previous season, will receive invites to the regular season for each region. The top-performing teams from the Trials will then fill any remaining slots to reach the total of eight teams.

They will then compete in a round-robin style tournament, with the top six teams advancing to the single-elimination bracket playoffs.

After the Season 1 playoffs, the top teams from each region will participate in double-elimination tournaments called the Atlantic and Pacific Showdowns. Europe, North America, and South America will compete in the Atlantic Showdown, while Australia, China, Korea, and Asia-Pacific will participate in have the Pacific Showdown. Both Showdowns will include a $125 thousand prize pool.

For the Season 2 Trials, the top four teams from the Open Division and the bottom two teams from Season 1 will face off in a round-robin style tournament to fill two of the slots for the regular season.

All the teams that made it to the playoffs in Season 1 will automatically earn each of the six slots in the regular season for Season 2, which will have the same format. The Season 2 Playoffs will have the same format as Season 1’s as well.

Overwatch Contenders 2019 will then culminate in a special tournament called “The Gauntlet”, where 10 teams will compete in group stages and a double-elimination bracket main event. Only the top-performing regions will be able to send their teams from Season 2 to the Gauntlet, with performance in the Pacific and Atlantic Showdowns also determining region-specific invites.

While Blizzard is set to release more details on the Gauntlet soon, they have revealed that it will feature a US$250,000 prize pool.

Contenders Season 1 will take place during Stages 1 and 2 of the Overwatch League, while Season 2 will take place during Stages 3 and 4.

The Atlantic and Pacific Showdowns will run during the Overwatch League’s All-Star break, while the Gauntlet will take place after the Overwatch League playoffs.

Check back with us for more news on the Overwatch League and Overwatch Contenders.