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The stakes just spiked for professional Overwatch

The stakes just spiked for professional Overwatch

Overwatch, the youngest esport in its weight class, is about to have a hefty new prize pool for the taking. Today, the competitive gaming platform FACEIT announced the Overwatch Open, a tournament with a prize pool of $300,000 greenbacks for the team that comes out on top. Anyone can sign up, even scrubs like you (probably) and me (definitely), though your chances are better with a team. Qualifiers begin tomorrow, with playoffs coming on August 26th.

Probably best known for running the open qualifiers for The International, Faceit has been a fixture of the eSports community since 2012. If not exactly beloved, they are prolific, having plied their trade for games like CS:GO, League of Legends and DOTA 2. Their partner in presenting the Overwatch Open is ELEAGUE, the Turner Broadcasting System’s attempt to elbow into the world of eSports. In a bizarre cultural collision, the grand finals of the Overwatch Open will be broadcast live on TBS, a network primarily distinguished by its relentless onslaught of Full House reruns.

Unlike the accidental esportification of digital card game Hearthstone, which Blizzard put together as an extremely polished experiment, Overwatch was always intended for professional play. Among the select few chosen to participate in the game’s closed beta, in addition to journalists and casual Twitch streamers, were Fnatic’s Morte and uNFixed, former Battlefield 4 professionals. Many months before the game’s official release, small tournaments were held between burgeoning Overwatch talent. You could almost sense Blizzard’s presence here, probing for that unpredictable alchemy of high skill ceiling and visually parsable action that creates both a competitive scene and its fanbase.

Now, that concern must seem like helicopter parenting. Today, only two months after its release, Overwatch enjoys weekly tournaments. The prize pool belonging to ESL’s Atlantic Showdown, another open tournament for which qualifiers will be finishing next week, sits at 100,000. With the Overwatch Open, the game already has eclipsed Blizzard’s last great competitive hope, Starcraft 2, whose global finals last year offered a total of 250,000.

At the time of writing, only three teams are registered. Of those, the only professional team is EnVyUs, though more recognizable names are sure to follow. The game is still young; the meta shifts every day, and upsets are far from impossible. One thing is for sure: at the rate we’re going, the Overwatch Open won’t be able to boast about being the largest Overwatch competition for very long.

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