One of the oldest names in competitive Overwatch is completely out of the game, as NRG Esports has pulled its Contenders roster, leaving the San Francisco Shock as the last remaining organization with ties to NRG.
Established in 2016, the original NRG roster featured several fan favorites from over the years. These included Brandon “Seagull” Larend, Andre “IDDQD” Dahlstrom, Anthony “harbleu” Ballo, and Kim “Rascal” Dong-jun. NRG was one of the first major esports organizations to buy into Overwatch.
During the Contenders era of the roster, the team finished in the middle of the pack consistently, most recently notching a third-place finish in Overwatch Contenders 2019 Season 1.
The move from NRG, an organization that by most accounts is continuing to do well financially, could signal bigger things to come for the second tier Overwatch scene.
Blizzard is notorious among the competitive community for not giving what they view as adequate support to levels of competition below the Overwatch League. For the more hardcore fan, loyalties are still mixed between the geolocated franchises of OWL and the classic esports organizations that made early Overwatch amazing during the era APEX and similar tournaments.
According to an interview with Upcomer, NRG’s move will give the San Francisco Shock a more consistent scrimmage partner. In a strange way, it makes sense: if you’re going to operate a Contenders team at a loss, without significant results, there’s no real reason to keep the team around. The team may as well utilize the full 12-man Overwatch League roster, develop their Contenders players with better competition, and further refine and hide strategies during internal practices.
The second tier scene in Overwatch is in dire need of a facelift, one that it might not get soon. The geolocation aspect of Overwatch League franchising will ramp up during 2020 as the league requires teams to host home games, all at a greater financial risk to member organizations as they move to hire more support staff and prepare for the logistics of hosting games.
All eyes are on the Overwatch League, and while the money is there in the franchised teams, the Contenders scene in Overwatch may remain woefully ignored.