Today, Blizzard announced the second annual Overwatch World Cup, a 4-phase event culminating in a BlizzCon 2017 championship. Overwatch World Cup 2017 will increase the number of represented nations from 16 to 32, with the event involving four different stages. The core structure remains the same, however, with each nation's Overwatch fans ultimately voting for their favorite players to represent them.
Phase 1 has already begun and involves the announcement of the event itself, but also serves to make the international community aware of how to qualify. Blizzard's tracking the skill level of the top 100 players from the 50 countries which are able to be invited. Only the top 32 teams with the highest skill level ratings by April 24 will be invited.
Phase 2 will involve a vote to see which players represent each country, starting in April. Phase 3 is the group stage of the tournament and starts this summer. Finally, Phase 4 is the playoffs, four international events leading to a championship match at BlizzCon.
Currently the top 5 teams based on skill rating are South Korea, China, USA, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. For reference, the top three teams' skill rating sits about 700-800 points higher than the teams ranked in the 30s, which means it is going to be interesting to see how volatile the ratings are and whether teams currently just below the threshold, like New Zealand and Hungary, can climb up the ladder.
Many have been surprised by Blizzard's announcement since they expected the Overwatch World Cup was a one-time event in 2016. 2017 was considered the year that competitive Overwatch established itself, with Blizzard reserving the stage at BlizzCon for some sort of championship tournament. It seems that with the official Overwatch League not starting until 2018, Blizzard sees more value in the fan focused "All-Star" tournament of the Overwatch World Cup.
One detail Blizzard will need to further clarify is how the voting system will work this year. The event garnered some criticism in 2016 for its hit-or-miss nominations, which included popular Overwatch community members, streamers, and Youtubers and often lacked some of each region's best players. This year, Blizzard says fans will vote for "representatives" who will then "select the strongest team from that nation." That's certainly an interesting change, for better or worse.
Overwatch is currently available on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Overwatch World Cup 2017 culminates at BlizzCon 2017, which run from November 3-4. Tickets go on sale on two different dates: April 5 at 7pm PT and April 8 at 10am PT.