The Overwatch League (OWL) has just experienced a significant shakeup as the beloved Chinese franchise, Chengdu Hunters, announced their official departure from the league. This marks a poignant first, with the Hunters becoming the initial franchise to completely exit the competition.
Since the franchise’s inception in Season 2 of the Overwatch League, the Hunters have become fan favorites, renowned for their distinctive tactical approach and outstanding players such as Huang “leave” Xin, the celebrated Season 4 MVP. Their departure is a significant blow to the league, and fans are already mourning the loss of a team that made impressive strides during its tenure, including finishing second in both the 2021 Countdown Cup and Summer Showdown.
The team’s exit was confirmed in a statement by an Overwatch League spokesperson, saying, “The Chengdu Hunters have exited the Overwatch League. The organization communicated to the League a shift in their overall strategic objectives, and we wish them well with their new direction.” This announcement came after the Hunters failed to field a roster for the ongoing Season 6 of OWL and halted all official communication since late January.
The Chengdu Hunters’ departure isn’t entirely out of the blue, however. The team had been on a competitive hiatus since April and stopped any activity on social media platforms from late January. The main contributing factor to their absence is attributed to the cessation of Overwatch’s distribution in mainland China. After an unsuccessful contract renewal between Blizzard Entertainment and the Chinese distributor, NetEase, all Blizzard titles were rendered unplayable in China, leaving the Chinese Overwatch League franchises in a challenging position.
Although other Chinese Overwatch League franchises, such as the Shanghai Dragons and Hangzhou Spark, managed to adapt to these challenging circumstances and continue participating in the league, Chengdu Hunters struggled to do the same.
This setback coincides with the Toronto Defiant’s announcement two weeks ago that it had reached an agreement with the Overwatch League to waive its pending franchise fees. The financial obligations of the Hunters to the league, in the wake of their departure, have not been disclosed.
Owned and operated by the gaming livestreaming platform HUYA, the Chengdu Hunters’ withdrawal is a loss for the league and its fans worldwide. It marks the end of an era characterized by the team’s unique gameplay, a distinctive blend of strategy and skill.