In the 2019 SMITE Minor League, we saw some incredible talent rise up and had the opportunity to watch amateur teams take down pro league teams in our World Championship playoffs. But now that the season has ended, we’re excited to reveal some big plans for our amateur scene as we head into 2020.
When taking a look at our Minor League ecosystem for 2020, we knew we had to make changes in a lot of areas to make this circuit more competitive than it was in 2019. The Minor League is an important stepping stone toward the Pro League, and we want to ensure that our amateur players have the crucial support they need to help them along that path.
What’s Changing for SML in 2020
The SMITE Minor League as we knew it will be replaced in 2020 by the SMITE Challenger Circuit. This amateur circuit is designed to integrate with our Open Circuit in order to create a complete amateur ecosystem that has a clear progression path between the two leagues, both in name and in competition.
The Challenger Circuit will also feature three playoff LAN events throughout the season where the top teams in Europe and North America will compete against the best Open Circuit teams in the Circuit Playoffs.
Here’s a high-level rundown of the major changes you can expect as we transition into the SMITE Challenger Circuit for 2020:
- Full crossplay support, including Nintendo Switch. Any player can compete, regardless of what input they’re using. (Console players will have the option to use KBM.)
- EU and NA regions, but no region locking; all international players who can compete on NA or EU servers will be allowed to participate in the Challenger Circuit
- Six teams per region (total of 12 teams)
- Four phases of league play throughout the season, with four weeks per phase
- Top two teams per region will qualify for Circuit Playoffs each phase
- Bottom two teams per region will be placed in relegations at the end of each phase
- $20,000 in prizing per phase (across both regions) with the opportunity to earn higher prizing at the Circuit Playoffs
- 3rd-6th place teams will receive this prizing, as the top two teams in each region will earn minimum guaranteed prizing at Circuit Playoffs.
Because this is a completely new league, existing Minor League teams will not be grandfathered in at the start of the season. All aspiring teams will have to requalify into the Challenger Circuit at the start of the season. Challenger Circuit teams will also have an opportunity to qualify for the SMITE World Championship at the end of the year.
Challenger Circuit Phase Format
There will be a total of four phases in the Challenger Circuit, and each phase will last for four weeks. Here’s a general roadmap for the Challenger Circuit season:
- League Qualifiers: February 8-29, 2020
- Phase 1: March 7-28, 2020
- Phase 1 Circuit Playoffs: Spring 2020
- Phase 1 Relegations: May 9, 2020
- Phase 2: May 17 – June 6, 2020
- Phase 2 Circuit Playoffs: July 10-12, 2020
- Phase 2 Relegations: July 18, 2020
- Phase 3: July 25-August 15, 2020
- Phase 3 Circuit Playoffs: September 11-13, 2020
- Phase 3 Relegations: September 19, 2020
- Phase 4: September 26 – October 17, 2020
During the online portion of each phase of Challenger Circuit, we will use the following format:
- Round Robin League play
- Best-of-three (Bo3) matches
- Top two teams in each region will qualify for Circuit Playoffs
- Bottom two teams in each region will be placed in relegations after each phase
As outlined in the timeline above, there will be qualifiers at the start of the 2020 season. More details on how to participate in the Challenger Circuit League Qualifiers are available in our blog.
Challenger Circuit Playoffs
Alongside the added phases, we are very excited to introduce a new stage of the Challenger Circuit this season: the Circuit Playoffs! These playoffs will culminate Phases 1-3 of the regular season, and will be played live on LAN at our esports studio. This will be a three-day event that features six of our top Open Circuit and Challenger Circuit teams:
- Top EU Open Circuit team
- Top NA Open Circuit team
- Top two EU Challenger Circuit teams
- Top two NA Challenger Circuit teams
- #1 Challenger Circuit teams in each region get a BYE into the semifinals
- The first seeded team in the bracket will select their opponent from the quarterfinal match winners
The Circuit playoffs will follow this format:
- Single-elimination bracket
- Best-of-five (Bo5) matches all the way through
- $100,000 prize pool, broken down as follows:
- 1st Place: $30,000
- 2nd Place: $20,000
- 3rd Place: $15,000
- 4th Place: $15,000
- 5th Place: $10,000
- 6th Place: $10,000
Challenger Circuit Broadcast Schedule
In 2020, we’ll be broadcasting Challenger Circuit matches on Fridays and Saturdays at 1:00 PM ET, directly before the SMITE Pro League matches. We will broadcast one match per region each week, and we will select the best match from each region to cast on-air.
For all of Season 7, we’ll be platform-agnostic and will broadcast the Challenger Circuit matches to the following channels:
Challenger Circuit FAQ
Why are there no minimum player salary requirements for the Challenger Circuit?
Player salaries can be a great sustainability measure for a league if implemented correctly. But after evaluating player performance last season, we felt there were too many instances where teams were not consistently performing to their peak potential due to the payout structure. In the process of replacing the Minor League with the Challenger Circuit, we’ve also revised this policy in the hopes that that players who are consistently performing well will be rewarded heavily, while other teams with subpar performances may see smaller payouts or fall out of the league during relegations.
Will there be tighter restrictions around contracts and player protection in the Challenger Circuit this season?
The League Operations team will be taking an increased role in protection for all players at all levels of competition. All contracts and agreements must be reviewed and approved before being signed by any players in the league, or before a team is given a spot into the league. There will be more attention on the player level and tighter restrictions around free agency and roster changes as well.
Why do Open Circuit teams get Circuit Playoff spots over the remaining Challenger Circuit teams?
In order to make sure we have a healthy amateur ecosystem, we need to support all levels of the amateur scene as equally as possible. In the past, it’s been very difficult for teams lower than the top two in Minor League to get valuable LAN experience. We believe that any top-performing amateur team deserves the opportunity to perform in a highly competitive environment where they can sharpen their skills against more experienced teams. With the added bonus of relegations happening each phase, it’s even more important for Challenger Circuit teams to see the up-and-coming talent from the Open Circuit tier.
Allocating Circuit Playoff spots to Open Circuit teams helps us accomplish our goal of connecting both circuits and creating a more sustainable ecosystem for our amateur scene.
If the Challenger Circuit is crossplay, does that mean it’s replacing the dedicated Console League?
If we learned anything in Season 6, it’s that competitive-level players are competitive-level players regardless of their input. As SMITE moves toward a more unified crossplay ecosystem, we want our competitive leagues to feature the best of the best players — no matter what system they’re on. We’re incredibly excited to be combining our talent pools for the Challenger Circuit, and believe it will make the competition fiercer than ever before.
Additionally, with the implementation of KBM support on Xbox One and PS4 coming before the start of next season, the lines between platforms are further blurred and console owners have new opportunities to explore KBM input if they so choose. Challenger Circuit players who play on a console will have the option to use KBM if they so choose.
Can fans expect any follow-up on the announcements made today to get more insight into the 2020 changes?
Yes! We want to give our fans an inside look at our approach for 2020 and why we’ve made some of these changes. If you haven’t already, you can check out our blog post regarding sustainability for SMITE esports in 2020 and beyond. And in the next coming weeks, you can expect a few more other pieces of content related to our 2020 plans, including:
- Video interviews from Hi-Rez Esports staff about our vision for 2020
- A guidebook to branding changes, website updates, and other promo opportunities for next season
- A live AMA with our esports staff and community managers
That’s all the information we have to reveal for now! Be sure to check out our other announcements for the SMITE Open Circuit and the SMITE Pro League in Season 7. And follow us on Twitter @SmitePro for more updates as we get closer to kicking off the Challenger Circuit in 2020.