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Today, the league announced that the Chengdu Hunters will not be participating in the upcoming Spring Stage qualifiers, which begin on April 29 in the East Region. This is an unprecedented turn of events and the first time an Overwatch League team has effectively dropped out of competition, even temporarily.

According to the statement posted on social media, the Chengdu Hunters are continuing to “contemplate the future direction of their team.” While this leaves the door open for participation in the Summer Stage, it gives little concrete information to fans who have been left in the dust.

The last post by the Chengdu Hunters Twitter account was sent on Jan. 23, the day Overwatch 2 servers closed in mainland China. A broken partnership between Activision Blizzard and NetEase, which had licensed the developer’s games in China for over a decade, led to the indefinite departure of Overwatch 2 in the country.

This threw a wrench into the Overwatch League’s sixth season, considering four teams were based in China and a fifth–the Los Angeles Valiant–was operated by a Chinese company.

The Valiant opted to move back to the West Region while other Chinese teams, like the Hangzhou Spark and Shanghai Dragons, appeared to do business as usual during the offseason. No official reports have stated where the teams are operating or how they’ve gotten around the lack of Overwatch 2 servers in China.

Financial instability may be a leading factor in why the Hunters are absent this season. The team is owned and operated by HUYA Inc., which runs a live streaming service in China. Stock prices haven’t been stable, with losses reported, and the company replaced its board director last week. It would make sense to cut esports spending where they could.

In a spicy offseason, the Hunters remained dormant on social media and the team was notably absent in multiple Overwatch League announcements. Fans noticed something was off when Chengdu was the only team to not release a team jersey design. A month ago, a post on Weibo stated that the Hunters would likely disband, but it was never confirmed or denied by the league itself.

Fans got one last hit of hopium earlier this month when team hashtags were revealed. One, #PandaEVO, included the Hunters’ logo as its “hashflag” and spoke to a possible new era of the wild Pandas.

With today’s announcement, however, it appears that the Chengdu Hunters may be down for the count. It’s a sad potential end for a team that injected chaos into multiple stale metas over the course of the Overwatch League and launched the careers of players like 2020 MVP Leave, who has now moved over to the Hangzhou Spark.

For the East Region’s Spring Stage knockouts–which begin in late May–six Overwatch League teams will now compete alongside six Overwatch Contenders teams from the region. The full Overwatch League schedule for the Spring Stage in both regions is now available