The month of March brought a whirlwind of changes to the Starcraft scene. March 12th brought us Heart of the Swarm, and three days later we were brought the very first official Heart of the Swarm tournament with the MLG Winter Championship(which you can read about here) . During these first few days, Starcraft 2 had more viewers than it has had in months. The expansion has proven itself to be the lifeblood needed to keep this game thriving.
However during this time of rejoicing, there was another blow dealt to the scene. The IPL run by media giant IGN has been officially cancelled and disbanded. The IPL5 tournament was canceled and tickets refunded. With one of the most professionally done tournaments closing its doors after it had posted it’s most successful numbers, people were once again concerned about the future of the game.
Compounding on this worry was new rumors that the GSTL, GOMTV’s premiere team league, was entering its last season due to new contracts with blizzard. Smaller teams would be affected by this the hardest, and many would not be able to pay the $100,000 fee to enter into the OGN team league. With the calamity going on, there was great concern as to what was going to become of the game just weeks after the community thought it had been rejuvenated.
Then on April 4th, a large press conference was called by Blizzard Entertainment in South Korea on the future of Starcraft and their plans to keep it moving forward to become the e-sport it was designed to be.
Blizzard will be co-opting/working with already existing tournaments to build its Starcraft WCS(World Championship Series). With this new system, a player once entering into a region for the WCS, will now only be able to compete in that regions WCS matches. In North America, Major League Gaming will be providing the stage for WCS season one, two and three, while still having its own independent seasons in which Europeans and Koreans can still participate. The North American Star League will continue to be independent.
In South Korea, GOMTV’s season 2 (premiering on the 4th) will be the first season of WCS South Korea. After that KeSPA’s Proleague will provide season 2. Season 3 will be under GOMTV’s control once again with GSL season 3. This means that the chances of seeing Foreigners participating in GSL is now highly unlikely. Participating against players in their own countries will now provide just as much of an incentive as participating overseas. The OGN Proleague and the GSTL will still exist for team leagues, crushing any of the rumors of the GSTL being disbanded. Finally Europe will conduct its own WCS seasons in conjunction with ESL, while the IEM season remains separate.
Qualifications will begin in NA and EU using the Grandmaster Ladder as an invitation list for an online qualifying tournament. Seeded players from GSL and KeSPA’s league will make up the GSL season 2. On top of this there are a few more rules. No non WCS tournaments can take place on any day that there is a WCS event going on in that region. In NA and EU round of 32 will be played online, and round of 16 will be played in studio. On top of this, something everyone has been waiting and praying for. Free 720p streams of all WCS events on TWITCH.tv. That means you get to watch Flash crush players beneath his heal in hi-def glory, all for free.
This will bring some new viewers to the game, and boost rating numbers through the roof. Three new tournaments, with Starcraft matches going on 5 nights a week with free 720p streams will result in a much more accessible sport and product for your casual viewers. Hats off to Blizzard! They learned from RIOT’s successful model of e-sport management, and it’s apparent that they really want to see this game thrive, and when developers support their games, their games last forever.