It’s tough to grow a game into a viable esport, but Blizzard has plans to invest in its online arena battler to accomplish exactly that.
Heroes of the Storm’s Global Championship league is expanding in 2017 as the publisher makes moves to stabilize the competitive scene for its MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena, like the segment-leading League of Legends) featuring an all-star cast of characters from its other games. Blizzard revealed that it will create a uniform format for the leagues in North America, Europe, China, and South Korea that guarantees compensation and regular matches for the pros on the top eight teams in each region. Esports is a growing market worth $493 million, but companies like Blizzard are primarily interested in it for its ability to generate buzz and engagement around the game and its microtransactions. With that in mind, Blizzard wants to have teams that are ready and willing to compete more often.
“You can look forward to more consistency not only in your favorite [team] rosters, but also in the scheduling, casting, and quality of broadcasts all-year round,” reads a Blizzard blog post. “As part of the new Heroes Global Championship program, you can also look forward to more international events matching rival teams from different regions against one another. On their journey to the HGC finals, teams playing at the highest level will have opportunities to compete at three international events including a global tournament.”
To keep some upward mobility in the HGC, Blizzard is also introducing a new relegation system. Bottom teams in the top eight will move down into Blizzard’s Open Division to make way for high-performing amateur squads.
“Twice a year, after proving themselves in a series of weekly open tournaments with prize pools, the two best teams from the Open Division will get to pit their skills against those of struggling pro teams, whose spots in the top tier of the HGC are on the line,” reads the blog.
This will give every team in the HGC something to play for even if they are not in contention for the championship.
Blizzard will begin the qualifying rounds for the HGC in November, and it plans to reveal even more changes coming to its MOBA league in later this year and into 2017.