We, as Blizzard, never really had the tool to basically give and escalate a third party tournament. Third parties run tons of Hearthstone tournaments, but we as Blizzard run tons of Hearthstone tournaments. There’s oversaturation. We have to worry about things like a cannibalization of viewership and stuff like that.
But now with the new Master Tour events, we have something that we can offer third parties, which is, “Here’s an invitation to our Masters Tour event.”
GamesBeat: How does that work?
Braithwaite: So if I’m a tournament organizer in Brazil, and I want to do a tournament in Brazil for local fans in a live onsite thing, they can then reach out to us. We say, “Yeah, of course we’ll give you guys a Master Tour invite, but players have to have a flight and hotel provided to them.”
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So then, now we’re creating opportunities for people all around the world. People are now hosting and creating Hearthstone tournaments, which we of course want because they’re engaging with our fans. And now our fans have an opportunity to fly and compete without it being at cost to them.
[For an example, see the Battleriff Pro Legends Summer Series, which will seed players into the Masters Tour in finals competition in September; Season 5 competition starts next week. –Ed.]
That’s the direction that we want to go. And we think that that creates a really cool ecosystem. Because obviously we can’t cover 350 flights and hotels for everybody. We’re already doing the production, the prize pool, it’s a lot.
GamesBeat: You had the Hearthstone Masters Bundle on sale this summer that raised funds for Masters competition …
Braithwaite: Yeah. But that’s actually the second prong of our approach. Right? So it’s great that you brought that up. If the issue is these things are hard to get to, our first answer is going to be, “Okay, collaboration with third parties.” Now the second option is, “Well, if there’s more money in the prize pool and the prize pool spread is distributed a little bit more equally, then the amount of money that’s at risk by you is no longer that dramatic.”
Meaning that if it’s a $250,000 tournament and that becomes a $350,000 tournament, well it’s $100,000 that’s going to those competitors, which makes that investment or that jump by them a little bit easier to do.
GamesBeat: So you’re a little bit more likely to make your travel expenses back.
Braithwaite: Yeah. And so our goal would be if you make it through the first day, 50% of the competition, that you’ve already made your money back and it’s just profit at that point.
GamesBeat: What was the Las Vegas event like?
Braithwaite: Our focus on that event [was] not audience-facing spectacle. If we look at our seasonal championships, world championship, there’s a live audience, it’s a spectator interface. But there’s a new reality that we’re facing which is rather than 16 players, we have 350 people in a giant ballroom.
So just imagine a hotel ballroom in Vegas, tables lined everywhere, 350 people grinding it out for three days straight. It’s hectic. It’s crazy.
GamesBeat: I was just waiting for “Sarah from Poughkeepsie” to knock Muzzy out of competition …
Braithwaite: So the story there is that Sarah can knock Muzzy and many other Grandmasters out of the competition. Because if she does well at Masters Tour Vegas, she automatically gets invited to go compete in Masters Tour Seoul. She then steps up, continues to knock out Grandmaster players, performs highly yet at Masters Tour Seoul. So she receives an automatic invitation to Masters Tour Bucharest. If she continues to do well there, the bottom place Grandmasters player is at risk, and she will take that person’s spot if she performed better than them at all of those tour events.
GamesBeat: Watch out, everyone.
Braithwaite: That’s the dream. I would love that. I would absolutely love that.
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