When a gaming company gets into the MOBA space, they will inevitably try to grow an eSports community around it. The perception from the developers has always seemed to be that there needs to be a competitive to get interest from gamers. After all, League of Legends is massive and its World Championship has viewership that many sports leagues would be envious of.
While Blizzard has been trying to grow a competitive scene for their MOBA, Heroes of the Storm, since the game was in invitation-only beta, they are making their biggest eSports push ever for Heroes of the Storm in 2016. They announced their Heroes of the Storm Global Championship Circuit which will feature a cumulative prize pool of over $4 million for the year.
There’s a whole lotta eSports going on this weekend. Chief among the action are the two big MOBAs. Over in Dota 2, the jointly produced StarLadder Star Series and IMBAtv i-League season comes to an end with their playoffs and some top teams still in contention. Meanwhile, League of Legends starts league play this weekend worldwide. All five of the big leagues have games over the weekend so we can see who gets off to a hot start.
Elsewhere, there is various StarCraft action in Korea. The Heroes of the Storm Gold Series continues group play ahead of next weekend’s playoffs. And CS:GO has their first January Minor event in the Americas. That doesn’t sound too impressive but it’s worth $30,000 to the winner and an invite to the final eight qualifier for February’s MLG Columbus Major.
Last weekend was the final stop on the road to BlizzCon. This weekend, the world of eSports has its eyes on Anaheim as Hearthstone, StarCraft and Heroes of the Storm have their World Championship finals at BlizzCon. There are some other regional events and qualifiers in other games happening but all the big money is at BlizzCon.
So while I should be spending a lot more time writing, I’ve spent way too much time playing Heroes of the Storm. According to Raptr, I’ve put in some 50 hours since closed beta started and have played near 400 games logged on my in-game profile. Suffice to say, I’ve seen a lot in my time playing HOTS.
Now, I’m not a very good gamer. HOTSlogs says that I’m a gold level player which allegedly means that I’m in the upper half of gamers. However, I have learned a bunch of things that new players should be mindful of before they get too far into the latest entry into the MOBA genre.
Apart from free-to-play mobile tower defence games, I’m not sure there’s a more crowded genre in gaming than MOBA. At the top of the pile, you have League of Legends and Dota 2. Smite is probably the #3 MOBA though Heroes of Newerth would probably give it a run for its money. You’ve also got the like of Strife and Infinite Crisis too. There are probably plenty of other that I can throw in there but I don’t want a 1,000 word intro.
The problem is that while each game has its little intricacies, they all feel fairly similar at the end of the day. You play one member of a five-player team on a three-lane map with towers that you must power through in order to destroy the central structure of the enemy base.
Heroes of the Storm doesn’t completely revolutionize the basics of a MOBA. It’s still a five-on-five match to destroy the enemy team’s core. However, Blizzard has taken the standard Point A to Point B approach to MOBAs and turned it on its head. What results is the most unique MOBA on the market right now.
It’s a really busy weekend in the world of eSports. There are tournaments and leagues that are taking place and wrapping up all over the world. You name it and there’s a tournament this weekend. I think this might actually be the biggest weekend calendar that we’ve ever done.
Let’s go through the Cole’s Notes version of the calendar. DreamHack Bucharest has the Dota 2 StarSeries XII playoffs, PGL’s CS:GO Championship Series final four and tournaments for Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone. We have the LPL spring finals this weekend. Round 2 of the 2015 SC2 Proleague sees CJ Entus and Jin Air Green Wings do battle in the final. And Heroes of the Dorm wraps up Sunday night on ESPN3 and ESPN2. Yes, Blizzard got their first major Heroes of the Storm tournament on US cable television which is actually a massive deal.
There aren’t a lot of big matches in this week’s eSports Weekend Calendar. There is the finals of the Heroes of the Storm Big League on Saturday with the semifinals on Friday. Apart from that, it’s group stage action for the big League and Dota 2 leagues. Meanwhile, in SC2 action, GSL wraps up its Season 1 quarterfinals this weekend.
When we usually have four eSports in the eSports Weekend Calendar, the fourth one is usually CS:GO. This time, the fourth eSport is Heroes of the Storm. I’ve been playing it for the last week or so and I absolutely love it so I’m hoping it succeeds as an eSport. A lot of players over on the subreddit don’t share my optimism which is odd considering that I’m seldom an optimistic guy.
Anyway, besides the MOBA HOTS, there’s the RTS HOTS in action this weekend as GSL wraps up its Round of 16 and WCS finishes the Round of 32 in StarCraft II. There’s also a full slate of League of Legends and Dota 2 action as well.
Have you heard of H1Z1? It’s the latest MMO from the artists formerly known as Sony Online Entertianment (now called Daybreak Games). While SOE’s MMOs are all free-to-play, H1Z1 has launched as an Early Access title on Steam for $20. That price gets you immediate access to the game along with a few other perks. By all accounts, it’s quite obvious that it’s in the alpha stages of development.
The problem most people are having is that it’s a triple-A company that have gone the early access route. SOE has a few popular MMOs on offer already and with their financial backing from Sony and now Columbus Nova, it’s not like they should need the funding from Early Access sales to complete and polish the game.
But H1Z1 is the popular example of Early Access gone wrong. They aren’t the only example out there right now. Imagine my surprise a couple of weeks ago when I launched Battle.net and saw Heroes of the Storm waiting for me to click. The problem was that it wasn’t there to download. HOTS got a spot on my Battle.net launcher so I could spend $40 on the Founder’s Pack which includes immediate access to the game along with a few other perks.
So how is SOE and H1Z1 getting blasted for releasing an alpha of their game as early access while Blizzard is getting a pass for Heroes of the Storm?
This weekend was the annual ode to all things Blizzard known as BlizzCon. While most developers and publishers use platforms like E3, Gamescom, the Tokyo Game Show and even CES to announce and show off their upcoming creations, Blizzard waits until their annual November gathering to do so.
At the 2014 edition of BlizzCon, Blizzard had a few tricks up their sleeve. First was the announcement of their brand new IP, Overwatch, the reveal of the third part of StarCraft II and a bit more news about Heroes of the Storm and the Warcraft movie.