This weekend included a banner day for eSports with a competition for Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm getting broadcast live on ESPN 2. More on that later, but first, there were also major developments across Dota 2, Hearthstone and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. It’s all on this week’s eSports Report.
Valve Announces Dota Major Championships
It’s no secret that Valve’s annual The International competition is one of the biggest events in eSports. 20 million viewers can’t be wrong. Valve has slowly but surely built up the world championship for Dota 2 into an annual spectacle with a prize pool worth millions of dollars. With that said, Dota 2 arguably doesn’t have that big of a footprint the rest of the year, at least compared to some other eSports titles. For example, Blizzard’s Starcraft II and Riot’s League of Legends hold multiple regional events every year ahead of each game’s world championship that get a lot of attention. Dota 2 tournaments not named The International are out there, but usually don’t generate as much interest as the main event.
But that might change soon thanks to an announcement a few days ago from Valve. The Dota Major Championships are coming, and will now organize the competitive Dota 2 calendar into seasonal action across four major tournaments, including The International.
Valve posted on the Dota 2 website that it hopes the new series will address some of the specific issues that the game has faced within the competitive scene. Namely, teams that want to participate in the Major Championships will have to have a set roster all year long. This seems to be an attempt to get teams to stop reorganizing or recruiting team members shortly before The International each year.
“While the lack of roster stability and major focal points during the year had its advantages, it had eventually come at the cost of fan engagement and competitive stability for the players,” Valve said in a statement.
The International 2015 will take place in Seattle August 3-8. The next major tournament will take place this fall. More details will be released closer to The International.
Blizzard Bans Players From Hearthstone World Championship for Win Trading
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft continues to have great success in the eSports scene, with tournaments for top players getting held just about every weekend and some streamers on Twitch regularly bringing in tens of thousands of viewers. Blizzard is currently handing out qualifying points for this year’s Hearthstone World Championship at special events and through the monthly seasonal results. While last year did have a Hearthstone World Championship, 2015 is the first time Blizzard has created a year-long path to Blizzcon. It’s created opportunity for a lot new players to try and get in on the action, but it now seems that at least a few gamers got a little too overzealous.
Blizzard dropped the ban hammer this past week on four different players for “win trading,” including two well-known professional players. All four players are now disqualified from the World Championship, and the two pros have apparently had their entire Hearthstone account shutdown as well.
Win trading is the practice of queuing into the ladder with the intention of conceding to the other player or allowing them to immediately concede to you in order to manipulate a player’s rank.
The two (former) professionals are Olzhas “Naiman” Batyrbekov and Dan “Alchemixt” Walton. The two lesser known players were only identified by their gamertags, XzaM and Damnery. While Blizzard has banned players for offenses like botting and win trading in the past, this is the first time they have publicly named the players. It seems like they’re stepping up their efforts to clean up the professional scene as Blizzcon gets closer.
Blizzard noted in its post that players can also be banned for account buying or selling.
Pro Scene for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive in Turmoil as Rumors of a “Super League” Persist
This past week at DreamHack in Bucharest, Romania, a number of tournament organizers for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive reportedly met to come up with a response to rumors of an upcoming CS:GO super league, and the ongoing discussion is causing some drama within the game’s community.
Let’s address the rumor first: It was reported by the Daily Dot and others earlier this month that ESL, one of the largest eSports organizations, might be partnering with Twitch and fantasy eSports website Vulcun to create a tournament on par with League of Legends League Championship Series.
Such a new major event with backing from some of the biggest names in eSports would likely draw a lot of attention. There was also a rumor that the companies involved might create exclusive deals with only certain teams or existing competitions. This is causing some of the organizers of existing smaller tournaments to fear that they could lose influence if such a super league was announced.
ESL’s Michal “Carmac” Blicharz and Vulcun posted to Twitter to refute the rumors of exclusive tournaments, but did not address the rumors about a super league being in development.
We have no plans for exclusive CS:GO tournaments; rumors are false & we wished we’d been asked to comment before such stories were published— Vulcun (@VulcunFS) April 16, 2015
ESL is not interested in locking out any tournament organizers from running CS events, nor teams from attending them.— Michal Blicharz (@mbCARMAC) April 10, 2015
Still, that didn’t stop some of the smaller groups including Pro Gaming League, DreamHack, Gfinity and Starladder from meeting to formulate a counter-strategy in the event a super league is announced.
The one company that could make a significant impact on all of this is of course, Valve, the game’s developer. But unlike Dota 2, Valve has chosen to let other groups organize most of the marquee CS:GO tournaments, at least so far. If Valve were to weigh in on the matter, it would likely go a long way towards sorting out the current mess.
Cal-Berkeley Takes Heroes of the Dorm Event Live on ESPN
It was mentioned at the top of this column that Heroes of the Storm got some major attention on national television on Sunday. Blizzard’s Heroes of the Dorm competition had its grand finals, with the winners getting tuition money for the duration of their college careers.
The final was held in Los Angeles and featured Arizona State vs. Cal-Berkeley. Cal-Berkeley had run the table in the competition, but finally met some stiff competition in ASU.
The final event was a perfect fit for the television audience, as it went the distance to a 5th and final deciding game.
The final map was the Dragon Shire and Cal-Berkeley ultimately prevailed in a back and forth fight. Blizzard has not yet uploaded video of the grand final to its official site, but highlights can be watched on ESPN.com.
Arizona State took home top notch gaming systems for their runner-up finish. Heroes of the Storm may still be in beta until June, but its appearance on national television last night got the eSports scene some of the best mainstream exposure its had yet.