The Heroes of the Storm professional circuit has been reworked in exciting new ways since its inception more than a year ago. While the original format saw three major events throughout the year in the Spring, Summer, and Fall Championships, the newly announce revamped circuit has much more in store for viewers in 2017. Let’s take a look at the level of content we’ve had access to under the current system.
As it stands, there are three smaller open qualifiers for major regions that host a dozen or more amateur teams in addition to a handful of pro teams which typically provides a majority of very unevenly matched games for viewers to watch. Afterwards, the two top teams from each qualifier will progress along with the second seed teams who represented their entire region during last season's championship to a fresh regional championship that will determine which team will progress to the world championships. If those two sentences sound like one, unilaterally confusing mouthful, it’s because it is. This format ends up being about four weekends worth of region specific Heroes of the Storm content per four month season, with obviously lots of down time for those who have favorite teams they enjoy viewing. Looking at the newly announced format, let’s see what Blizzard is giving us.
Under the new system, the top eight pro teams from each region will face off against each other in an online series of weekly best-of-five matches during prime time for that region (typically Friday-Sunday). The top three teams out of these weekly clashes will link up for an Eastern vs. Western clash featuring the top four major regions in China, Korea, North America, and Europe for a $100,000 prize pool. While all of this is going on, each region's bottom two pro teams will have to face off against the top amateur teams in a crucible tournament in order to maintain their spots within the top eight roster.
This series of events will repeat itself once more until finally a Mid-Season Brawl commences through May/June which will showcase the top twelve teams in the world for a $250,000 prize pool. Afterwards, the standings reset and everyone is back at an even playing field, and all of the fun resets too as we get to go back to the weekly format and watch our favorite teams beat on each other every weekend prior to yet another Eastern vs. Western Clash. Finally, rather than a second Mid-Season Brawl there will be an HCG Finals in November which will determine the overall world champion for that season. While Blizzard has yet to announce a prize pool for this season ending world championship, there is no doubt in my mind that it will be something of massive proportions as they once again solidify Heroes of the Storm as one of the best up-and-coming MOBA genre games currently in circulation.
With all of this new information we have been gifted, there’s still one glaring question that needs to be thoroughly answered; What does this mean for viewers? It certainly appears as if Blizzard is attempting to drive more viewership by repetition, as the opportunity to watch the best teams play every week is almost assuredly better than the current system, which is effectively a tiny regular season. Couple that with the fact most of these games will air during prime time for you to enjoy, just like any other traditional sport, and you have the makings of a monumentally positive change to the way we consume competitive Heroes of the Storm. In addition to well over double the content than we are currently getting, this also results in more wages/prize money for the professional players, which in-turn means their careers are more stable and they can focus more on practicing without having to worry about other financial responsibilities. Thus, we will be getting more content and potentially BETTER content as more players and teams invest time and money into the scene. There has never been a better time to be a Heroes of the Storm fan, and something tells me this is just the tip of the iceberg.