Blizzard’s Approach to MOBA in 2017

After almost two years unsuccessful and disappointing seasons for Blizzard, they have recently decided to announce HGC in attempt to establish a solid footing in MOBA eSports. Let’s briefly examine its business model and the reasons behind why it won’t make much of a difference in the eSport scene in 2017.

Credit: Esports Edition

The HGC is very similar to the League of Legends Championship Series and ELeague Series in the sense that Blizzard is intended to have full control over every aspect of the HoTS competitive scene. In this case the goal is to introduce an influx of HGC content that other tournament organizations will only be “side money” and obsolete in the future.

Under the HGC model, every premier team is guaranteed $100,000 as long as they do not fall out of the league to HGC open qualifier teams. This means Blizzard is essentially paying professional players a $20,000 flat salary and winnings from placing well in the tournaments.

Blizzard has formulated an eventful calendar that will satisfy viewers on several levels. There will be eight local teams in North America, Europe, Korea, and China competing among themselves to stay ahead of the meta and entertain fans in the local regions. The “Clashes” and “Mid-Season Brawl” are put it simply — seasonal East Vs West teams meet with “large sum of money”. The details to HGC Finals have yet to be announced, let’s look forward to the creative formats that Blizzard can amass.

Quickly summarize the pros with the HGC format.

  • Standard and consistent HoTS eSport content
  • Localized and international competition
  • Stable salary for competitors

Here are my thoughts on HGC as a former professional eSport athlete -

With Blizzard taking control over the annual eSport calendar for HoTS, it can dictate the format, rules, and other aspects of the game. You have probably seen a few examples with Valve banning players, Riot’s ruling with its players, or Blizzard vs KESPA in the past. The monopoly power that these publishers are gaining over professional young athletes is alarming and detrimental to a healthy and fair competition.

The salary stability is a great first step that Blizzard is taking. However, compared to its counterparts — this $20,000 is barely a minimum wage in America. This part is particularly poorly done by Blizzard for half-assing the most important part to motivate a player. As a former competitor for Starcraft II with absolutely no salary paid out by Blizzard, winning the prize pool was the dream. This pure prizepool format made Starcraft II the most competitive game of all times.

Let me explain exactly why this was the worst decision that Blizzard can make for HoTS in two points. First, the salary and prizepool winning disparity is at the minimum — the psychology behind making the extra money versus making the Only money possible makes a huge difference when it comes to competitive minds. I recommend Blizzard to increase the prizepool disparity for HoTS if the intention is to have a footing in the MOBA scene.

Second, $20,000 salary per player just wouldn’t cut it for North American players. You are literally asking your players to forsake a minimum wage job or a college education in the U.S. to have the Potential to become a professional athlete for your game. The risk versus reward here is so ridiculous that many aspired to-be-semi-professional gamers will never bother with trying. In any case, HoTS is faced with an unsaturated talent pool of players and a poorly motivational salary.

The very format of the “Clashes” and “Mid-Season Brawl” has no real purpose when it comes to building a story for both players and teams alike. The meets will end up with comments such as “Oh, NA lost to Korea, but at least we are better than EU”. Instead of following the footsteps of League of Legends where certain regions gets utterly destroyed due to limited access to practice partners, team/player shuffles and region placements should be put in place after every major competition. This will help form better teams, introduce new players to each scene, and naturally create stories and drama among competitors.

Summary

The creation of the HGC is a good first step for Blizzard to establish a footing in the competitive MOBA scene. However, the inability to steer away from traditional models of LoL and half-assed monetization behind the competitive scene will circle Blizzard back to where it started. If the goal is to have a standalone title that thrives in the MOBA eSport scene in 2017, Blizzard needs to spend more than just a few million dollars.