A Project of Passion

It’s about 4:30 am as an alarm in Hamburg, Germany knocks Jannes Tjarks out of the sleep. After a short morning ritual including a shower and a big cup of coffee, he is getting ready to broadcast a seemingly long forgotten esport. Warcraft III. Tjarks, better known as ‘Neo’, has been an entity in the German Warcraft scene for years, operating ESL Radio and several other projects regarding the Blizzard RTS. Now he is the head of a collective of casters united under the banner of “Back2WarCraft” and I’ve gotten in touch with him, because I really wanted to find out, why the heck somebody operates such an expense to broadcast Warcraft III in 2016.

Back2Warcraft Logo

It was the year 2011, as huge parts of the RTS community suddenly abandoned Warcraft due to the overwhelming numbers of StarCraft II tournaments that occupied most of the talent. In February of 2014, even the Zotac cup, the longest running weekly Warcraft III tournament, announced its closure and the Warcraft III community seemed as dead as a doornail. But Neo wasn’t quite done yet: “I’ve gathered around the old gang of ESL Radio. In total we were around seven people and as we noticed the success and the fun that we were having, we simply decided to try and broadcast some Replays once a week. By coincidence a Chinese outlet had just published a list of the ‘100 Best WC3-Replays of all time’, so we took the challenge.”

Back2Warcraft was created. Under the banner of nostalgia, the team regularly broadcasted old and recent replays. “It was a project of passion and enthusiasm.”, Neo tells me. After hundreds of casted replays, the team moved on to what was left of the European Tournament scene, mainly war3.eu. Building their reputation as a stable caster team, B2W got into contact with the last “big player” the scene had to offer: WCA.

Back2Warcraft casting WCA 2015

“They were mostly happy to have gotten somebody to bring their tournament to a western audience.”, says Tjarks as he explains the difficulties of working inter-continental, synchronizing schedules, creating ingame-overlays and negotiate wages with Korean companies. After a year of online coverage, WCA Europe, run by the Berlin company Freaks4You approached Neo and comrades to cast the European qualifier resulting in their first cast within a studio equipped with a production staff, one of the pinnacles of the B2W project.

“I do not expect Warcraft 3 to be more than a niche-esport in the future, but I do expect us to be the biggest western broadcaster in this niche.”

Fast forward to today, where even outsiders can tell that the project evolved to something bigger than just a pure passion project. 1500 regular viewers, over 90 hours of broadcasting in May 2016 and official merchandise are telling the story of the growth of the project. “In fact, due to the improved possibilities of twitch and the growth of esport in general, we have more viewers than ever before with Warcraft.”, according to Neo. “I do not expect Warcraft 3 to be more than a niche-esport in the future, but I do expect us to be the biggest western broadcaster in this niche.”

But while looking forward, Neo has also multiple requests to Blizzard Entertainment, the creator of Warcraft 3. “It boggles my mind that the game is still priced around 20€, which is pretty expensive for a title that old. Why not adapt a similar model like StarCraft 2, where the multiplayer is free and they charge for the campaign content?” He furthermore explains, that implementing Warcraft into the Battle.net app would be a great opportunity to attract new people. However, that would imply, that Blizzard fixes the hacking, the ping and the entire dead communication surrounding the game. “There is no Twitter, no Facebook-Page for Warcraft nor the Classic Games in general. If we look to China instead, where NetEase provides a fantastic promotion for the game, I really wish we would have anything like that in the west.”

Battle.net Launcher (Now renamed “Blizzard App”)

But Back2Warcraft are not here to wait that Blizzard, a company that has to please shareholders, makes a move. Behind an active Twitter and Facebook, they are working on an own website to support their content. Back2Warcraft evolved to more than the advertised nostalgia. Due to their work, western Warcraft 3 is alive, it happens right now and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to stop soon.