ESL Pro Tour expands with StarCraft II and Warcraft III: Reforged
Seven days into the new year, the esports world is welcoming an agreement that might define the entire ecosystem in the upcoming decade. Blizzard Entertainment, ESL and DreamHack have reached an agreement that will define the Starcraft and Warcraft esport communities for years to come.
We have awaited the marriage between DreamHack and ESL, ever since the Modern Times Group acquired both brands. All these two needed was Blizzard Entertainment and their two legendary RTS titles to make everything a reality.
“We’re deeply committed to bringing the best in competitive entertainment to fans and players around the world, and we’re thrilled to expand our collaboration with ESL and DreamHack in support of that effort.” – Pete Vlastelica, President and CEO Activision Blizzard Esports.
Starting from this year the ESL Pro Tour will feature competitive circuits in both StarCraft II and Warcraft III: Reforged with prize pools exceeding US $1.2 million each year. Additionally, Blizzard pledged to fund $1.9 million for this years esports tournaments in celebration of the 10-year anniversary of StarCraft II.
The begging of the ESL Pro Tour SC2 & DreamHack SC2 Masters marks the end of the the World Championship Series (WCS). The new circuit is envisioned as the successor of the WCS competition which crowned its last champion Park “Dark” Ryung Woo this past Blizzcon. Starting in 2020, Starcraft II will crown its global champion through the new system.
The DH Masters will host four events, while ESL will have the honor of hosting two Starcraft events and weekly competitions. The IEM Katowice World Championship 2021 will be the final event of the season and crown the SC2 world champion. We are not yet sure what this would mean for Starcraft 2 at Blizzcon after IEM Katowice takes the mantle of crowning the world champion.
— ESL StarCraft 2 (@ESLSC2) January 7, 2020
Warcraft III: Reforged
Warcraft 3 is getting an esports rebirth almost two decades after the title launched. ESL will take the mantle of fully re-developing the competitive ecosystem in WC3. With $200,000 pledged in prize money and an entire grassroots system put in place, ESL seeks to reform the once epic RTS title that defined European esports.
Similarly to SC2, ESL will take the weekly competition under their control with over 40 weekly Warcraft competitions aimed at amateurs and returning players. The weekly tournaments will also be a gateway for players to reach the four Challenger tournaments and earn themselves a spot in the final event.
Dreamhack will have the honor of hosting three of the four Challenger events in this 2020 season. The final event of the year is yet to be announced.
We're excited to be there from the very beginning of the @Warcraft3 esports journey.
— ESL Warcraft (@ESLWarcraft) January 7, 2020
What does it all mean?
Starcraft and Warcraft 3 are two of the establishing titles for global esports. Both titles defined the RTS genre and the early years of competitive esports. Kicking off the new decade with a pledge to reinvigorate these titles is a solid sign that Blizzard is still heavily committed to their esports strategy.
Additionally, the company chose to take the esports competitions on a different route then their other titles (Overwatch, Hearthstone, HoTs). While they have complete ownership of the competitive ecosystem for their newer titles, they defaulted back to ESL and DreamHack for their most famous titles. The decision is a huge pledge of trust for both organizations in upholding the long and storied tradition for the titles.
In a world where only CS:GO competition (from the major titles) is handled by third party organizers as competition in most other titles is handled by their developers, we finally see a shift in mentality and a return to an older system.
Will it be for better or worse remains to be seen.