How Heroes of the Storm (HotS) approaches its competitive eSports scenes.
It is an exciting time of the year for esports with many of the world’s biggest esports competitions just around the corner. As the world starts to catch on to what has been brewing in the competitive esports scene, esports prize pools are skyrocketing. The total prize money awarded is at just under $450 million USD ($447,228,607.18 as of June 25th) and threatens to surpass half a billion dollars by the end of 2018.
With that in mind, we take a look at the biggest esports in recent years and how their respective competitive scenes are operated in terms of the types of competitions they have, how they are qualified for and how often they occur to better understand what fans can expect from their favourite competitive esport titles.
The video games discussed here makeup 6 of the top 7 esports in 2017 in terms of the prize pools of their esports competitions, which will be listed from lowest to highest. See the first part for the three-part series of articles, discussing Hearthstone and Overwatch, by clicking here or read on to know more about Heroes of the Storm (HotS) and its eSports scenes that come in at 4th place.
Heroes of the Storm (HotS)
The 4th biggest eSport of 2017 is also the first MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) entrant of this series. Like Hearthstone and Overwatch, HotS is also made by Blizzard, and as such as a competitive esports scene greatly supported and driven by the company, as seen in its other two titles. Released in 2015, HotS is one of the youngest MOBAs in a market of giants with well-established fanbases and competitive scenes but still manages to punch above its weight.
With millions of players around the world and almost $14 Million USD awarded in prize money, it is definitely a key player in the esports industry. Its esports scene is heavily supported by Blizzard, giving it a clear pathway for continued growth as the esports boom continues to sweep through the industry – and with the Heroes of the Storm Global Championship Finals at the end of the year coming closer and closer, it’ll be interesting to see how Blizzard makes their title stand out among the crowd of successful MOBAs.
Heroes of the Storm Global Championship (HGC)
The Heroes of the Storm esports calendar revolves around a yearly cycle of league play and offline tournaments: the Heroes Global Championship (HGC). This involves a multi-tier system that organizes regular season play for premier teams with 2 phases of 10 weeks of regular seasons play, with each phase split into two five-week parts. Starting in January, teams will play against each other team in their region twice over the course of 10 weeks, earning a base salary of $50,000 USD per phase. The regions are broken into North America, Europe, China, and Korea, with 8 teams participating in each individual league.
At the conclusion of the first five weeks, there will be a break in league play for the Western and Eastern Clashes, pitting the top 4 teams from North America and Europe against each other in the Western Clash, and the top 4 teams from China and Korea against each other in the Eastern Clash. The clashes feature a prize pool of $100,000 and make for great viewing as one of the major offline tournaments of the season.
League play will then resume for the final 5 weeks of the phase, as teams scramble to the top of the table to avoid the HGC Crucible and try and gain a spot at the Mid-Season Brawl.
HGC Mid-Season Brawl
The winners of each league are automatically invited to the Brawl while the remaining top 6 will fight it out in the HGC Playoffs, featuring a stepladder format. In this format the 6th placed team plays the 5th, the winner plays the 4th and so on until there is only one team left standing, who snatches the invite to the Brawl. The region that wins their respective Clash also receives an extra invite, allowing two teams to progress from the playoffs of two regions.
This brings the team count to ten teams invited, with the remaining two taken from the Intercontinental Clash (a qualifier between Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) and Latin America (LATAM)) and the Horizon Clash (a qualifier between Taiwan (TW) and South East Asia (SEA)) to bring it up to a total of 12 teams participating in the second largest tournament of the year.
The Brawl is then split up into two stages: a group stage that splits the teams into two groups of 6 and eliminates the bottom two; and then a double-elimination Phoenix Bracket with an upper bracket and lower bracket. The teams get a share in $250,000 USD a massive LAN tournament, which in 2018 had more than 7 Million total views and a peak of 265 000 viewers at a time.
In the month before the Mid-Season Brawl, there is another event that has the potential to change the landscape of the HGC. The Crucible takes the bottom two teams from each region and puts them against the top two teams from the Open Division, a league run by Blizzard in partnership with GosuGamers that gives up-and-coming teams a shot at making it into the HGC.
Through a series of qualifiers, two teams are selected for each region from the Open Division, with the first-seeded team taking their pick of who to challenge, with the second-seeded open team playing the remaining HGC team. They then participate in a best of 7 series – the winner either keeps or gains a spot in the HGC for the following phase, while the losers walk away from the HGC, until their next opportunity.
Following the end of the first phase and upon the conclusion of the Crucible and the Mid-Season Brawl, the second phase of regular league play begins, as before. Halfway through there is another Western and Eastern Clash, with the winning region gaining an extra spot for the HGC Finals instead of the Mid-Season Brawl. The final 5 weeks of league play are then fought up between the teams, with the winner of each region automatically attaining an invited to the Finals. The 2nd to 6th teams proceed to the Playoffs in the same stepladder format as for the Mid-Season Brawl, with an extra slot for the region that won their respective Clash.
The bottom two teams of each region will once again participate in the Crucible, forcing them to prove their worth or make way for new talent to burst onto the scene. Once the 4 invited and 6 qualified teams are decided, and the Crucible is complete, there is another Intercontinental and Horizon Clash (SEA vs Taiwan, ANZ vs Latin America) to determine the final two participants. Then it is time for Heroes of the Storm’s flagship tournament, the HotS Global Championship Finals played at the annual BlizzCon in Anaheim in the USA.
Like the Mid-Season Brawl, there is an initial group stage where the bottom 2 of each group are eliminated, with the remaining 8 playing in a single elimination bracket stage. Stakes are high as teams are competing for a total $1 Million USD prize pool, marking it as the biggest esports tournament for Heroes of the Storm.
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