It was, on reflection, largely inevitable: it is confirmed this morning that the Road to Blizzcon will not be overseen this year by ESL but MLG, who Activision Blizzard conveniently bought at the start of 2016. This means that the MLG Arena in Columbus will be the venue for the Warcraft PvP event, presumably with the entire affair getting a far higher media treatment than on previous occasions. In fact, I can confidently predict that this year’s Road to Blizzcon will be like nothing you’ve ever seen before in terms of presentation and exposure. Mostly, ActiBlizz have an awful lot to prove, and this will be the first serious opportunity for the disparate elements of the eSports equation to come together to demonstrate their worth.
You can expect to see this guy front and center too: Chris Puckett was announced as the main man for Blizzard’s new eSports channel a while back and he’ll undoubtedly be the first choice as Master of Ceremonies throughout the entire event. Normally I’d have zero interest in these endeavors but this announcement means that I’ll be tuning in when the hype begins, just to see how Blizzard decides to handle this. Like it or not there are some interesting consequences for Warcraft the game in, especially in relation to the UI. When my son was watching the CS:GO Championships from Columbus earlier this year, he could use his own copy of the game to enter Spectator Mode and watch the action as it unfolded. I wonder, what if that ability was about to be included as part of Legion and will be used as a selling point for future tournaments?
In fact, what if Blizzard’s general reticence to discuss the PvP side of things in Legion is due to something massive coming in terms of eSports integration?
Of course, it wouldn’t just have to be for PvP: if there were a spectator mode engaged for Instanced content generally, surely the possibility of ‘Races’ between Guilds to complete content the fastest could be organised: how long before you’d see the top World Guilds showing players how they complete the Emerald Nightmare with tips and tricks for the average raider being flashed up alongside the stats? How long before Twitch is being used to give away free Transmog skins or player titles? It cannot be beyond the realms of possibility that this is both feasible and inevitable when you consider that ActiBlizz hold all the cards now: from the back end to the front, they control all the elements required to produce content however the hell they wish.
Mostly now it’s a case of wait and see. I for one welcome our new eSports Overlords, and I look forward to seeing just what’s in store in the weeks that follow.