The 2013/14 is coming to an end after Proleague has concluded and with WCS Season 3 moving on to the knockout stage. There are signs of expansion in the competitive scene for the next season. However, there are still a few important questions remain.
World Championship Series
It was a big shock for everyone (or perhaps we are just too used the announcement of an announcement). The aim was to provide Starcraft a structural professional system in the world. Given how competitive and mainstream eSport is now, an easy to follow structure is critical. Despite its merits, it also means that there was an unheaval in the already unstable scene. One of the biggest obstacles is the region lock issue. As the season proceeded, the dominance of the South Koreans was undeniable. This called for a change in the WCS system in the next season.
Blizzard delivered. The amendments were as good as they could be with the constraint of not creating another major change to the system. The improved system gave more opportunity to the native players of the respective regions, and at the same time, the door was not shut on determined competitors who wished to move to another region.
The current WCS system stays true to the promise to facilitate and support other eSports partners by acknowledging big events like Dreamhack, IEM, Home Story Cup and Redbull Battleground with WCS points. Subsequently, the sixteen players with the most WCS points will compete in the biggest Starcraft stage of the year: Blizzcon. However, there are several issues with the current system.
First, the WCS point system for one-off events needs to be revised. The WCS point reward system is a good move to support the scene, but it also leads to unfair competition. Many of these big tournaments invite players, and in my opinion, is reasonable from a business point of view. However, when you throw in the WCS point system along with invitation, that is indirectly delivering WCS points to these invited players in an unfair manner. I am not the only one who thinks this is a problem. TotalBiscuit had been quite vocal about this.
invite heavy events with WCS points are major kingmakers when determining who gets to go to Blizzcon and tend to fixate on players that are popular, meaning that some players have a major advantage in the race to reach the Top 16.
I agree. An easy fix is that in order to be a WCS recognised event (to be rewarded with WCS points), the tournament must not exceed X% of invitees. Clearly, even with this restriction, it is still not totally fair. Politics can still push certain players higher up the WCS ranking. However, there is no perfect system. A restriction on the invitation is a good starting point.
Second, the lack of connection among the three regions. The three regions act as if they are independent leagues, at least until Blizzcon happens. The WCS Season Finals of 2013 were badly missed in the current 2014 WCS system. The Season Finals were probably the most anticipated events, at least to me. They connect the regions together and create great story lines. I think Blizzard would have continued with this in a perfect world, and my suspicion is that there are undisclosed issues. For example, the logistics and partnerships. This leads to the next point.
Third, the choice of partnership. MLG was the first partner for WCS America before NASL took over. NASL did not last as well, and ESL took over WCS America subsequently. The stability of the partners directly makes or breaks the WCS ecosystem. ESL has been doing a good job, so shout out to them.
The partnership in South Korean is the most problematic one. There are two main operators: KeSPA and GomTV. GomTV had the first mover advantage for Starcraft II, but KeSPA’s influence on the scene is growing. There are thick politics issues in 2013 for the choice of regional partner, and this leads to the result of having both swapping control for the WCS events. No easy choice. Just politics. Recently, KeSPA’s 2014 Proleague has been successful and should be credited to inject life into the Starcraft scene in South Korea. Proleague is such an A* brand name in the scene. Yet, it operates as an independent league to WCS.
Ideally, Proleague and WCS should work together. Of course, it is easier said than done. Perhaps that is just a wish from a hopeful fan like me. Nevertheless, it is safe to say that the day these two major tournaments come together, it is the day Starcraft becomes one.
KeSPA is known for its… well, the KeSPA wall. Players under KeSPA have little opportunity to participate in weekend events, which award WCS points. Thus, they are at a disadvantage when it comes to Blizzcon qualification. The current system awards players who participate in the WCS recognised tournaments. Just ask TaeJa.
The fans also want to see the KeSPA players pitch against the rest of the world. Again, this calls for Season Finals.
Interestingly, KeSPA recently had hinted about potential expansion by including foreign teams. This is huge. Perhaps this is a major step towards a proper synergy between Proleague and WCS. However, I don’t see it materialise unless Blizzard is willing to adjust the WCS system to fit with Proleague.
The regionalisation of the current WCS system encourages teams to focus on a specific region. The CEO of mYinsanity had shared his view on this matter regarding the operating cost.
Only because of the team house we could afford Stardust, since travel cost from Korea to all the tournaments would have been way too high.
This also suggests that the teams put much emphasis on the one-off WCS recognised events because it is rewarding. Furthermore, by participating in Proleague, the players have to move to South Korea. The common solution is to partner with thelocal teams and send the players to these Korean team houses instead of starting one. However, the rigorous league system of Proleague makes it extremely hard for the players to participate in WCS America or Europe. When these factors are taken together, there is little incentive to relocate the team to South Korea in order to participate in Proleague. Therefore, the only chance for it to happen is that Blizzard and KeSPA come together work out a system which can accommodate both the individual league and team league.
One can only hope. Or is there?
Did you see Mike Morhaime (CEO of Blizzard) and Kim Phan (Sr. manager of eSports of Blizzard) at GSL yesterday?
Why are they there? Just to do the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge?
( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)