War Chest Team League Controversy – A Marketing Case Study

The recently announced War Chest Team League is a controversial topic. The debate highlights several issues with the planning and execution of the tournament.

Background

The War Chest Team League was first announced with the official 4.12 patch notes, and the details can be found here.

Just like how previous War Chests work, players can buy the War Chest for skins and other perks, and the money would be used to support the StarCraft esports scene. The key difference of War Chest 6 is that the first USD $150,000 of the proceeds (less taxes) goes to prizing and tournament operations for a special team league. Blizzard have yet disclose full information of the tournament, but format involves “nine prominent StarCraft II commentators to draft teams of four players each, who will then duke it out in an action-packed clan wars-style format.”

While the controversy around the previous War Chests is mainly about the pay-and-unlock set up, the current debate involves the StarCraft II team ecosystem and support. Many existing StarCraft teams came together and penned an open letter to Blizzard regarding their disagreement with the War Chest Team League. Their main concern can be summarised in the following paragraph (emphasis mine):

As you can see, this format excludes existing professional teams. This team league format reduces our motivation to keep our teams running, as representation from players is a major part of running our teams in the first place. Moreover, it may make actual teams less appealing to existing and prospective sponsors… we are wondering if there is another way to get casters involved along with providing more support for existing professional teams.

Proponents vs. opponents

The opponents of the War Chest Team League believe the money could be better spent to support the team ecosystem. Their main concerns are:

  • The War Chest Team League disregards current teams that would really benefit from this sort of event.
  • It is a missed opportunity to support the existing StarCraft II teams.

On the other hand, the proponents of the War Chest Team League believe hosting a team league with the existing teams is not a feasible option, or at least not a better option than the existing one. The main reasons are:

  • Teams that do not have enough players cannot participate, and that could result in some top players not featured in the tournament (e.g., Serral of ENCE).
  • The games would be one-sided – Look at JinAir Green Wings.
  • The goal of the War Chest is not to produce a team ecosystem.

Underlying problems

There are two underlying problems with the controversy. First, the two sides have very different views of what the War Chest Team League really is. It is after all a tournament of individual players drafted to play in a team format. The problem stems from Blizzard’s label of the tournament. It is named the War Chest Team League, so it is inevitable that people evaluate the tournament from the lens of a conventional StarCraft team league. Humans do not learn new information in a blank state, but they adopt a schematic approach by organising new information into familiar categories. In this case, people apply their knowledge of previously known team league formats (e.g., Proleague and GSTL) to the current tournament. These team leagues had actual teams competing in them, so that affects our expectation of participation criteria. Then, when you adopt the perspectives of team operators and owners, it is not hard to understand why they are disappointed and feel excluded.

In contrast, the proponents do not perceive the War Chest Team League as a special team league, but they actually see it as a special tournament using a team format. With this in mind, the criteria of having actual teams competing seems unnecessary. This highlights the information asymmetry of those who are involved in the planning process and those who aren’t, and this is reflected in the tweet below:

The second underlying problem is the message Blizzard is sending to the teams. This tournament teaches us that StarCraft teams benefit from putting most of their money on one or two star players. It is not like team owners and operators do not know that there is little incentive in having a StarCraft II team with a roster, but this tournament is making the message clear. Why would teams spend the resource, which would otherwise be spent on recruiting top talents, on providing up-and-coming players opportunities? The result doesn’t seem to align with Blizzard’s statement for this tournament to provide “tons of opportunities for everyone to shine.”

Marketing

Fundamentally, it comes down to the poor marketing of the tournament. The use of “team league” in the tournament name builds up expectation that cannot be fulfilled. The tournament could be marketed as a caster fantasy league instead. This then shifts the schema from conventional StarCraft team leagues where actual teams compete to a fantasy league where players from different teams get picked. Once you position it as a fantasy league with casters being the “fantasy league players”, you give opportunity and incentive for existing teams to promote their own players saying “please pick my player!” This is exactly what NBA teams do when they want their star players to be picked for the annual All-Star game. Existing teams would not have felt excluded, and they are likely to appreciate the initiative. Teams can post promotional clips and artworks on social media in the process. This provides a platform for teams, players, and fans to interact on social media. This resolves the conflict between worrying about quality of games (e.g., overly one-sided) and feeling excluded from participation. The hashtag could have been #PickMyPlayer instead of the #LetTeamsPlay that the open letter is advocating.

This simple shift in marketing focus could have turned the opponents to proponents. This could have prevented the current push back and keep the existing format. Of course, it is too late to re-brand the tournament now. I may insert this as a case study for my marketing lectures.


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2 thoughts on “War Chest Team League Controversy – A Marketing Case Study

  1. I think ActionVision/Blizzard deserves our sympathy.

    They are just one of the next antichristtical-bolchevic-socialist-marxist planned currency victims in a long row and understands that this FIAT money isn’t money anymore but just a payment method out of thin air using its infinite resource against finite resources of this very planet with a built-in faster and faster inflation because of its needs to grow on a exponential rate (expand) to not implode our ultimate pseudo-capitalistic illusion. The now existing pseudo rest-market does never had to grow when it was a market based on sound money.

    So any entity fed from this box of Pandora MUST always make more and more monies. This is the outcome of a view on mankind and our world created by God which denies the free will of men and thinks anything is a mechanical cause and effect which can of course be totally controlled in the long run. Because God or a God concept must not exist even when logic, which is the foundation of science, isn’t a valid tool anymore and can’t proof anything since the time Dr. Kurt Gödel gave as the scientific proof of its incompleteness.

    tl;dr – ActionVision/Blizzard is damned as anyone else to expand faster and faster and make more and more money to not get bankrupt by this world wide artificial planned credit economy (money-socialism) rules but to play by this planned new world rules.

    Anything else is just a symptom and distract just from the real cause.

    Proposal
    Don’t ignore your desire to control a complete world including Marines, Zerglings and Zealots, buildings and last but not least your opponent as well as yourself (self-redemption) – just like slaves doesn’t recognizing that they don’t want to be free but want to be slave holder themselves and click to initiate the next game!

    Case closed.

    1. only issue with your rant here that christianity is the root cause of the hold marxism has on the worlds socio-economic reality. atheism as fact based thinking about what works(capitalism) vs what doesn’t (communism/socalism). as long as people allow fictional stories and failed systems to control their decision making because the ideals feel good as opposed to doing good we will be stuck. i can’t say more because the world isn’t ready for the real comprises need to be adopted from civilizations past to bring stability to our world again.

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