Why WoW Needs Leagues

BY Andrew Miesner / April 5, 2010

Why WoW Needs Leagues

by Sascha “Yiska” Heinisch

In times like these, when there isn’t an upcoming tournament for the top teams can prepare for, motivation is low everywhere. How do we know that? The big top battlegroups are dead and they are dying for attention. Insiders predict the TR to be announced in the next couple of weeks and therefore top teams are saving their juice for when it’s up. If you have no goal to aim for (no WoW tournament has officially been announced yet), one can hardly reach for the stars.

Most competitive sports have a pyramid of participants in the sense that the more skilled a base of players are, the fewer are in their skill-level bracket and this also holds true for WoW. What if though, the average to good community isn’t able to compete in the same way that the top players do. I’m referring to a problem that only the chosen few have access to; the non-blizzard tourament realms, which shuts out the asprining players from the already established gurus. If you are a football (soccer) fan, chances are you play it yourself, or you did in the past, not only with friends, but in a regular club in which you play against other teams in leagues.

This brings us to a key problem. WoW has no ESEA, no CEVO, and no EPS with regular play days that will keep people motivated. Of course, these leagues don’t have to be only for the top teams but also for the average guy. I played soccer for 11 years and it taught me how amazingly talented and well trained these professional soccer players I watch every weekend on TV truely are. If I have never experienced the competition in a game, I am only able to guess what it takes for those players at the top to be this good. It’s not a coincidence that the most watched are also the most played sports on the planet.

With games such as Starcraft II coming out, a game that most tournaments and league hosts will be all over, many WoW Arena fans will have their doubts about the future of their beloved game. The issue becomes apparent when we look at the current tournament hosts of WoW tournaments in the western world and their support for the game.

Most players who have been at MLG events reported that they felt that they basically attended a console event and oh yeah, there was WoW too. The number of WoW tournaments this season has not been expanded and we are still looking at four events per season. MLG apparently can market console players with greater success than PC gamers and it really felt that they just took the opportunity back when WSVG shut down, because nobody else was ready to host WoW events in North America. As far as I’ve heard, the numbers have been solid enough to sustain what we currently have though and the North American scene is safe for at least another season.

In Europe however, things aren’t so certain just yet. The host of the only WoW tournament in Europe, the ESL, have not announced their future plans for the 5th Season of the Intel Extreme Masters yet. Are they gambling on an early release of Stracraft II? If they are, will we see a fourth featured game (currently WoW,CS & Quake Live) or will one have to go? Will it be WoW? It surely won’t be CS. We know how great of a game Quake is. I’m stroking my almost non-existent beard.

WoW needs to become more attractive and leagues can play a big part in this. There are a few things that need to be done but the payoff is great.

You can’t compare the live server ladders to a best of 5 in tournaments as they are simply a different ball game. In a ladder setting, where a matchmaking system picks your opponent, you play the meta game and you choose the comps, specs and glyphs according to what you believe is the most succesful against the entirety of the teams on your Battleground. If you can on the other hand prepare for a specific opponent, maybe for an entire week, not only does the strategy change completely, but the quality of games will improve.

For this to be a little more exciting, the number of games which are played in the series should be adjusted according to the normal length of a game. What I mean by this is that viewers and players should feel that they are seeing or playing something worthwhile that can take a good hour and a half or more. I would suggest a series of at least best of 9 for this sweet spot or maybe even best of 11. Of course there is a certain possibility for games that are too long, if two double healer teams face each other. This is why leagues need to be flexible depending on the state of the game.

Not only would this ensure a steady stream of WoW e-sports attention, but it would increase the number and fairness of the games because the more games that are played, the more likely it is for a team to not be heavily favored by a random number generator.

The funding needed to organize these leagues if you already have a high uptime TR like the ESL or MLG stands in no comparison to an offline event for everybody involved. You can have shoutcasters casting from home and players playing from their desks, while admins don’t have to bring water… or do other stuff they do. Just kidding.

The only plausible reason I don’t see this happening is because of the way WoW works, along with connecting to the games themselves. Currently, there is no way to work around the match making system that assigns you to a game, so what hosts currently do is to not allow anyone to queue up except for the teams that are supposed to play. While this is already increadibly sketchy on the small scale, it’s just not imaginable for leagues with hundreds of players.

It has been rumoured though, that Blizzard is intending to fix this with a way to selectively queue into games and even choose the maps you want to play. If this made it’s way into the game, with the leagues putting on their puppy eyes, begging for a full year or at least full season TR for them, we are looking at a bright future.