My Background as a Blizzard fan
I have been a huge Blizzard fan for many years, from Warcraft 2 onwards. I got into the WoW beta and have met many friends in person from the game, some of which I am still in contact with to this day. When I got into the technical alpha for Heroes I was intrigued, I hadn’t liked MOBA’s but I liked this one. I started playing and then writing about this exciting game.
I have been writing about Heroes over the last 3 years in differing capacities and have enjoyed both watching and writing about competitive Heroes (esports). Whether it was in the days of the regional tournaments, EU, NA, etc. or in the more recent times with a league I have enjoyed watching, with the HGC really holding my attention. I liked how the league structure gave us regular play and tournaments that seemed to mean more and an easier to follow competitive scene. I enjoyed competitive Heroes so much I even went to 3 events, Leicester for the EU finals, IEM Katowice and lastly the Mid-Season Brawl in Sweden.
So, before the recent news, I was going to write an article in support of the HGC a sort of rebuttal to those who were clamouring for a return of the tournament circuit system, where we would have more tournaments but no league play. I was even going to tie it into how heroes seemed to be going places, and finding solutions to things like the experience changes and problematic heroes, which worked both competitively and in more casual play.
And then the bombshell, midnight at Wednesday GMT, the news that both the HGC is cancelled and that the Heroes team was massively cut back. Some people might say that they expected cutbacks, perhaps a reduction of HGC or a change to a tournament structure cancellation of HGC. Not many could have predicted a complete cancellation of competitive Heroes and a severe scale back on the number of staff that worked on Heroes.
Reaction to Brack’s scaling back announcement
My first reaction was one of shock.
How could this be, Heroes was an esport doing comfortably, not S-tier but still pulling in respectable viewership. Plenty of games would have wanted the viewership we had. Perhaps its prize pool was disproportionately high for its viewership but still it was a decent viewership, and 2018 viewership had grown on 2017. The game itself was being scaled back, at a time when things seemed so promising with a role rework around the corner.
Then came the anger.
I’ve played Blizzard games since Diablo 1, Warcraft 2, and StarCraft Brood war. I got a level 40 paladin in the WoW beta and was hooked. I’ve met people from Blizzard game IRL and made friends. I felt like I belonged to a family, a Blizzard family. After a fairly lackluster Blizzcon 2018, the gutting of a game that I supported and I wrote about, that people I supported and respected were suddenly ditched genuinely angered me.
The feeling of a Blizzard family was almost instantly dispelled. The company using a mobile game as its centrepiece announcement. It destroyed support for a competitive scene, cut back developers and made a whole host of people unemployed with very little warning. A game that could have been monetised better was due to mistakes being put onto life support. I somewhat petulantly uninstalled Heroes and took a screenshot of it.
Lastly came sadness.
Sadness that the game was being scaled back, that casters and players were being given a Christmas present of unemployment. That I was going to have to find something else to do with my weekends and that a game I had supported with cheers and a yearlong stim-pack was going to be cutback. I couldn’t bear to read a lot of the goodbyes from players and organisations, and it’s a bit of a killer to see Heroes pros playing League of Legends (League). I considered moving to other Blizzard games like Hearthstone or StarCraft.
But recently I came to a realisation. We can argue whether Blizzard was right to do what they did, what impact Activision has had and whether it is okay for a business to make decisions like this. For the record whilst of course businesses should care about profits, there should be some consideration for their employees and fans; I feel that the form and nature of their announcement was very lacking and counterproductive.
This isn’t really the point though of my realisation. My realisation is that withdrawing from Heroes, by uninstalling it not watching it and playing other Blizzard games is exactly what the people behind this decision want. They can wind down a game they don’t want to support and focus on more profitable games. So, I reinstalled Heroes and will try to support community-based tournaments however I can.
My present feelings
I am still pretty angry with the decision to cut back the team and the destruction of a competitive scene. I don’t agree with the timing and manner of the announcement and I also think that some egregious mistakes meant that Heroes was not a financial success (or at least not successful enough). From a botched launch to not knowing what sort of game it was; does anyone remember the brawler genre it once labelled itself as? To the 2.0 re-launch which was basically seen as a way of creating another currency and loot chests, with needed gameplay changes coming later. To not implementing cheers for HGC until the second half of a year and having loot chests for cheering introduced lately and quietly, mistakes have been made.
It was not a lack of viewership or of interest which sunk a game that was (admittedly from a steep decline after launch) rising in popularity again and was consistently a top 10 esport in viewership and earnings. It was a bad handling of a game and failure to monetise it that led to a callous decimation of a competitive scene and players understandably fleeing to League. The competitive scene has been dismantled and I wonder whether they could have held a less expensive circuit rather than just cutting it.
As for Heroes itself, well we are assured that it will still have regular content and we’ve heard some good noises. But things do not happen overnight and a lot of content we will get in the next few months will have been worked on by the old, larger team. We will see in the next half of 2019 what a limited team can do.
I am so sorry for all the now unemployed HGC players and the teams that supported the game. But I have some hope that Heroes will survive and maybe even prosper with people like Halloween, Malganyr and Heroes Lounge providing community run tournaments, and Kaéo Milker as the Production Director providing timely updates. We may get directly buyable skins back!
Viewership of the HGC (and other stats)
Heroes Lounge pro/competitive division S
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Hoofit has been following Heroes Esports since 2016 and has enjoyed watching and writing about Heroes especially since HGC has come about. He is fortunate enough to have gone to 2 events live and met some great people at those events. He has followed Team Liquid since they were mYinsanity and still supports them despite their recent downturn. Having graduated from an English university he now works there to fund his need for Heroes of the Storm merchandise.