NetEase and Blizzard launch new StarCraft 2 league, Gold Series Pro League, to replace WCS Challenger

GPL and WCS Logo together against a blue-tinted backdrop of a crowd at an eSports event.

For a dead game, StarCraft 2 leagues sure are multiplying in Asia. Chinese internet conglomerate NetEase just announced that they will be operating their own WCS-style tournament, the Gold Series Pro League (GPL) later this year as a part of the WCS system. This will give Chinese players a high-profile domestic tournament of their own that will seed into WCS.

It’s a big step for Chinese StarCraft, which has typically been a bit of an afterthought on the international landscape. While the region fields a number of high-caliber players, in the past they’ve had to compete in WCS America and, now, fight through an international qualifier to get their spots in WCS Premier.

The GPL will rationalize that process, effectively taking China out of the WCS Challenger system in favor of their own league. That goes a long way to giving the Chinese pro scene the respect and prominence it deserves.

While China has long been a force to be reckoned with in League of Legends and Dota, thanks to their own prestigious leagues, no Chinese leagues have ever really received international recognition. Now, the very best players in China will compete among themselves in their own tournament, and the top four finishers will advance to WCS Premier to take on the best of the rest of the world.

It’s also another encouraging sign for StarCraft’s global popularity. While the game is clearly struggling to have a robust eSports scene in North America, this move from NetEase and the launch of StarLeague in Korea indicate that appetite for the game is continuing to grow in the world’s biggest eSports markets.