This evening at a press conference in Korea, Blizzard announced the new format of the 2013 World Championship Series, substantially revising how competitive StarCraft 2 works around the world. The restructuring places the US’s Major League Gaming, Europe’s Electronic Sports League, and Korea’s GSL and Starleague inside Blizzard’s overarching WCS. It is a major step toward Blizzard’s longstanding eSports goal of creating a sensible international tournament series that can credibly identify the world’s greatest player.
Starting this month and running through BlizzCon in November, the WCS season will occur across three competitive regions, Korea, America, and Europe. Between now and November, the WCS will run three successive seasons, each culminating in a global event. Pro players will accrue championship points over the course of these events, and the top sixteen players will make their way to BlizzCon for the global finals. All WCS events will be broadcast in free 720p via Twitch. Over the course of 2013, Blizzard will contribute at least $1.6 million to the prize pools, according to Gamespot.
The new WCS format brings some other major changes to competitive StarCraft. Foremost among them, the Korean WCS effectively replaces GSL / OSL as we know them. Now the two leagues alternate seasons, rather than operating independently, and each season of GSL or StarLeague is the Korean WCS for that season. Proleague and the GSTL, however, will continue as they have before.
There are some other quirks as well. While the leagues are divided regionally, players of any nationality are eligible to play in any region. So Koreans can elect to compete in the European WCS or American WCS, but players must commit to their chosen region for the duration of the 2013 season. What this means, of course, is that Korean pros could still end up being the ones to dominate the European and American competitions.
There are a lot of details still emerging about the deal, and so far there is no clear role for Dreamhack despite the fact that Dreamhack was working closely with ESL and MLG as of last year. It’s also not entirely clear, to me at least, what the relationship between events like MLG’s Pro Circuit and ESL’s tournaments and their WCS involvement will be.
While a lot of details will doubtless emerge soon, it’s clear that Blizzard have taken a massive step toward true leadership of StarCraft 2 eSports and, with the partnership of the Korean organizations, MLG, and ESL, the World Championship Series has a credibility and importance it lacked last year. For viewers, meanwhile, Blizzard’s broadcasting deal with Twitch should make StarCraft 2 easier, cheaper, and more convenient to watch than ever before.