Blizzard has obviously gone downhill since WoW’s Warlords of Draenor expansion in 2014, they’ve dropped quite low since the announcement for Diablo Immortal at Blizzcon 2018. Ever since last month when they mercilessly banned Blitzchung for expressing his views on Hong Kong, Blizzard has been on a rapid decline of good PR for the past month. With the weeks leading up to Blizzcon 2019, Blizzard has made PR blunder after blunder with little sign of stopping. From banning even more Hearthstone players to canceling entire Blizzard release events, it didn’t seem like it could get much worse for Blizzard. Blizzcon 2019 finally hit and it was much less of a clusterfuck from the eyes of many,at least until the recent news was uncovered. Plenty of nice releases such as Diablo IV, WoW Shadowlands and Overwatch 2 to distract you from the fact they just sided with a totalitarian police less than three weeks prior. But don’t worry, the massive Pro Hong Kong protests outside the convention center were more than happy to remind you exactly what Blizzard cares about. However, both of these factors swept something truly awful under the rug. How Blizzard dealt with its Esports during Blizzcon 2019.
Blizzcon 2019 was an especially big fuckup when it came to WoW Esports. Method had smashed the competition at Blizzcon, but the manager of Method revealed just how awful the event was for them. Blizzard had featured a $500,000 prizepool and, for the first time, let the community buy items that would fund it. Something that Dota 2 has done every year and League of Legends picked up recently. The community was able to raise $660,000 in prize money. However, instead of a $1,160,000 prizepool, Blizzard had only offered $660,000. In some very shifty guidelines, if the community had raised more than the original prizepool, they would just switch it instead of add on. Blizzard had just pocketed $500,000 under the argument that “Blizzard couldn’t allow WoW to have a bigger individual prize pool than Hearthstone, the Overwatch World Cup or StarCraft 2” according to Dexerto. What a fucking bullshit argument. WoW teams spend a lot more time and money when it comes to staying competitive and traveling than any other game. Granted, Hearthstone costs a shit load to stay competitive as well, but you just have to manage one player traveling-wise. In World of Warcraft, you need to pay for all expansions, its game time as well as traveling for both the Dungeon and Arena portions of WoW Esports, plus their m. It’s a lot to handle, so nicking $500,000 and pretending that it’s fair is complete and utter nonsense. Especially since these teams are putting a lot more on the line. Not only that but there was no proper housing whatsoever for the Professional Players. They had to book their own practice facilities and food was even scarcely provided throughout the week. I worked as a contractor cashier and I got more free food than the professional players performing there, that’s fucked up. These organizations were covering additional costs without any support from Blizzard. There was also a sudden change of plans and all opening week matches were condensed to a single day with no streaming. Half of the event ended up behind closed doors according to Darrie, the manager of Method who had dropped a twitlonger describing what had happened behind the scenes.
What’s the most disgusting about this is that Blizzard’s PR team managed to sweep this under the rug while letting everyone speak freely of Hong Kong and Blizzard’s past fuckups and memes. All while professional players were suffering and abused in silence. But it wasn’t just World of Warcraft Esports players that Blizzard was lashing the whip at.
The 2019 Overwatch World Cup prize pool was undisclosed without explanation. That should already be giving you more red flags than Communist China at this stage. Overwatch’s Esports teams were also having to find their own practice facilities and were hardly given any food. This was revealed by USA’s main tank Super when he spoke with Crusty after USA’s victory. The Korean coach had revealed to him that the World Cup team lacked any proper practice and preparation due to scheduling conflicts. These were due to the same conditions that Method had to go through. They both had to fund their own makeshift bootcamps from their own pockets and were barely able to practice during the lead-up to the event. The cost was pretty wretched as South Korea had, before, dominated the World Cup since 2016 and were undefeated going into 2019. South Korea has high expectations of their teams, so seeing the team lose to France in the group stage and lose to the US twice and fail the semi-finals was pretty hard for them. The coach of the South Korean team and Crusty were even told to never come back to South Korea again. Crusty then said to Super that he’ll never do the World Cup ever again because of it. You can get more info in the clip below –
According to Lutional, a translator for the South Korean Coach, stated that they still needed sponsors and couldn’t even go in early to get local practice. They were also provided only the plane, rooms, and sometimes two meals a day. Everything else had to be taken care of with their own money.
You see why that disclosed prizepool seems to be a bit worrying now? It’s very difficult not to get upset about all of this. Blizzard is a multi-trillion dollar company and they can’t provide professional Esports players some decent food. Mind you, these aren’t Dota 2 players, where even if they get last place in The International, they essentially get more money than most Esports tournaments. These players were having probably the worst time out of anyone in Blizzcon, even the people who worked backstage.
Blizzard managed to keep the entire event under check. They allowed the talk of Hong Kong and China all around the con so nobody would go snooping in with a whole taboo situation, even letting a kid say Free Hong Kong during a WoW panel. However, this seems it was all to keep a lot of other things underground and the lack of caring for its professional players and their teams were just that. Blizzard is trying to save money, and it’s trying to save as much money as inhumanely possible, even if that means throwing your own professional players under the fucking bus. No wonder why the US won in the Overwatch World Cup, because they could just practice right then and there at any time before the tournament. It’s absolutely disgraceful that Blizzard would go and screw over pro players and even two game tournaments’ prize pools just to save a quick buck. Director of Overwatch Jeff Kaplan says he wants Blitzchung’s suspension to be lessened or removed, but how are any of us supposed to not take that opinion with a grain of salt when his own Esports have just gotten away with screwing over several teams in the Overwatch World Cup with little practice and left malnourished?
Absolutely fucking despicable.
[Credit to Brad Norton and Michael Gwilliam’s articles on both the OW World Cup and WoW Competition experiences]