The HiRez Studios multiplayer online battle arena, which features a third-person camera with first person shooter style controls, is secretly one of the globe’s hottest esports, and it’s quickly heading to its first true World Championship.
This past weekend, the top teams in North America competed to decide which two will represent the region in Atlanta at the Smite World Championship. The top four teams from the three-month-long Smite Pro League and two teams who qualified through a regional wild card tournament attended the event at the Cobb Energy Center in Atlanta.
When the dust settled, Cognitive came out on top. Cognitive Red took the title, beating Cognitive Prime by a 2-1 score.
The result mirrored the regular season of the SPL—Cognitive dominated all season long. Red ranked atop the standings with a 17-3 record, with Prime just below them at 14-6, ahead of Snipe (now Complexity, at 11-9) and Dignitas (11-9).
Both Cognitive teams will return to Atlanta in January to challenge the world’s best. Smite wouldn’t have it any other way. While storied esports organizations like Fnatic, SK Gaming, Dignitas, and Complexity have thrown their hats into the Smite ring, it’s Cognitive Gaming that’s dominated the scene since its inception. Like Team SoloMid in League of Legends, they’re an organization that’s sprouted up in a new esport game and made a name for themselves.
In fact, Cognitive Gaming will bring three teams to the World Championships.
The European regional qualifiers, held on Nov. 15, didn’t follow the same blueprint as the American ones. Fnatic picked up the top-seeded team, Exposed Secrets, who finished the regular season with a 14-6 record. Mortality, Team SoloMid, and Cloud9 ranked just behind them, strong teams in powerhouse organizations.
But it was SK Gaming and underdogs Aquila who met in the finals, securing spots at the World Championships.
SK Gaming established themselves as monsters in live events when they surprisingly swept the field at the Smite Pro League Kickoff. During the SPL, played online, they mustered just a 9-11 record, forcing them to qualify through the Wild Card tournament. But in the live environment, they shined, sweeping both Team SoloMid and Mortality to reach the finals and qualify for the championship.
They were joined by Aquila—but don’t let the fool you. The team lives under the Cognitive banner. They failed to qualify from the Pro League, but improved through the challenger events until they swept the Wild Card tournament in impressive fashion. Their form continued at Regionals as they won two close series against Cloud9 and Fnatic before taking out SK Gaming in the finals.
The stage is set for an epic final in Atlanta, with the two North American powerhouse Cognitive teams joined by Europe’s surprising underdogs. They’ll meet the two best teams in China as well as one from Brazil and another from Latin America in the $1.5 million World Championship.
It will be one of the biggest esports events in history. The current prize pool puts it at no. eight overall, just behind the first two The International events, topping every game save Dota 2 and League of Legends. Smite may seem like a fringe esports title, but the fringe of esports is a lot bigger than you think.