The COVID-19 pandemic threw a lot of esports plans for 2020 out the window. And while some companies canceled or postponed their events, others adjusted to the new reality and changed their formats to adapt to the circumstances.
Blizzard is one of the companies that faced the challenge head-on, changing the format of its World Arena Championship and Mythic Dungeon International events for World of Warcraft by moving them to an online format. After a successful 2020 year, Blizzard’s esports lead Adrian “Healingstat” Archer-Lock talked with Dot Esports about the company’s plans for the new year and reflected on the challenges of 2020.
Blizzard’s 2021 esports plans have been announced, but there was no mention of any events happening in a venue. Will the tourneys be held in a fully-online format in 2021 or is there a possibility for offline play as well?
Healingstat: Events will be kept online this year, it’s not a thing we want to do permanently. With the current situation, we feel like this is the right play. We infinitely prefer to keep everyone safe over the added benefit of offline events. We recognize offline events that they’re awesome, but in the current situation, all tournaments will be held online to preserve the health and safety of everyone involved.
Considering that 2020 had the first remote AWC in WoW’s history, did it affect viewership positively or negatively?
With 2020 being the first online World Arena Championship, the viewership dropped a bit compared to previous years with a few factors coming in. A couple of notable factors were the COVID-19 pandemic, new cup format, and exclusivity deal with YouTube, which have had an impact on viewership. We can’t really see where the drop came from, but in the upcoming year, we’ll be more prepared. While in 2020 we needed to quickly adapt on a short notice, now we have plenty of time to plan everything for the online format. We’ve been working behind the scenes quite hard in preparation for the 2021 announcement and the broadcast will be much better.
The prize pool was increased for both the PvP and PvE programs. What was the motivation behind this increase?
The PvP tournaments will have a $900,000 prize pool, almost double compared to the 2020 one, while the PvE tournaments will have a $750,000 prize pool. One of the things when we make any decisions related to WoW esports is longevity. We are super proud of how long WoW esports has been going. The PvP aspect has been going for almost 15 years while the PvE aspect is much newer to the scene, but is still received well by the community.
We want to provide additional content for our players so that they can get involved. We want to support these players with additional prize pools so that more players participate in the upcoming PvP or PvE tournaments
What are the upcoming MDI one-off events?
I’m really excited for these upcoming events. While they’ll not be the primary focus, the idea is to add a bit of variety to the MDI. MDI, through its various iterations, has been head-to-head racing going as fast as they can through the dungeons. With one-off events, we want to explore other ways to do dungeons as well. One idea is to push keystone levels as high as possible.
While the plans are ambitious, there’s still work to be done before an official announcement. It’s unclear who will be able to participate, but we are trying to make it accessible to as many players as possible.
While there is a possibility of the one-off events involving some types of dungeon-crawler adventures, such as the Mage Tower or the recently released Torghast Tower, nothing is set in stone yet. For now, the primary focus for these one-off events is the dungeons of WoW.
What is Blizzard’s opinion on creating tailored dungeons just for the top-level players who would have to explore the mechanics by themselves instead of relying on given information?
We thought about this possibility, however one of the biggest upsides of having content accessible to everyone is that any player can compete in that area whenever he wants. By creating such types of dungeons, players would have to rush max level, gear up, and participate or miss out on such interesting events. One of the cool things of WoW esports is the reflection of the game—everyone can repeat what the professionals are doing, be it either PvP or PvP.
With so many guilds streaming their Mythic World First progress and gaining a lot of viewership in the process, are there any plans to increase your support toward them?
There are so many perspectives right now, you have guilds providing their attempts and runs throughout the entire world. It’s so amazing to be able to pop in a stream and see the PoV of a certain class or guild you like. From a Blizzard standpoint, we put out the content and we watch them enjoy and do the fastest, it seems like everyone involved in the race is having a good time and it’s working out well so far.
A certain tank specialization has started popping up in WoW arenas, namely protection paladins. Is this something we should expect in the upcoming AWC cups?
With the recent resurgence of tank specs in PvP, the upcoming AWC could bring a lot of surprises. While the AWC does not forbid tanks from participating in the cup, a tank hasn’t been brought in for a couple of years. While there’s not that many prot paladins popping up on the ladder right now, maybe that’s one thing we are going to see during the AWC. It could be interesting to see if the top level players have this secret pick in their roster.
What gear will be available to participants in the MDI and AWC and how will the covenants, conduits, and legendaries be handled on the tournament realm?
The tournament realm will have systems in place to allow players to easily swap between one or the other. While the solution won’t be a single tap of a button, it could be just having an alt character with a different covenant. While no announcement can be made regarding the availability of PvP and PvE gear yet, players will have to find out themselves on the tournament realms soon enough.
The new conduits, covenants, and legendaries are going to play an important role in both the PvP and PvE tournaments, considering that some abilities allow you to create huge opportunities for either big PvP plays or PvE trash mob skips to make your run easier and faster. Some players have already discovered various interactions with the covenants which allows them to run dungeons faster. These niche aspects will provide a better viewership experience.
Anybody from North America and Europe who wants to participate in either the PvP or PvE tournaments can sign up on GameBattles. The season will begin on Jan. 14 and will be available to anyone who registers on GameBattles.