Blizzard gives players a new reason to devote more of their time to World of Warcraft with their recently announced 2008 Arena Tournament. They have stepped up the ladder ranked Arena battles with a tournament with a prize pool of $120,000, the first place team winning $75,000 of that pool. There is an entry fee of $20, and this entry fee gives one already active World of Warcraft account access to the tournament realms where a player may create up to three new characters that will start at their race’s designated starting location and will be leveled up to level 70 and given a hefty sum of gold to buy any and all their equipment and to complete all their training. Blizzard states that “with money being no object, the characters you created for the tournament are free to carry as much gear as they can hold, and you can respec as often as you wish.” You can deck your character out with full sets of Arena gear and epic items that have been deemed the same level of power as Arena gear.
Any player who has a grasp of the game’s mechanics can now experience powerful characters in a competitive PvP environment without having to endure the process of exploring World of Warcraft’s world to level up and earn equipment – it’s just handed to them for the purpose of this tournament. Thankfully, these characters are restricted to the tournament realm, which will be devoid of any PvE content, instances, and battlegrounds.
Why would World of Warcraft be heading in a competitive direction like this?
Mike Morhaime, CEO and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment, said in their press release that “eSports is one of the most exciting facets of online gaming today. We’re pleased to expand World of Warcraft’s tournament optinos for players who want to focus mainly on the competitive aspect of the game.” Blizzard recognizes the value of a player’s will to compete and is capitalizing on that. With the recent merger of the MLG (Major League Gaming) and ESPN.com, the only direction eSports is seeing is a positive one. Blizzard is also known for, with the World of Warcraft title, catering to both its hardcore and casual players, making sure there’s a balance of fun and competition for both.
The interesting thing about this setup is that every player will have access to the same skills and equipment, so the winners really will be those teams who employ a knowledgeable and effective way of using their skills together. The downside is that a majority of the fun in playing an MMORPG is the exploration of its world and participating in raids and earning the gear, though the goals of an MMORPG and the Arena tournament are two significantly different things, and it is a pretty neat idea of Blizzard to take the same game and apply two completely different objectives to it.
The tournament starts in April and will have two rounds of online qualifiers, which will last for six weeks. The top four teams in these rounds will advance to regional finals and winners from the regional Arena matches will be invited to the global championship matches.
This move is another step in making popularizing eSports. World of Warcraft, because of its popularity, is somewhat of a household name, and now Blizzard is offering competitors prize money, which will attract even more attention.
Counter-Strike, one of the most popular online games, is still being played now, ever since its first release in 1999, and I credit a majority of the on-going popularity of this game because of its competitive nature and the competitive nature of its players.