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Heroes of the Storm pros furious over Blizzard's decision to discontinue HGC

2018 HGC Finals | Photo by Blizzard

2018 HGC Finals | Photo by Blizzard

Blizzard's decision to discontinue Heroes of the Storm's competitive league, the Heroes Global Championship, has infuriated many of the players and organisations involved in the competition. After the announcement yesterday that the HotS esports events wouldn't return for 2019, players, coaches, and casters expressed disappointment as well as anger at Blizzard for dropping the news so late in the year, nullifying the work they've done to prepare for the next season.

"Fuck you, honestly," wrote Heroes of the Storm pro Lauber in a tweet yesterday. "Working 6 hard months with new fantastic teammates for this shit. Radio silence for weeks. I sent multiple email and all i got back was that they are working on finalizing the details."

...Now all of a sudden everything just gets pulled out from underneath them?

Kala, Tempo Storm coach

"2 months ago I won the crucible in a super intense and heartbreaking series," wrote another pro, Cris, "then left in the cold water for 2 month just to get a big fucking fuck you."

The Crucible has been a particular point of anger. The a twice-a-year competition allows the best Open Division teams to win a spot in the HGC. The last was held in October.

"It's absolute bullshit," said Tempo Storm HotS coach Kala in a video. "It's so awful. There's so many teams and players that have put their heart and soul into this game and have developed livelihoods around this game—I mean, myself included, but not even talking about the teams that have worked their ass off all fucking year to beat teams out in Crucible to have their opportunity to play in the HGC, pick up new fucking sponsors, and now all of a sudden everything just gets pulled out from underneath them?"

Kala says he was told "by Blizzard employees at BlizzCon" that the HGC was going to continue in 2019 with similar funding. Some in the scene have speculated that new Blizzard president J. Allen Brack was behind the axing of HotS esports, or that it was due to cost cutting pressure from Activision management, specifically Blizzard's new chief financial officer, Amrita Ahuja. The only official word we have at the moment is the statement released yesterday by Brack and chief development officer Ray Gresko.

"The love that the community has for these programs is deeply felt by everyone who works on them," wrote Blizzard, "but we ultimately feel this is the right decision versus moving forward in a way that would not meet the standards that players and fans have come to expect." 

Heroes of the Storm released in 2015, and while it never reached the heights Blizzard presumably hoped it would—the mountaintop from which League of Legends and Dota 2 look down on all other MOBAs—it offered a somewhat more accessible wizard 'em up and developed a passionate fan base.

The situation these players, coaches, and broadcasters are in now—attached to a game which no longer has a major competitive scene—is obviously disastrous for them, and exemplifies an ugly truth: when a game's esports scene is largely controlled by its publisher, most of those who participate in and promote it have no guarantee that a board room somewhere won't wipe out everything they've worked for. What should also be clear to all involved is that this is true for other Blizzard esports.

"The way that Blizzard chose to announce the end of HGC tonight was disgraceful," wrote StarCraft 2 player and PSISTORM Gaming director Stefan Mott. "Choosing to lead organizations and players on for months under the impression that HGC would continue in 2019 is ridiculous. This is exactly why we need more transparency from Blizzard."

"How are we supposed to plan for 2019 without knowing 100% for certain what the next year is going to look like?" he added, referring to the StarCraft 2 World Championship Series.

I have contacted Blizzard with request for further comment, and will update this post if I hear more about why the announcement was made so abruptly at the end of the year, and what specifically prompted the publisher to discontinue HGC. Presumably, the decision was made in response to declining player counts or viewership, but HotS production director Kaéo Milker said today that HGC had "its best year yet" in 2018.

"We truly hit our stride in 2018," wrote Mikler, "so I’m disappointed that some of the exciting plans we had for 2019 will have to change."

Tyler has been writing about and editing writing about games for over 10 years. When he's not organizing his inbox, you can find him attempting to aerial in Rocket League, playing medic in Battlefield 1, or spending hours in RPG character creation screens instead of actually playing them.