What to Watch: The Week in eSports (January 25-February 1, 2013)

PlanetSide 2 Bio Lab bust

This week in our new competitive gaming column: could PlanetSide 2 be the first competitive shooter to achieve RTS/MOBA-level worldwide success? MLG and Sony think it just might. Plus: Who will secure their spots in Dota 2's The Defense 3 playoffs? This and much more below. gl hf!

PlanetSide 2 + MLG = Profit?

The big news today is that Major League Gaming has partnered with developers Sony Online Entertainment to bring PlanetSide 2 into the eSports spotlight. This is an interesting twist, as nothing on the scale of PlanetSide's continent-spanning warfare, often involving hundreds of soldiers, has been presented in a major, competitive context before now. Shooters in general, actually, tend to struggle in terms of viewership beside the more easily-readable presentation of top-down strategy and MOBA games.

The idea of PlanetSide as an eSport presents a lot of interesting questions. Could we see professional teams with dozens of members, operating under a military command structure? On top of this, MLG has officially announced two games for their Winter 2013 Pro Circuit season: League of Legends and Black Ops 2 (on the 360.) They are being rather mum about the unannounced third game. It seems almost ludicrous that a game with the worldwide popularity of StarCraft could get the boot, but this new partnership with Sony certainly has me wondering if we might be seeing Auraxis in place of Shakuras at the Winter Championship in Dallas this March.

StarCraft 2

IEM Katowice has concluded, with South Korea's First of Incredible Miracle and Dream of Team MVP claiming the first and second spots, respectively. [Insert "Who came in First?" joke here.] PartinG and Socke secured the 3rd-4th spots. All four of them will get the chance to face off again among the 24 qualified participants at the Intel Extreme Masters World Championship in Germany, starting on March 5. In the GSL, the unsponsored South Korean BBoongBBoong pulled a major Code S upset in group D, defeating StarTale's Squirtle in the winner's match.

Upcoming Events

The Iron Squid — Chapter II offline semifinals and finals are set to run this weekend in Paris, France, with a $12,500 top prize. From a bracket practically bursting with fan favorites, only four players remain: MarineKing, Life, NesTea, and DongRaeGu.

Watch it: Ironsquid.tv

Other Stuff

I got to sit down for a massive interview with StarCraft II Game Director Dustin Browder last week. Give it a look to find out more about the state of Heart of the Swarm, and what's yet to come.

Day[9]'s Funday Monday topic this week: As Terran, you can only build one Factory and one Barracks. Check out some creative Terran air play in the Heart of the Swarm beta.

Axslav has a Rules of Engagement to help you learn how to stay cool and hold the line when you're being attacked from everywhere at once.

League of Legends

Two pro players have been issued lifetime bans for toxic behavior: StunnedandSlayed and Veigodx of Team Solo Mebdi. This effectively disqualified the team from the LCS Qualifiers this weekend.

Upcoming Events

Riot's LCS European Qualifiers begin tonight (technically tomorrow) at 1 a.m. PST/4 a.m. EST. For us North Americans, that means some serious caffeine will probably be required to tune in live. There are definitely incentives to do so, however, as we'll get to see the likes of Curse EU and Fnatic compete for five spots in the Season 3 Championships.

Watch it: LeagueofLegends.com

Other Stuff

Thresh, the Chain Warden is now available for purchase. He's a support champion with some good tankiness and a focus on positional play.

Dota 2

The active player count in Dota 2 has climbed above three million per month. While still only a fraction of League's numbers, that's pretty impressive for a game that's not even technically released. Team Fnatic has also just announced that their North American team has released four of its five players. According to JoinDota , they hope to build around the remaining member, Johnathan "SMURF" Gorriz.

Upcoming Events

The Defense 3 group stage is getting down to the wire. Fnatic.eu has achieved a perfect 7-0 record. The 6-0 Mousesports would need to win their final game in Group A to catch up. Only one team from each group will advance to the playoffs, meaning we'll be seeing a couple of tiebreaker matches. The deadlock will have to be broken between Empire and Dignitas (both 6-1) in Group B. Group C also currently has a tie, as North American Evil Geniuses managed to match Sweden's No Tidehunter in Group C, at 5-2. The winners of these matches will go on to face Mousesports and Fnatic in a double-elimination bracket for the championship.

Watch it: The-Defense.com

Other Stuff

The Troll Warlord has just joined the roster of heroes, an Agility monster whose pedigree goes all the way back to the mohawk-sporting troll axe-throwers of WarCraft II: Tides of Darkness. His effectiveness up close and at range make him a very flexible carry.

That's it for this week, eSports faithful. Let us know in the comments what you think of this week's stories, and what eSports events you're most looking forward to in 2013.