It’s an XL version of eSports Weekly with Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday. A Blizzard insider reveals the status of some of your favorite Blizzard games, as well as some you’re hopefully looking forward to; we look at Twitch’s 2014, as well as week two of the NA and EU LCS; and Valve and ESEA drop some banhammers following an investigation into match fixing. This and a lot more in this week’s eSports Weekly.
Blizzard Leak: Good News for Hearthstone, Questions about Overwatch, Concerns for Heroes
A Blizzard insider, who cannot be named, reached out to Yahoo Finance with news regarding several current Blizzard titles including Hearthstone, Starcraft II, and World of Warcraft, as well as their upcoming titles Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch. The numbers for the competitive card game Hearthstone, which came out in March, are reportedly “off the charts.” Their player numbers have tripled since the last player numbers were released. The success of the game is “beyond even the most optimistic expectations.” Blizzard is currently focusing on a PvE-focused expansion that should come out some time around April, and the company is experimenting with a 2v2 format.
Overwatch, Blizzard’s in-development class based shooter that appeared at BlizzCon after their Titan project fell through, is currently in a state of flux regarding its payment system. Reportedly, the company is trying to decide between a free-to-play system or an expansion-driven model. Initially, you can still play for free when Overwatch releases, but Blizzard is still deciding on how heroes will be paid for (if it were up to me, I’d choose a LoL-type system where you can unlock heroes by gaining experience and using points you’ve earned). Blizzard is trying to release the game by the end of 2015, but many in the company are skeptical that this can be accomplished.
While Blizzard has high hopes for Overwatch, they have quite low expectations for their developing MOBA, Heroes of the Storm. Along with the low expectations, the insider thinks many members of the Heroes senior staff will be laid off in the next few months.
But we move on to good news for you crazy Starcraft fans (I say crazy because you must be crazy to be able to follow what’s going on during a hectic Starcraft game), because the new Starcraft II game is finished and ready to go. No word of a release date yet, but it’ll be interesting to see how the new game shakes up the WCS standings upon release.
Lastly, the members of the Diablo III team have been moved onto a new project set in the Starcraft universe. According to the insider, “the game will be similar to Warframe and contain gameplay aspects from Left4Dead, DayZ, Smite, and other MOBAs.” Keep an eye out for this upcoming project to be released, most likely, in late 2016.
You can read the whole insider post on Yahoo Finance’s Tae Kim’s column, The Firstadopter.
Tune Into Twitch’s 2014
It was a solid year for Twitch, according to the pretty infographic they released this week, and that’s not just because they’ve got all that Amazon money in their vault. Twitch first highlighted their global growth, by showcasing the number of viewed minutes per month in non-U.S. countries, which grew from 7.5 billion per month to 12 billion per month. They’ve even seen tripled growth in places like Indonesia, Italy, the Middle East, Turkey, and others. In 2014, Twitch also localized their website in 24 different languages, and aren’t looking to stop there. The infographic also shows off all the new ways you can now watch and broadcast on Twitch. In 2014, Twitch played the host to several charity streams that raised a total of $10.5 million, including efforts by ExtraLife, GamesDoneQuick, and the 8-bit Salute. Finally, toward the end, the infographic displayed all the prominent eSports events that were hosted during the year, including the International, Worlds, DreamHack, ESL One, BlizzCon, and many more. The caption under this section reads:
“eSports has gone through several boom-and-bust cycles throughout the last two decades, but the upswing that began in 2010 with the launch of StarCraft II, Street Fighter IV, League of Legends, and Dota 2 has proven that eSports is here to stay.”
Finally, some notable statistics: 16 billion minutes watched per month, 100 million unique viewers per month, 1.5 million unique broadcasters per month, 11 million total videos broadcast per month, 10K total partnered channels, and a staggering 1 million peak concurrent viewers in 2014.
Keep up the good work, Twitch. eSports wouldn’t be where it is without you.
CS:GO: Valve and ESEA Drop Several Banhammers After Betting Scandal Investigations
Two weeks ago, the Daily Dot released an article detailing accounts of match fixing by, among others, now former members of North American team iBUYPOWER. While playing in last August’s CEVO Pro Season 5, iBUYPOWER was soundly beaten by a team called NetcodeGuides.com, and iBP’s lackadaisical attitude during the match attracted some concerns. The day after, a journalist received messages from pro player Shahzeb “ShahZam” Khan that the match was fixed, but ShahZam defended his own innocence and neglected to reveal names. No new information became available until just a few weeks ago, when some incriminating texts from a former teammate of ex-iBP members, Derek “dboorn” Boorn, were uploaded to a game thread. Boorn’s texts revealed that this wasn’t just a one time thing, that iBP did throw that match against NetcodeGuides, and that Boorn himself had participated in the betting. By the way, this isn’t a small collection of $5 skins we’re talking about, this is thousands of dollars being won disingenuously, that the members of the community have contributed to the game. Following further investigations by The Daily Dot, CS:GO Lounge, Valve, and ESEA, both Valve and ESEA have administered one year competitive bans for match-fixing towards:
- Duc “cud” Pham
- Derek “dboorn” Boorn
- Casey Foster (NetcodeGuides founder)
- Sam “Dazed” Marine
- Braxton “swag” Pierce
- Keven “AZK” Larivière
- Joshua “Steel” Nissan
CS:GO Lounge has also dropped games played by U.K. squad Hyphen, which featured Steel for a short period of time, following their own investigations into some suspicious matches.
The announcements have drawn some interesting responses from the community. Many are curious as to why ShahZam hasn’t received any punishment. Although he didn’t participate in the actual fixing, he still knew about the situation and made bets. Many are outraged (including me) by Steel’s “apology” on his Facebook page where he essentially blames the community and tries to act like a victim.
Meanwhile, the iBUYPOWER organization is looking to move on from the controversy and pick up a new CS:GO team. On their blog, iBP said:
“Recently, IBP learned that certain members of the IBP CS:GO team failed to meet that expectation. The actions of these individuals come as a shock to us, and are not in keeping with the philosophy of the iBUYPOWER brand. We have severed our relationships with these individuals, and look forward to building a new team to compete on the game’s biggest stages.”
LCS Week 2: EU Recap, NA Preview
Week two of the EU LCS Spring Split is wrapped up, and week two of the NA LCS Spring Split is right around the corner. Fnatic is off to a perfect 4-0 start, with wins over Team ROCCAT and Gambit. Gambit has yet to notch any wins, starting 0-4. Last week, Fnatic’s support player YellOwStaR earned the week’s MVP designation, and he and midlane teammate Febiven both made it to that week’s OP squad. Febiven finished with a stellar 18-to-1 Kill-Death-Assist ratio during week one(13-2-23 were his total stats), and pulled off a nasty double kill that will top this week’s #LCSBigPlays. YellOwStaR had an impressive 31 assists during week one, and another 28 during week two. SK Gaming are also 4-0 following week two victories over Gambit and Unicorns of Love. Week two ended with MeetYourMakers finally notching their first win over Copenhagen Wolves.
Week two of the NA LCS Spring Split is set to kick off tomorrow, with some pretty interesting match-ups worth watching. The only 2-0 team, Team Liquid, faces off against Cloud 9, the only 0-2 team. Liquid wants to jump out to an early standings lead with a 3-0 record, while Cloud 9 seeks the oh-so-important first win to get their momentum back. Keep an eye on last week’s MVP, Team Liquid’s jungler IWillDominate, who notched an impressive 13.67 KDA last week. Another big match-up will pit the reigning champions Team SoloMid against Winterfox, who are now playing with (almost) their full roster. Winterfox’s Helios and Avalon were unable to participate in week one due to problems with their Visas, and Imagine is still unavailable due to complications, but the subs Flaresz, Gleeb, and ShorterACE stepped up and Wintefox were at least able to notch a win against Gravity. Helios and Avalon will face the former champs as members of Winterfox for the first time on Saturday, and will square off against Dignitas on Sunday. No word as to when Imagine will officially join.
- Smite: Cloud 9 has signed Cognitive Prime following their victory at the Smite World Championships earlier this month. The team’s roster will remain the same following the acquisition. The full announcement can be read here.
- CS:GO: Following their bronze medal performance at the MLG Aspen Invitational during last weekend’s X Games, the Dignitas roster was picked up by Team SoloMid. According to The Daily Dot, this team is the highest paid CS:GO roster in the scene under TSM. This acquisition confirms my suspicions that TSM’s Reginald was in Aspen as more than just a fan (commence the “I was right” dance).
- LoL: A new challenger has emerged! Counter Logic Gaming announced the return of their CLG Black squad, which originally formed and disbanded back in 2012. CLG Black are competing in the NA Challenger Series Spring Qualifier, and are currently matched up with Team Liquid Academy for a spot in the NA CS spring season.
- Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes! Both LoL and CS:GO received updates this week. CS:GO update 184.108.40.206 added changes to Mirage, Nuke, and Overpass and adjusted the ratio at which smoke and incendiary grenades interact (basically, smokes can’t extinguish fires that are on different elevations any more). LoL released Patch 5.2, which most notably features the removal of the Deathfire Grasp item.
Streams to Watch
- yoe Flash Wolves defeated the Taipei Assassins in the LoL grand finals at IEM Taipei, but the quarterfinals and onward of the Starcraft II tournament continues throughout the weekend. You can watch on the ESL TV Starcraft II Twitch channel.
- Day 3 of the five day group stage for the Dota 2 Asian Championships is tonight. Following their roster shakeups, Evil Geniuses and Team Secret are both out to fantastic starts, with 7-0 and 6-0 records, respectively. These two will meet for the first time on the last day of group stage, and hopefully they’ll meet in the main event as well. You can watch on the BeyondTheSummit Twitch channel.
- All the NA and EU LCS matches can be watched on the Riot Games Twitch channel.
Best of luck to some of my favorite YouTubers, the Inside Gaming crew, in their future endeavors. If you need an eSports writer you can call my combo agent/mother.