How Will Heroes of the Storm Effect MOBAs and eSports?
At BlizzCon 2011, Blizzard announced what they referred to at the time as "Blizzard DOTA," which quickly became known as Blizzard All-Stars. Much excitement surrounded this announcement, as it would with any Blizzard title as they're notoriously amazing at everything they set themselves to. Blizz getting their skilled hands into the world of the popular MOBA genre is definitely an exciting prospect. In the past few months, Blizzard has announced the new name: Heroes of the Storm.
This game, in every way, feels like the absurd fantasy of every Blizzard fan boy, and I mean that in the most endearing way possible.
The concept of all these vastly different universes colliding is as ridiculous as it is awesome, but I don't think anybody entirely understood how fantastic this was going to be until Blizzard showed one of their trademark amazing cinematic trailers at BlizzCon 2013.
Yup, that's Raynor shooting Diablo. That happened.
I think it's easy to say that Heroes of the Storm, if by its premise and developer alone, is going to be an amazing game.
But how does that fit into the competitive eSports, and specifically MOBA, community?
Blizzard is the succesful developer of a number of the biggest eSports scenes in the industry, beginning with Starcraft and following it up with the World of Warcraft Arena and their up and coming release, Hearthstone, which has already generated a respectable eSports following. This is a company that knows eSports well, but Heroes of the Storm is going to be their first move into an eSports scene that is already well established. The widely beloved Defense of the Ancients (DOTA) has had a strong following for many years, and League of Legends has taken the scene by storm, leading to some of the largest eSports events to date with the Season 3 World Championships.
This leaves Heroes of the Storm in a position to go down two different paths.
The first possibility:
Blizzard pushes the MOBA eSports scene to a new level, creating a competitive environment with the games succesfully building up into a stronger community.
Games like League of Legends, for example, will see additional interest they didn't have before on account of Blizzard supporters loving Heroes of the Storm characters but wanting more, causing them to look into other games they may not have done before. While the beginning may be chaotic, as these new non-typical MOBA players intergrate into the scene, but the community as a whole will find itself in a better position for it.
Cool... but is it as awesome as Diablo riding a sparkly pony to battle?
The other possibility:
Heroes of the Storm dominates the MOBA eSports scene and murders the games around it.
Although, I feel that games like League of Legends and, to a lesser extent at this point, DotA 2, are too well established for this to happen. I would hate to see Blizzard derail the communities they've put so much time and effort into and turn into the bully taking their lunch money. That said, I don't consider this likely; in the long run, this would be bad for Blizzard's image, and would be entirely out of character compared to how the company has done things in the past.
Blizzard has proven regularly that they wish to be supplementary as much as revolutionary to the gaming industry as a whole, and this mentality towards MOBAs and the eSports scene is illustrated by the comments made by game director Dustin Browder in an interview at BlizzCon 2013, that Blizzard was not attempting to make and compete with the traditional MOBA community as we've seen in League of Legends and DOTA 2, and that the experience would be just different enough to be appealing to wider, if somewhat different, demographics.
This doesn't mean, though, that Blizzard isn't prepared to make a push into the eSports scene, and the Hearthstone invitational at BlizzCon is further proof of that.
A game that hasn't even left its closed beta yet is already seeing considerable competitive play, and the total showcase put on by the company was clearly indicative of a drive to make this into a competitive eSport. The competitive nature of Heroes of the Storm will, I believe, make for another platform that Blizzard can use in a competitive scene.
The over-the-top visual style we know and love from Blizzard will certainly make for some great viewing in the future.
In the end, though, Heroes of the Storm is a game we know very little about. Everything about the game is just speculation at this point, and for now the best we can do is patiently (or impatiently) watch our email inboxes for that coveted beta key as the game begins its closed beta. Heroes of the Storm will definitely be an important gaming experience for the competitive community and casual gamers alike, and I for one am very excited to see what's in store for us.
Follow my twitter @AtelusGamer, and check out my YouTube channel, AtelusGamer, as I continue to upload impressions of various games as well as gameplay I just think is fun and interesting.