What Blizzard's Recent Heroes Of The Storm Announcement Means For Everyone Else
Late last week, the gaming sector of the Twitterverse blew up with news from Blizzard regarding its MOBA Heroes of the Storm. The game, largely considered a "love letter" to all the games the company has created throughout its long history, would be going through some changes in development -- and in the esports arena.
These changes, announced in a recent blog post penned by Blizzard President J. Allen Brack and Chief Development Officer Ray Gresko, include pulling developers from Heroes of the Storm to work on other Blizzard projects while also cancelling both the Heroes Global Championship and Heroes of the Dorm.
While fans were obviously upset at the restructuring of the staff, what caught the most attention on Twitter was the cutback on esports. Immediately following the news, my feed was filled with fans, players, commentators, and casters bemoaning the change -- and in some cases, wondering what they were going to do now that the thing they'd built their careers around had been pulled out from under them.
The Players and the Teams
One player tweeted about how he'd given up his college career so he could dedicate the 8-plus hours a day needed to go pro. And he'd just recently been picked up.
Even the team that brought him on was shocked by the news.
We were thrilled to have you, Liam.— ENDEMIC (@endemicesports) December 14, 2018
Blizzard, your lack of communication to the players and organizations who trusted you is disgraceful. https://t.co/K2RqKiDYMl
Now, some teams may move on to other games. There are a lot of MOBAs out there. However, not all MOBAs are created equal, and skill sused in one don't necessarily translate easily to another.
First, not all MOBAs are as popular as another, meaning they don't have the fan base for real esports activities. Second, despite their basic structure being the same, players will need to spend time learning the ins and outs of the new game, as well as ranking up so that they can play in tournaments (ranking doesn't happen overnight after all).
Third -- and this is a biggy -- a lot of the bigger organizations already have teams in all the most-played games. If you're team Cloud 9 in one game, you can't just move over to another game and continue to play as Cloud 9. That position is already taken. So, you either break up and find other teams to bring you on individually, or you form a new organization.
And it's not even as "easy" as I just made it sound.
And what about all those people involved in esports that aren't employed by the game development company and aren't part of a team? I'm talking announcers, casters, personalities. These people are part of the big esports machine. They're independent workers that developers or esports organizations hire to help make their games accessible and exciting to spectators.
What happens to them?
Well, Twitter over the last few days is any indication, they're scrambling to find new gigs with other organizations. But again, there's only so many of those positions to go around and as a general rule, each company kind of prefers that the personalities they bring on not only play their games, but have a following within their game community.
This means that just like the players, a lot of these personalities are going to have to switch gears and learn about other games. They won't just learn the mechanics of the games either, but also familiarize themselves with the intricacies of a different community -- and their current followers may or may not come with them.
Luckily, some of these personalities have other things they can fall back on.
A few tweets I saw mentioned things like voice acting, general hosting, and -- the good ole standby -- streaming. One individual even opened up his Patreon again, something he said he really didn't want to do, but needed to for the time being.
So in light of what happened. I am going to have to do what I didn't want to do and open this back up.https://t.co/gDVmwpYq1N— Tetcher - Chris (@Tetcher) December 14, 2018
It's pretty empty now but I will add stuff as I create it and it will buy me some time to keep streaming and creating. Thank you all.
But at least it and his supporters are there when he needs them. Not every individual has that.
So, What Does All This Mean?
At the moment, it means that a lot more people are currently looking for new jobs.
It also showcases the dangers of tying your career to one project made and controlled by someone else. Very few, if anyone, expected Blizzard to cancel those two tournaments. But it's obvious that despite how much players enjoyed them, and despite how many people made a living from them, they weren't meeting Blizzard's expectations in some way.
More importantly, I think, it's a warning to all of us who make our living based around other people's projects -- especially those who focus all of their energy on a single game. You're relying on a lot of people to keep a lot of things in place to keep that sustainable.
If one of the cogs falls out... well, we end up where we are now.
There Needs to be Some Fallback Plan
For players, this is definitely going to be more difficult. Most players spend 8-plus hours a day training for one game. Adding another to the mix "just in case" probably isn't going to work.
Instead, what needs to happen here revolves around better communication between the developers, organizations, and team members. Teams shouldn't bring new people on only to find out right after that their tournaments no longer exist.
For personalities and everyone else not holding a controller in their hands, it's still difficult, but building an audience outside of your primary game is the best way to go. Be versitle, introduce your fans to new things, and always be aware that you don't own the game your career is based on.
Unfortunately, the rug can be pulled out from under you at any moment should the developers decide things just aren't working right, or even if interest in the game dwindles.
That said, I know most people -- players, teams, casters, and streamers -- do this not only because they can make a living at it, but also because they actually love the games they're involved in. I understand how a lot of them are feeling right now. Most online gamers have felt something similar when a game they loved was taken from them for business reasons. It sucks. It sucks even more when you've based your living on it.