Less than a week ago Blizzard announced they would be closing down Heroes of the Storm Global Championship and pulling all esports funding for the game effective immediately.  

With no prior warning to the teams, players, or even the staff, Blizzard shut down all their efforts to further promote Heroes of the Storm (HotS) competitive scene. The next season, that was supposed to come in less than a month from now will not happen. Leaving dozens of players, support, staff and anyone else involved with the league, jobless. 

Justin “Justing” Gapp, team captain for North America’s top HotS team Simplicity, opened up about their struggles with the dying game, big promises from Blizzard that never delivered, and the abrupt ending to it all.

In retrospect, he figures, the signs where there all along. “The overall quality of the second summit was SIGNIFICANTLY lower in general down to every single detail. The first year we each got backpacks with HGC “Swag” — Hat, Thermos water bottle, Even a pin. We each got a box of limited edition “Ragnar’os” cereal with Rag and the skin code and jackets with our names on them. The next year we got a plastic water bottle that leaks if you put any liquid in it, a fake varsity style jacket and one player from each team got a big metal thing for an HGC banner because they didn’t want the viewers to see we were all living in our parent’s house.”

“The first year they had a party with an open bar, the second year we went to an expensive bar and had to buy our own drinks. Basically, every aspect of the summit was worse, I even had to pay 25$ at the airport to check my bag, apparently this year that wasn’t in the budget.”

The budget cuts weren’t that unexpected. Every player could see the viewership couldn’t compete with the likes of League of Legends or DOTA 2. Blizzard, however, disagreed and claimed the viewership for the game was “owning”. “They told us we did amazing, our numbers were through the roof and above all we were OWNING on Disney XD where we were getting supposedly hundreds of thousands of viewers. Not only that but they said 2018 would be even better, we would have loads of opportunities to make more money and Blizzard would make us “Superstars”. We assumed they would promote HOTS pros in the launcher but they only did that for content creators and Tempo Storm.”

As it turned out later it wasn’t just the outside world that wasn’t watching the HotS Global Championship. Some Blizzard employees had trouble identifying what it was too. “We did a tour of the Blizzard campus with everyone wearing their HGC 2018 shirts, Overwatch employees saw us and literally asked “Who are you guys” and “What is the HGC”. Before ducking out into a top secret OW area. “

“They expected us to be full time players with the 20k salary while making it very clear we were not Blizzard employees (i.e. no benefits). But with the promise of promoting our brands/streams and making us “super stars“. It has been painfully obvious they purposefully promoted a specific handful of players/teams,” Justing added. It was no secret that Blizzard promoted Tempo Storm almost exclusively, leaving every other team out in the cold. 

“Cloud 9 saw the danger and left the scene immediately after 2016, a smart move that took foresight and I’d expect inside information,” the player speculates. “Last year Blizzard/Twitch/Organizations split the revenue from bits 33/33/33, why multi billion dollar corporation Blizzard needed to take a cut in bits and advertise it as “support the players, support the teams” is misleading at best. “

It is no surprise, that the best event most HotS players had to attend wasn’t even organized by Blizzard, which was heavily cutting costs. “Gold Club was the best tournament I was ever a part of. Words cannot describe how great it was, it was the one event where you felt what it was like to be a professional gamer in a serious esport. This was the one event hosted by NetEase in China. Unfortunately, halfway through the tournament, we were told that Blizzard had released a major content patch so we had to play a different game halfway through the three-week tournament. “

What was even more shocking (or maybe expected, after all?) was the radio silence in the past few months. Blizzard adamantly refused to share any information with any involved parties. Until the very last moment they were kept in the dark. And when all the players and teams found out they would be losing their jobs was at the same time as everyone else — after reading a press release, innocently titled “Thank you, HGC fans”.

“As a team owner, I have asked Blizzard for information regarding HGC since September, as well as more recently asking for information on November 18th. I was told I would be given an update within two weeks. I wasn’t. I received my update at the same time as the public and we negotiated our contracts with Simplicity with 0 information for 2019 while we were under the impression organizations had signed NDA’s. “

But Gapp insists it wasn’t all bad. “Overall I had a good experience as a pro player as it was always my dream. I am however not surprised for these reasons and more that it came to such an abrupt end.”

Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm Global Championship is second developer league to be shut down in 2018, following Daybreak’s H1Z1 Pro League. What will it mean for the future of these games is yet to be seen.

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