WCS2014_WCS_897x280

After an exciting and successful global finals at BlizzCon, the 2013 StarCraft II World Championship Series has come to a close. All of our partners, including GomTV, OGN, NASL, ESL, MLG, and Twitch, did a remarkable job in producing WCS and bringing StarCraft II eSports to a global audience. We’re now ready to share details on what’s happening in 2014.

We’ve been in constant talks with our partners and key figures in the eSports community to level up WCS for 2014. Together we’ve come up with some changes that we hope will improve WCS and continue to build toward a self-sustaining StarCraft II eSports ecosystem.

In 2014, StarCraft II WCS will remain a three-season event operated from three primary regions — America, Europe, and Korea — broadcasting matches in primetime from each region over Twitch. The global ranking system for players will remain as the glue tying together all the league competition as well as partner events. And there will be a total $1.6 million prize pool with a final year-end global finals for the top-ranked players.

This blog goes into detail about the specific changes we’re making and why those changes have been made.

Linear, Easy to Understand Schedule

In order to fit three seasons within a compressed timeline last year, it was necessary for Challenger League and Premier League to overlap. This structure was difficult to follow at times, and Challenger League was also overly complex.

New WCS League Format

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In 2014, WCS will feature a much simpler system. In America and Europe, the bottom 16 players from the previous season’s Premier will be waiting in Challenger. Qualifier tournaments will be played to identify 16 players to challenge the former Premier players. Challenger will then take place, consisting of 16 best-of-five up-and-down matches between a qualifier and a Premier League dropout to identify the next Premier League players.

This system provides a number of benefits. Qualifiers, Challenger, and Premier league can now be run in sequence. It’s easier to understand, and with fewer Challenger matches to play, there’s more importance placed on each match. And since the schedule doesn’t overlap, players are now free to transfer between regions between seasons.

Timing and Broadcasts
We expect seasons to last around 10 weeks, with an emphasis on broadcasting Premier League play in each region. Challenger and Qualifier play may be broadcasted via community channels or directly by the partner, at the discretion of NASL and ESL. We expect Premier League to broadcast 2 days per week, with a span of about 6 weeks separating each season of Premier League. With so much more open space in the broadcast schedule, we hope to allow much more breathing room for third-parties to broadcast tournaments without fear of overlapping WCS. More details on the 2014 WCS schedule will come next month.

Season 1 – Transition
Also note that as part of the transition from 2013, Season 1 Challenger of America and Europe will have a total of 48 players. The 24 players from each respective Season 3 2013 Challenger League will be taking on 24 new players from Season 1 Qualifiers. The top 24 players who win their Challenger match will join the 8 existing players in order to fill out a full 32 player Premier League roster in each region. In subsequent seasons, the system will revert to the bottom 16 players of Premier taking on a fresh set of 16 qualifiers in Challenger up-and-downs.

Korea will work slightly differently, which brings us to the next point -

GSL is Back!

In 2013, we set up 3 uniform leagues across 3 global regions that mirrored each other in branding, prize money, rules, and other areas. As we move into 2014, we recognize that Korea needs to operate a little differently. In the GSL, Korea already had an established league, with the best StarCraft II players in the world. GSL was the model for other WCS regions. Going forward, GomTV will be the sole partner for StarCraft II WCS in Korea, and it will operate the region using the GSL name, as well as its classic league designations: Code S (Premier League), Code A (Challenger), and Qualifiers.

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GSL will also feature higher prize pools in each season to reflect the added challenge of competing in the region. Aside from differences in naming and prize money, GSL will continue to have 24 players fall out of Code S each season to take on 24 new qualifiers in Code A in each season. This differs from WCS America and Europe having 16 players fall out of Premier and down to Challenger per season. Code A competition will feature group stages, which is different from the basic up-and-down matches that America and Europe will operate. These differences represent regional preferences communicated to us by GSL.

OGN has been a dedicated partner for WCS Korea 2013.  In addition to hosting a season of WCS Korea and a Season Final, OGN also broadcasted the WCS Global Finals live from BlizzCon on November 8-9.  With the goal to provide a more streamlined experience for both the players and the audience, OGN will not be hosting WCS Korea 2014. OGN has rights to run both StarCraft and StarCraft II tournaments alongside WCS and will be able to run WCS global events that offer WCS points. Additionally, OGN will remain our partner outside of the WCS and will produce entertainment shows and tournaments for Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft.

More Opportunities Reserved for Local Players

We purposefully made the WCS an open system last year. While our intention was to have a sprinkling of players venture into other regions, we failed to anticipate the high volume of international players competing outside their home regions. Going into 2014, we’re making an adjustment that affects qualifier slots into WCS America and Europe. Korea remains unaffected because the GSL system is and has always been a completely open for anyone who can attend the live qualifier.

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In 2014, we will reserve most qualifier slots for citizens and legal residents of the home regions for both WCS America and WCS Europe. Since America has become the home WCS region for players from countries such as China, Australia, and Taiwan, we will reserve qualifier spots for players from those specific regions as well as the Americas. Ladder wildcard spots will have open enrollment with no citizenship or residency restriction, but still have a master’s level requirement with a minimum number of ladder wins within that regional server. Master’s level will also be required across all qualifiers. The Qualifiers for Season 1 WCS 2014 will take place in January — look for details about these in December.

By reserving the bulk of qualifier spots for players from the home region, we hope to increase opportunities for local players, while a few wildcard slots still keep opportunities open for players of other regions to participate.

WCS Global Events

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The WCS partner events were successful last year at tying in tournaments outside the WCS league structure into the overall WCS umbrella. By creating three different types of partner tournaments, we hope to have an expanded number of these partner events in 2014 and give players more opportunities to compete and gain WCS points outside of league play. We’re also aiming to have a more even geographic distribution of partner events in 2014.

Become a WCS Partner
If you’re interested in setting up a partner tournament that feeds into the WCS ranking system, please contact us at sc-tourneyinfo@Blizzard.com.
**Note that meeting the requirements listed above does not automatically grant you partner status — we’d like to work with you directly to ensure your event fits well into the schedule and doesn’t overlap other partner events.

More Emphasis on Regional League Play

In 2013 we set up a system where the top finishers in each region met in a global season final for more prize money and more WCS ranking points. While these events were exciting and impactful, it took away some luster from the accomplishment of winning a region, and created a situation where top finishers from the region who made a global final and performed well for a weekend were able to quickly pull ahead in rankings and prize money. In 2014, we will no longer hold global season finals events.

Points

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We also hope to have additional partner events in 2014 to give players more opportunities to gain points in the WCS ranking system.

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Prize Pool
We’ve also redistributed much of the prize money that would have gone into the Season Finals back into regional finals events to reflect their added importance. GSL features a more top-heavy distribution to reflect Korea’s regional preference, while America and Europe have a more even distribution of prize money between top and bottom. Additionally, cash prizes are now being made available to those who compete in Challenger.

Summing it Up

In summary, the 2014 WCS will feature:

  • A linear, easier to understand schedule that allows more room for third-party tournaments
  • The return of GSL, with more prize money funneled into the Korea region
  • A partial region lock, where the bulk of qualifier spots are reserved for players from the home region
  • More WCS Global Events with partner tournaments , for additional competition and opportunities for players
  • More emphasis on regional play, with additional points and prize money for Premier League players compared to 2013

We also hope to maintain the strengths of what made WCS in 2013 so compelling to watch throughout the year. The global ranking system was a great addition to the ecosystem that helped tie all major competition together. We’ll continue to broadcast top-level StarCraft II eSports in primetime across America, Europe, and Korea. And the entire system will climax at an exciting year-end global final featuring the world’s very best players.

More details can be found in our FAQ, and in December we expect to announce the full schedule for 2014, as well as details about the first qualifier events for 2014 which will take place in January.