The WCS 2017 announcement was received quite well. The commitment from Blizzard for the next 2 years was great to hear. Despite downsizing in number of events, there would still be 4 throughout the year. I expected them to be similar to majors in Dota & CSGO. This meant longer events, lots of content & promotion. Basically, less events would make it possible for each of them to really mean something.
After IEM Katowice I was expecting an event on, or close to, the same level. IEM Katowice was a really refreshing event with high production value, minimal downtime due to jumping into games played offstream and a lot of broadcast days. Not everything was cramped up into 3 days. Sadly, WCS Austin felt very lackluster after Katowice.
Promotion ahead of event
WCS Challenger is perfect to build storylines and should be heavily promoted. The promotion of the event seemed to be limited to twitter tweets. There were no official write-ups or interviews. The fight for the ladder qualifier is amazing to watch, seeing the ladder points go up and down and wondering who will eventually qualify, but no effort was put into making something to follow it in the final hours.
During the main event, it would have been fun to see how each player qualified. Maybe review a bit of their journey. Some graphics on who the player had to beat in the qualifiers, or how many games a ladder player had to play to qualify. There are lots of community sites that already offer very detailed statistics, working with them would be excellent.
The main event had no real promotion other than twitter either. The event just started. No trailer, no player spotlights. Nothing. The promotion was basically: Player announcement, Talent announcement, survival guide. This was disappointing considering the amazing WCS Signature Series leading up to BlizzCon. I was expecting this level of promotion prior to WCS 2017, but sadly it does not appear to be the case.
The Signature series is probably far out of budget, but flying the players in a few days earlier to shoot some promotional material would have already helped. A good example from nation wars: https://gfycat.com/DimpledDeliciousAmericancrocodile
Of course not all promotion can be forced, part of it is up to the community. But Blizzard should do their part properly. Maybe even work with community members to get the word out there.
Mainstream content & the format
There were 3 days of offline content. This is 25% of all the offline foreign WCS content we will see this year. A lot of the content was covered by online streams. I do not think this should be done, or only limited amounts. Why not cover group stage 1 when you finally have all the players in the same spot? It might as well have been played online.
For the players, exposure is important. When you go to an offline event and your game might have been casted on an online stream, it’s not much different from playing in an online cup. This is no disrespect to any of the online casters, but if you qualify for the event, fly out and play in the group stage while having none of your games casted/just an online stream this can’t be right. You get next to no exposure.
The format also lend no help in building any storylines. The event went from 96 players to 16 in one day. One of the main stories the first day was GAMETIME taking out uThermal and going to group stage 2. He also went through to group stage 3, but this wasn’t even enough to make it to a second day.
The coverage on the mainstream was lackluster. Out of the 160 bo3s played on the first day, the main stream covered 6. The total live broadcast time, including all downtime/half an hour countdown lasted 7 hours on the first day.
The second day was much more of a marathon, with 12 bo5s planned on the main stream. There wasn’t even enough time, and one of the bo5s had to be moved to a different stream. The total broadcast time was 13 hours.
Then the third day there were only 4 players left, so 2 bo5s and 1 bo7. A total broadcast time of 6 hours. The days were incredibly uneven.
Dreamhack has lost its identity
Dreamhack SC2 events used to be the ones to watch. Marathon casts with incredible amount of games, downtime filled with funny songs and lots of fun filler content. Players doing the Macarena, iNcontroL trolling in interviews. It would cumulate into a top 8 show on the final day with the hyped up intro video, crowd pans and player introductions.
This has changed so much in the last 2 years where they went to a very streamlined show. All the events would blend together and most resources were going into other games. I was hoping to see some of it back this year. Sadly it was not the case. I doubt we will see any improvements this year, but with a bit of luck we will see something next year.
Unfortunately all this might come down to tightening of resources by Blizzard. However, even with fewer resources, there are problems that can be solved with minimal investment.
There are still many passionate fans out there, and not all hope is lost. But the path WCS is going it will keep on declining.