What HGC Can
Learn From OWL
Written by: Phantom
HGC Bracket and schedules on LiquipediaAfter several years of inconsistent schedules and random big-name events, the Heroes Global Championship (HGC) became the premier tournament for Heroes of the Storm in 2016. Through the last two years, the HGC has seen various improvements like the inclusion of the Eastern and Western Clashes and ever-increasing production value. It has become the staple of professionalism and sportsmanship in our small corner of esports and has even brought financial stability to many who may have never been able to make it off the ground.
However, there are still a couple of things HGC could learn from its younger cousin, the Overwatch League (OWL). As with all games, Heroes of the Storm struggles to connect its hardcore esports fans with the casual base who occasionally play games on the weekends. In fact, many HotS players (including high level players) don’t even realize there is a pro scene!
Overwatch has made better progress in this venture due to a variety of reasons. While the game may not boast 100% awareness of the Overwatch League, there’s no doubt that its been able to capture the casual fan base better than Heroes of the Storm. Join me in exploring some additions that could make the best tournaments in HotS even better.
In-Game Esports Tab
A tournament can always use more exposure. Right now, the Overwatch League does a great job of notifying you when games are live with its own tab in the launcher and an in-game tab inside the client.
The HGC has an embedded stream in the Battle.net launcher, but not many players keep the launcher open when they’re not playing, making its effect marginal at best. Having an esports tab inside the actual client would help gather attention from the casual audience while they search for a match and would raise awareness of the esports scene. Even if players are just checking out a new addition to the client, having the tab there with info about the teams would make the HGC far more successful.
Heroes of the Storm is a very entertaining game to watch, but nothing rivals the excitement of watching a game with a live audience. For the people in the venue, it’s amazing to see the players in person and get excited alongside the rest of the crowd when a big fight happens. For those not physically in the venue, being able to hear the cheers of all the people there when a team captures the Dragon Knight or makes a mad push for the Nexus increases the excitement. It's instantly more lively and engaging for everyone involved.
Overwatch League games are always played live, and that’s a big part of its success. Four times every week, fans pour into the Blizzard Arena to watch their favorite teams compete against each other. At home, groups of friends get together to watch the matches at viewing parties. It’s not about watching alone and analyzing every detail or just tuning in for some afternoon entertainment. The Overwatch League is all about watching stuff in person with other people.
While having all matches live might not be possible in Heroes of the Storm, adding a few more live events to the calendar could help boost the interest in the scene. Currently we’re at six events all year, and all of them are marathon weekend runs. Boosting that number even a bit for things like week-long playoffs at the end of each season would make a huge impact on the perceived production value of the league. And let's face it, it's not like Blizzard doesn't have a studio to make that happen!
One of the biggest gripes when watching competitive Heroes of the Storm is the ample downtime between games. It takes between 5 and 10 minutes before the next Heroes of the Storm match begins and usually longer between series. Compared to the average game time of 20 minutes, it means that fans are sitting and waiting for the next match almost as much as they’re actually watching the game.
Having extensive downtime ruins the pace of events and drops viewer engagement. If matches don’t start quickly, it’s very likely that casual viewers will tune out entirely and turn their attention elsewhere. Other esports tournaments, including the Overwatch League, have considerably less downtime between games, often as low as two minutes. This shorter time span between games helps immensely with increasing viewer retention and interest.
Sometimes breaks in the production are necessary. During those breaks, downtime could be filled with statistics or interesting pre-recorded segments instead of the ever-dreaded countdown timer. The Overwatch League constantly displays cool and informative stats between games that open up the opportunity for casters and fans alike to have meaningful discussions and understand how the players stack up against each other.
One of the best displays from the OWL shows how a particular player performed on a hero, with information like average number of deaths, average damage dealt, time spent at the objective, and best maps. Comparing statistics like these between players also helps create storylines and enables the absolute best players to stand out from the rest.
Improved Team Colors
Heroes of the Storm doesn't have mirror matchups like Overwatch, but it can often be difficult to distinguish different abilities and heroes in the heat of battle, and this problem is only exacerbated by different skins and mounts. In fact, some skins are already banned from competitive play due to their visual qualities.
In the Overwatch League, each team has very clear color schemes that alter the colors of both the heroes and their abilities. The drastic difference in colors makes it easy to spot which heroes are on each team and which side is using ultimates. Even StarCraft 2’s GameHeart mod emphasizes team colors to make sure the viewing experience is top notch.
Not every team in Heroes of the Storm needs custom skins, but it would be beneficial to create and enforce clearly-defined chroma skins in orange and blue (for our colorblind friends out there).
The Heroes of the Storm Global Championship is without a doubt a world class league with more than thirty teams from around the world playing every week to achieve their dreams. But there’s a lot more progress to be had.
The Overwatch League set a new standard for league play, and even though the games are very different, there are a lot of features that could be passed over into the Heroes Global Championship. It’s time to make use of the resources available and get more people than ever tuning in to watch their favorite game being played at the highest level.
[Phantom] is an avid Heroes of the Storm player and senior writer who specializes in creating unique and fun articles. Always trying to drive discussion forward, he's always working on new ideas and projects.