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Region locking unlikely for WCS in 2014, says Counter Logic Gaming General Manager

"Blizzard feels that they know what the fans want better than the fans do."

In a blog released earlier today, Kelby May, the Counter Logic Gaming General Manager, stated that the region locking issue that was a sore spot for many StarCraft fans in the 2013 World Championship Series may continue to be an issue in 2014. May wrote:

"Well, at Blizzcon I had the pleasure of talking to a friend of mine (who will remain unnamed), who works on the Blizzard eSports team. I was excited to hear their plans for the following year of WCS, as I was sure that the declining viewership ratings and constant complaints from the pro and fan community would inspire Blizzard to make some slight, yet incredibly significant changes to their format and see StarCraft revived."

May continued:

"What I got from the conversation was it seems that there will be no changes to region locking coming in 2014, and that Blizzard feels that they know what the fans want better than the fans do. Now, I simply disagree with these opinions, and while these views do not necessarily reflect the view of Blizzard eSports as a whole, if they do echo the rhetoric currently being pushed by Blizzard internally, it saddens me greatly."

While there are three regions of competition for the WCS, a lack of region locking lead Korean players to play in the North American and European regions for easier competition. Many top players in North America and Europe retired this year after waning opportunities made it less viable for them to dedicate themselves to careers as progamers.

onGamers reached out to Blizzard for a comment, and we will update this post when they respond.

Editor's Update: Blizzard responded to our request for comment by noting, "We haven't finalized plans on WCS 2014 but hope to have details announced soon."

Editor's Update: Below is a portion from Kim Phan's segment of the StarCraft II Update Panel at BlizzCon that may be relevant to the topic at hand. It was transcribed from a video that we don't own.

"So to give you a little bit of a hint in what we're going to, or what we'd like to do, for next year is we're going to designate a significant portion of our WCS qualifier spots to people who live in a certain region. Which means those dedicated regions will always have a guaranteed spot into WCS. What I mean by realistic is that they still have to prove their skill, they still have to perform well, and their skill level will get tested every step of the way in order for them to advance further along into the system. I know you guys want to hear more, and I really, really can't wait to share some of those details, but they'll be coming soon."

Editor's Update: Kelby may just updated his original blog with the following:

Amendment: I’d like to point out that I’ve since followed up with Blizzard on this topic and it seems there was some misconstrued information which came from our conversation. In regards to region locking specifically it would be best to reference Kim’s comments during the WCS panel at Blizzcon until an official announcement is made.

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11 Comments Refresh
Posted by Haethos

Would anyone really watch WCS America with only NA players? Level of play would be so much lower... I'm happy seeing the highest level of play possible.

Posted by hebble

@haethos Pros and cons. The viewership numbers would suggest that people would prefer an NA-locked region. I agree the level of play would be lower, but the ratings would improve and the storylines would be more interesting. I'd support it.

Posted by Noobity

I'd certainly watch it more than I watched this season, which is unfortunate as a formerly huge Starcraft fan. Without a region lock I don't think I'll watch at all next season, rather focusing on the (hopefully increased) NA amateur scene.

Edited by A_Social_System

@haethos There are arguments that this increases the highest level of play. If Koreans are moving to WCS America doesn't that hurt the Korean scene?

The region lock is not to prevent high level of play but to allow for scenes to develop and have a healthy ecosystem where players can earn enough money to be able to practice at the level that is required and have enough opportunities to show their skills. As long as there are inter-region "showings" where the talent are allowed to prove their skill between regions and then learn from each other I don't think it is such a bad idea.

You would still have the "highest level of play possible" in the Korean WCS, but the would be more diversity and more new blood. Some people I think would watch WCS America even if they were inferior. I think people would want to root for players to get better and maybe someday reach a higher level. A level which without an environment to train and get better they have little to no chance to reach.

I don't see how a region lock is bad for competitive Starcraft 2 (unless they don't allow ANY inter-region competitive matches).

Posted by codyconners

The regions were locked during the 2012 WCS and I felt like it was well watched. It's tough though, there's a lot going. I imagine that Blizzard has a lot of information available to them (through statistics) that we don't have.

Posted by rom

Remember that we haven't heard anything from Blizzard yet, except for them still finalizing details. This could be wrong information.

Posted by FishStix

not nearly as well watched as WCS in Season 3. Not really close.

Posted by fams

The main thing to consider when region locking is how would Blizzard actually do it?

If you wanted to implement it in the same way the Korean leagues currently work where all matches are played on location, players would have to move to Germany and California. This is not feasible.

Consider CMS.Polt for instance, he has a form of residency and is living in the US full time, but he is located in Texas for school. If WCS region locked and wanted all matches played on site in California, Polt would have to give up school or Starcraft 2. A tough choice - one I don't think Blizzard would want to force on players, especially Koreans.

So you lock it but you keep most of it online, are there enough personalities in NA to sustain an entire premier division? You have some highly skilled players such as Huk and Scarlett, and they are definitely fan favouritess, but do they have big personalities that will get me watching each week? No. I say no because we won't be getting weekly interviews with the players or any of that value-added content we all crave. We will get some live games, some decent commentary, and replays afterwards. This would only change if players are on location. Then what? After the first week the league will get fairly repetitive and I won't want to watch until the finals so I know who will represent NA at the offline finals against the other regions.

Ultimately, I don't think Blizzard will ever region lock. As beneficial as it might be for Western Starcraft 2 players, I do not see it happening. Maybe a wild-card tournament might help. Something on-site at the season finals, give one player a chance to make it through to the actual bracket. This could also solve the 6-5-5 problem currently. Give each region 5 players, and then the 16th as a wild-card slot from an on-site tournament the day before the actual season finals begin. Use this day to pump up the main tournament with player interview videos, on-site fan signing and photo opportunities, and a portion for a media day. This would solve issues for the fans, some players and the media. Fans get their photos and autographs, players get a chance to qualify again, and media finally gets streamlined access to players who would otherwise hide away during the event.

Posted by codyconners

@rom Seems you were on to something, chief.

Posted by hebble

@fams If Riot can region-lock, build a studio, and work with players, why can't Blizzard?

Edited by fams

@hebble Riot also has all of the players contracted. Blizzard does not. LCS runs as a loss on Riot's books as well (or so people keep saying). I sincerely doubt Blizzard would run an initiative as big as the LCS and expect a loss, when in the past they have let the community grow their games as eSports organically.

Also, NASL has a studio for the players to play within. My point would be that region locking would ultimately be boring unless the value-added content was done regularly, in order to do that, players would have to live near the studio for the entire season. I do not see this happening.