To say that Heroes of the Storm, Blizzard’s entry into what most see as an oversaturated MOBA scene, is still very much in its infancy as far as eSports goes is of no surprise to anyone. Sure, there are some very well established teams, look no further than Cloud 9 and Team Liquid or Fnatic and Dignitas, but it’s still rather slow going in contrast with its older brothers in League of Legends and Dota 2 (even Smite.) How, one might ask, do we go about kickstarting this burgeoning scene? Well, Kickstarter seems like a good bet, and that’s what the team over at Heroes Rising did.
Crowdfunding tournaments isn’t necessarily new to the scene: the International and Smite’s own world championships do similar things, and even the Sticker money in Counter Strike: Global Offensive majors and Summoner Icons in League of Legends have lent themselves ways that players can help fund the eSports scene and the teams they love. But a half of a tournament’s prize money being funded by fans is pretty great, alongside the idea of stretch goals to entice funders. And to top it all off, it’ll be a very NA focused tournament, something the lagging NA scene needs to revitalize and show off some of its talent. While NA’s Cloud 9 side won the World Championship, NA as a whole has many teams that are still unsigned to major organizations, unlike in Europe (where they have Fnatic, Dignitas, G2 Esports, Team Liquid etc.) Will this turn out to be a good scouting LAN for NA organizations still on the fence on whether to sign a team? We’ll have to see.
Biggest Surprise: Bob Ross painting some very unhappy Cloud 9’s
With great casting from Gillyweed and Zoia, an excellent lineup of NA’s best, and great broadcast quality, rare amongst smaller tournaments, what a LAN it turned out to be. The first day of games was relatively what most fans of the scene would expect: Cloud 9, Tempo Storm, and Bob Ross Fan Club (yes, that is their current team name,) coming out convincingly on top of their opponents. Cloud 9, the reigning World Champions, didn’t drop a single game, while both Tempo and Bob Ross had a slightly more bumpy road ahead of them. Overall, the first day was a rather disappointing day for the newly re-signed Cognitive gaming squad, being sent home without a win to their name, but otherwise most fans were unsurprised by the results of the day.
The second day looked again to be business as usual. Cloud 9 faced their old rivals in Tempo Storm, losing the first game but managing to pick up the last two to move on the grand finals. Meaning that Bob Ross Fan Club were face to face with arguably NA’s number 2 team in Tempo Storm. While the two teams traded blows, Bob Ross with the first game and Tempo with the second, ultimately Bob Ross came out on top. The grand finals everyone was hoping for was here: Bob Ross vs. Cloud 9, aggressive upstart against the veterans in blue. Underlying this also was the question of who benefited more from the swap of Fan from Cloud 9 to Bob Ross for and Arthelon from Bob Ross to Cloud 9. The World Champs came out strong in the first two games, looking to bring on what most fans were expecting to be another 1st place for the dominant Cloud 9 side. But then Bob Ross fought back, taking another game. Then another. Then another and ultimately the crown from the first LAN of the year.
Biggest Story Line: Bob Ross Fan Club’s last days as an unsigned team?
Many things are still uncertain in the burgeoning Heroes Scene. Tournaments are only really just starting to pick up, teams are starting to solidify into credible groups instead of just a bunch of friends, and organizations are starting to take notice. But, on the same note, it’s still a young game, with an uncertain future, especially as an eSports title. One thing is certain though: Bob Ross Fan Club may have played their last tournament under that name. They are easily one of the most startling, aggressive NA teams to come out, and easily are contenders for second best team in NA, if not guaranteeing being a top three team. Does this spell a slump for Cloud 9? I don’t think so. The team still look absolutely dominating over the course of the weekend, barely dropping games (until the Grand finals, of course,) and just seems to be just as strong as they were before. But a new rivalry might just be brewing, and only time will tell which big eSport franchise will take the plunge into the Storm and pick up these up and coming gentlemen.
Ultimately the first rendition of Heroes Rising was a great chance for NA talent to get some exposure at a LAN and make a splash in the scene. The more tournaments of this kind that the Heroes scene can have the better, as it gives great opportunities for teams big and small to hash it out and build experience and exposure, and maybe even some juicy prize money. Will Bob Ross Fan Club be the only team to be picked up? SK Gaming had Blank representing them at the tournament, but there is no official signing just yet. Many other teams there too showed great promise, maybe given the proper infrastructure and funding they too could challenge some of the top dogs. We’ll have to see what 2016 brings for Heroes of the Storm’s eSport scene!