On November 23rd, Netease held its annual esports conference in Suzhou. We expected a big announcement for Warcraft III and were not disappointed.
Four different tournaments with an overall prize pool of 5,000,000 RMB! This is more money than Warcraft has seen during the last two years combined.
Netease did not disclose the amount of money attributed to each tournament and the organizational details are not really known for any of them.
Their goal is to support the professional scene while also having programs that will help new players getting into the competitive scene.
WGL as we know it will go back to a 16 players format. The structure is not set in stone but so far the player pool could be coming from four different regional qualifiers : 6 Chinese players, 4 Koreans, 3 Europeans, and 3 Americans.
The announcement mentions that Chinese players will go through the same Netease race as they did for WGL Winter 2018. It is not clear if Korea will participate in the race or have a different Qualifier.
I really doubt that America would increase its representation from two to three players while the overall player pool is reduced. This is an early information that needs to be taken for what it's worth.
Netease's tournaments used to be stricly centered in Shanghai, but not anymore. A series of tournaments will be organized successively in Xian, Wuhan, Chengdu, and Beijing.
So far we only know that the first installement in Xian will be a team competition named "China vs the World". This should be exciting and I am glad that from now on, China is not only opposed to Korea. This should give opportunities to European players to participate - most likely for Foggy.
The format of the following 3 stages are not yet known, but they should be about team confrontations as well.
WGL and City Tour League should represent most of the annual prize pool invested by Netease as the remaining two tournaments are more about talent scouting.
You will have to be a Chinese student to participate. Not much details were revealed; we only know that the winner of CSL will earn a four year scholarship.
A good way to find new talents while promoting an healthy balance between studies and gaming. I really encourage you to read my piece about the issue of video game addiction in China to better understand how symbolical this initiative is.
Amateur players will try to win their local province's tournament to represent it proudly in a final tournament.
The four best Chinese players of WGL Summer and Winter 2018 will meet again in January, in Shanghai. This is considered to be part of the 2018's prize pool.
TH000 and Fly are assured to participate as they were the finalists of the Summer edition.
With CSL and SLS, Netease is really preparing for the future. Trying to get new young players into WC3:R is the right way to sustain the game, esports-wise, in the long run.
The gigantic prize money pool will support the best players of the moment. It is really a relief that we might not see top players retiring anymore. Some have already been signed up by big esport teams like 120, and LawLiet who recently joined Team Newbee.
If economically the future is bright in China, I would still worry about the future of the game in the rest of the world. While CSL/SLS could bring us new top players from China, there are no such programs for Europe, America, or Korea.
There is a need for big regional tournaments and for the creation of scouting programs in the rest of the world. Let's hope that Blizzard have something in store for us, so the game can develop outside of China as well.