Running through my blogroll today I came across a blurb from Kim Phan on World of Warcraft and eSports. Phan, Blizzard’s senior manager of eSports that’s been around the arena since the Warcraft III era (possibly earlier), admitted that WoW 3v3 Arena is “kind of hard to watch”. It’s no shock that Blizzard, one of the earliest supporters of eSports wanted WoW to have thriving eSports audience but when is it time to call it quits?
Arena matches were introduced way back in The Burning Crusade, the title’s second expansion. It was initially popular, as most new features are, adding a new way to scratch that PvP itch. I was on hiatus then, and, frankly, have never enjoyed WoW PvP since the Tarren Mills days, making it an easily ignored bulletpoint. BlizzCon after BlizzCon featured the final matches, then it began to decline as interest in the title itself and the competitive nature of matches did. Not to mention the rise of the MOBA genre. eSports leagues dropped it, then WoW Arena took second fiddle even at BlizzCon.
Blizzard’s other eSports viable titles caught on near instantly and maintained. StarCraft kind of created the modern day idea of eSports. Warcraft III ran with it, remaining very popular for years. More recently, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft exploded onto the Twitch scene to the point that Blizzard had to state the obvious. Yet WoW Arena has repeatedly struggled, and as Phan pointed out, continues to do so even with around 6 million current players.
That begs the question. “Why is it that Blizzard keeps pushing eSports thru WoW?”
There’s no need to drop the feature when the metrics show players enjoy it, but with few eSports leagues carrying it and low viewership of what is available I find it difficult to believe it’s worth the investment. Phan’s comments on the back of multiple attempts to increase Arena popularity seem to prove it. Let’s see those resources poured into the game at large or transferred to more proven eSports venue.