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Why Heroes Of The Storm Is Struggling In Esports (Opinion)

hots heroes tanksDevoid of the farming and the item element found in most MOBAs, Heroes of the Storm emphasized teamwork and team fighting. It was also full of characters from the company’s other successful franchises, and thanks to the more streamlined gameplay, the game was easy to pick up and learn. It was also loads of fun to play as well.

Unfortunately, more than a year after the game’s official release, Heroes of the Storm is far from the success that many pegged it to be. Is this merely the result of it being in the same genre as Dota 2 and League of Legends, two of the biggest eSports in the market today? Or, is it because Blizzard, as great of a company as they are, could still do better?

A Glaring Lack of Extended Support

“Outside of the branded mounts that Cloud9 and MVP.Black love to trot around, what else does the game have?”

There’s no denying that the MOBA market has become oversaturated. In such a market, it’s up to the publisher to support the players that draw in the most fans – the professionals. This, in particular, hasn’t exactly been Blizzard’s strong suit so far.

To support professionals, you have to organize tournaments that pay quite nicely. That’s not exactly what Blizzard did, especially prior to releasing the game. Although they did do better as time passed by, evidenced by the $500,000 reward at Blizzcon 2015, it still wasn’t enough to generate enough attention. This, even after Blizzard announced their plans for the Global Circuit at the said event.

To date, Heroes of the Storm events rarely get more than 50k viewers at the same time. There are even times when Twitch viewership dips into the triple figures. That just won’t cut It when a game is up against Dota 2 and League of Legends.

Blizzard has been trying, though. They’ve invested more than $4 million so far into the professional scene of Heroes of the Storm. That’s a lot of money, but it won’t hold, especially since the game is lacking in third-party tournaments. Blizzard simply just cannot support the game’s professional ecosystem on its own.

Speaking of the professional ecosystem, plenty of people don’t even know that a competitive scene even exists. Seriously. It’s true. Perhaps you could blame the scarcity of eSports-related items in Heroes of the Storm. In Dota 2, you have the compendium. In League of Legends, you have avatars and wards related to professional teams. Even CS:GO has in-game stickers. Heroes of the Storm? Outside of the branded mounts that Cloud9 and MVP.Black love to trot around, what else does the game have?

It’s Currently a Pain To Watch

Another problem with Heroes of the Storm is it’s just not that fun to watch. Its spectator mode is confusing, to say the least. There’s just no way for spectators to see what every talent does, or how one map plays differently from the other. This makes it hard for casters to focus on calling out the game and highlight what factors play heavily in winning or losing.

While Blizzard has tried to improve the game’s UI, it definitely still needs a lot of work. Information about which team is winning, the importance of talent tiers, the different map mechanics and hero abilities must all be accessible to newcomers. Once such information becomes readily available, casters will be able to focus more on doing their job and starting meaningful discussions regarding what’s going on in game. Until then, however, casters will have to to reintroduce and explain everything. REPEATEDLY. This effectively makes and has made the game much less appealing to viewers who may have just stumbled upon a Heroes of the Storm stream.

A Troubled Future

Is the future for competitive Heroes of the Storm starting to look bleak?

Yes, it is. But, don’t worry, Heroes of the Storm isn’t ready to kick the bucket yet.

What Blizzard needs to do now is to support Heroes of the Storm the same way other developers are supporting their games. This means more eSports related in-game items, and starting a dedicated community page. A more palatable, user-friendly UI should also help. We need to see an in-game tab containing information such as featured tournaments, leaderboards, video content, results, in-depth analysis, developer interviews, and of course, popular streams. This way, the casual player has all the information necessary readily accessible to be able to keep up with what’s new and what’s hot.

Such changes would drastically change how spectators watch games. No longer confusing, beginners would find it easier to understand what’s going on. This should generate even more viewers, leading to sponsorships for professionals and players, and of course, more money for them. Although they’ll deny that they’re in it for money, it’s not exactly fun to play a game when there’s little incentive to play competitively, whether it be via salary or prize money.

When it all comes down to it, solving the Heroes’ eSports problem starts with improving the spectator experience AND supporting the professional scene. Both have to happen, not just one or the other, for the game to compete and be considered as more than just an alternative.

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Written by Ray Ian Ampoloquio

A gamer since he could hold a controller with his hands, he swears to have beaten Contra as a kid without using the Konami Code. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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