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It’s been a bit of a slow news week as far as esports is concerned.
With Worlds a fading memory and only Dreamhack Atlanta for CS fans to care about, we’ve entered a bit of a lull before the end-of-year rush. It didn’t help that the Dreamhack final was so very one-sided, but it was hard to get excited for a tournament where the highest ranked team was Complexity at 16th.
So, I decided this week would be a good time to address a topic close to my heart: Warcraft III. I’m sure you noticed the announcement of a remastered version of the RTS classic. It was the most exciting piece of news at this year’s Blizzcon as far as I’m concerned and I can’t wait for its release, but…
Look, I’m looking forward to Warcraft III: Reforged, I really am, but I have my doubts.
In my dream scenario, Reforged is WC3 with new graphics, a few necessary balance changes and not much else. Somehow, in this dream scenario, that is enough to reignite people’s love for my favourite eSports game of all time and it propels itself back into relevancy.
Realistically, though, I look at Starcraft Remastered and the collective shrug it elicited from the internet as a whole and I worry that the same thing will happen to my beloved.
Sure, Starcraft was directly competing with its own sequel. It was never going surpass SC2 and it wasn’t supposed to. It was a nice little update for fans of the series and was priced accordingly. But Reforged is not much cheaper than a brand new game and it is supposed to replace Warcraft III.
Sure, it’s compatible with the original game on Battle.net, which is a really nice touch, but as far as eSports is concerned, the update is pretty much mandatory. For streamers like Back2Warcraft, it’s basically a tax.
Well, okay, it’s not exactly like a tax, because you will see the results immediately, but anyone who wants to broadcast WC3 will have to purchase Reforged. It’s pretty much mandatory.
In a way, that’s fine. £25 is not a huge pill to swallow, and the game is much, much prettier than vanilla WC3, but in order to increase interest in the competitive scene, Reforged is going to have to drum up casual player numbers.
Are they going to fork out that kind of money for a reskinned version of a game that is over 15-years-old? Will a Hearthstone card back help?
I hope so, but I’m sceptical.
On the bright side, WC3’s resurgence in recent years is undeniable. It’s nowhere near contesting the likes of CS:GO and League of Legends, but it regularly gets a couple of thousand viewers on Twitch. Not bad for a game that’s old enough to be in college over here.
Don’t believe WC3 has grown in popularity? Reforged would not exist if not for this relative boom. Blizzard gave up on WC3 many years ago – understandably, but they are not a company to pass up an opportunity to make money.
There is an audience for this game, but is it big enough to push WC3 back into the esports mainstream? Absolutely not.
Does that matter? Probably not.
How do we judge Reforged’s success, then, if we accept that it will never compete with the big boys? We will judge it on its own merits: is it good or not? If the WC3 community enjoys it, do the viewing figures matter?
It would be nice for the likes of B2W if they got an increase in ad revenue, but, personally, I’m just hoping we get a worthy successor to my favourite game.
At a push, I hope Blizzard gives the game a little more support by way of tournaments. It would be nice if WC3 was as relevant in 2019 as it was in 2009, but the eSports landscape has changed drastically since then. Back then, WC3 was a big fish in a small pond.
Now the pond has become an ocean and WC3 has to duck behind a rock every time a shark like League of Legends swims by.
Esports has exploded in popularity since Twitch launched, but, despite SC2 being at the forefront of that wave, RTS games have largely drowned beneath it. MOBAs are riding its crest, sharing the surf with CS:GO from time to time. SC2 rarely makes the front page of Twitch, and WC3 never does.
As much as it pains me to say it, the RTS genre just isn’t popular any more.
This article has meandered a lot, I realise, but we’re at the end now. I’m still excited for Reforged, and I will definitely be playing on Battle.net again for a while, but I’m also trying to remain pragmatic.
Maybe I’ll just pay for a re-skin and the removal of Battle.net’s innate lag and be okay with it.