Blizzcon 2019, all things considered, was a success. To be fair, the bar was very low, and many predicted that it would be a total disaster. I think Blizzard though should be pretty happy coming out of Blizzcon relatively unscathed, and with their headliner announcement looking pretty sweet.
Most fans of Blizzard properties are probably leaving Blizzcon 2019 feeling at least fine, and maybe even ecstatic. Hearthstone, World of Warcraft, Diablo and Overwatch are all getting substantial new content.
Once again though StarCraft fans are left out in the cold. They were shoved into the middle of the opening ceremony presser to announce a new co-op commander, something that’s only appealing to people who already play, and that was basically it for StarCraft at Blizzcon 2019.
The WCS Global Finals for StarCraft II was marred a bit by what many believe is a meta currently skewed towards Zerg, but it still had plenty of drama, great games, star power, and storylines. The finals in particular, a 17-year old foreign phenom Reynor, going against the Korean powerhouse, Dark whom had never yet won the big one was a compelling matchup.
Too bad all of that was shoved aside this year.
Last year, the 2018 WCS Global Finals brackets were spread out over two days, and the finals started on a Saturday at very normal 8:45 p.m ET.
The 2018 StarCraft II finals saw peak viewership cap out at over 176,000 according to Esports Charts, and averaged roughly 56,000 viewers. That was a substantial increase over 2017 which had 103,000 peak and 36,000 average.
Sure there was a Serral bump likely somewhere to factor in, but that’s still excellent growth for an old game.
This year though, the entire bracket was crammed into the first day, and the finals didn’t start until 12:30 a.m ET. Most Americans are located on the east coast and for lots of people, especially casual fans or just people on Twitch looking to pop in for a few minutes, that’s just too late to stay up to watch StarCraft II.
I roughed it out, but I was half asleep by the time Dark was holding the trophy.
Unsurprisingly then viewership dropped for the StarCraft II finals in 2019. Esports Charts has it at 80,000 peak viewers and 35,000 average.
2018’s finals had a lot going for it, so expecting a drop from that is natural considering the game is another year older and Serral wasn’t in the finals. But it’s not hard to imagine that the terrible schedule that Blizzard put together this year for the StarCraft II finals played a major role as well.
And to cap this all off, Blizzard didn’t even remember or bother to include StarCraft in their wrap up trailer as StarCraft II commentator and personality Maynarde points out below:
This sort of treatment has become the status quo for StarCraft fans over the years. Despite being one of the original core franchises, Blizzard seems content to let it die off slowly.
It’s odd because fans have turned up to buy Warchests, new co-op commanders, and skins/announcer pack microtransactions. Enough so to contribute significantly to the Global Finals prize pool each year, but Blizzard just leaves it at that.
The esports scene has changed so much since Blizzard launched StarCraft II in 2010. A new RTS game that embraces free-to-play –similar to what StarCraft II has done– and includes similar microtransactions which have been mostly positively received within the community could probably do well considering the built-in fan base for it.
Or at the very least, Blizzard could take advantage of the iconic property to do something different or what they think is “in vogue” since apparently RTS games aren’t anymore. It appears like Blizzard might have considered that according to Kotaku, but bailed in favor of supporting Overwatch 2 and Diablo 4, both announced this past weekend.
Really the only time StarCraft eeks out into the general gaming public these days is to brag about DeepMind, which is… cool but not really anything for fans wanting to play something different after ten years to hang their hat on.
As a fan myself, all I can say really is “oh well.” Every Blizzcon that passes by is just another year closer to death as Blizzard slowly backs away from the franchise.
Maybe one day Blizzard will surprise fans with something truly exciting at the level of Overwatch 2 and Diablo 4. Maybe there is hope out there. But until that actually happens I’m in the camp of: I’ll believe it when I see it.