As 2016 comes to a close, we reflect on many fond memories from StarCraft II esports over the past year. From Dark’s and Zest’s dominance in Korea in the early part of 2016, to Neeb’s and Byun’s storybook triumphs, the year has been full of great matches and compelling stories. With 2017 upon us soon, we hope to continue building on those successes in StarCraft II esports, as well as take on new opportunities heading into the new year.
On the Korea side, we maintain our commitment to the highest level StarCraft and supporting the world’s best players. We are pleased to work with our partners at AfreecaTV, who will continue running the Global StarCraft II League (GSL), as well as some weekend tournaments to help supplement the competitive calendar and offer more opportunities for players to compete. The seasons and tournaments are also scheduled more linearly throughout 2017 compared to 2016.
To serve the rest of the world’s players, we will maintain the WCS Circuit, simplifying the structure to offer four championship events with direct seeds into the year-end WCS Global Finals. Each of these events will have straightforward paths to qualification via open brackets or regional challenger events that can be qualified into easily, with ladder qualification returning in in certain regions.
Overall, we are most excited to announce that the structure we put in place for 2017 will remain the same in 2018. Additionally, we’re very pleased to be able to present a calendar of all planned events for 2017. Our hope is that presenting a multiyear plan as well as the entirety of next year’s schedule this early can help players better manage their schedules and pursue opportunities with certainty and confidence.
2017 WCS Highlights
$2 Million prize pool
For WCS events alone, pro players will have over 2 million reasons to get involved and compete in 2017.
Three global events
This year, we heard the clamor for more global events and opportunities for Korean and Circuit players to clash as we hoped. This time around we are committed to supporting at least three global events where players from both the Korea and Circuit side and qualify and compete. Each event will have its own unique style and flavor.
- IEM Katowice – as the yearly flagship event from ESL, IEM Katowice in Poland will present an early opportunity for Korean and Circuit players to size each other up and compete. As one of the world’s largest esports events, it also promises to be the biggest gathering of StarCraft II pro players for the year. WCS will offer qualifiers with paid trips for both Circuit and Korean players to travel to the event, but also an open bracket and deep prizing. And like GSL championships and WCS Circuit event titles, the winner of this event gets a ticket punched straight to the WCS Global Finals.
- GSL vs. the World – At mid-year in Korea, we will host a very special all-star event for your favorite pro players in both Circuit and Korea to compete against each other. Stay tuned for details on the selection process, and the structure of the event.
- WCS Global Finals – Of course, no year of StarCraft II esports is complete without an exciting year-end world championship. As with last year, we will collect the year’s champions and top performers to battle it out. Three foreigners made the quarterfinals in 2016. Can they continue to make strides for the ultimate title? Or will Korean players maintain their dominance?
Support from StarCraft War Chest
At this past BlizzCon, we announced the War Chest, a seasonal treasure map that StarCraft II players can purchase to gain access to special content like decals and more. A portion of the proceeds from War Chest will go to support WCS!
Korea -- GSL is back; linear scheduling; weekend tournaments; better viewing times for global fans
The longest running StarCraft II esports brand is back in 2017, hosted by AfreecaTV. With three seasons scheduled to run straight through the year, plus weekend events like IEM Gyeonggi and two additional AfreecaTV Super Tournaments to run in between seasons, players and fans can expect a more regular stream of StarCraft II esports out of Korea. Players will find more consistent opportunities to compete. And finally, some good news for NA viewers. We are planning to run Wednesday GSL broadcasts at the usual 6:30PM KST time, which is also evening/night time in SEA/ANZ, and mornings in EU. Friday night broadcasts will move to 1:00PM KST Saturday (8:00PM/11:00PM Friday Pacific/Eastern), which will allow for easier viewing for North American audiences. While no one time is perfect for everyone, we hope these timeslots offer better opportunities for a wider viewership of GSL around the globe.
WCS Circuit – keeping it simple
Last year included a number of different events tied to the WCS system, some of which included a seed into the WCS Global Finals, while others merely awarded points. TRUE’s run through Montreal last year catapulted him straight to BlizzCon. But Ptitdrogo’s earlier win at Leipzig only got him points. Was one win better than the other? This year we’re keeping it simple. Four WCS events will run at DreamHack stops: Austin, Summer, Valencia, Montreal. Win and you’re in (the WCS Global Finals). Players will gain WCS points from competing in these events as well as in regional Challengers.
Residency requirements stay the same
The residency requirements for WCS Circuit remain the same as last year. Players will need proof of citizenship, permanent residency, or an appropriate visa in order to compete and earn points in the WCS Circuit. A minimum number of ladder games in the home region will also be required. The full details will be forthcoming in the WCS 2017 Rules. And on the WCS Korea side, any player can compete.
Last year, we experimented in using the ladder as a qualification method for European and North American Challenger tournaments. After getting positive results and feedback from that process, this year we’re looking to refine and expand on this concept. Ladder and regional Challengers will be the only way to earn a guaranteed berth at a Circuit event, with the number of spots offered doubling to 16 as well.
Stability and commitment
We intend to retain the same format for WCS 2018 as in 2017. While the exact events, and timings for 2018 are up in the air, we are committed to supporting this structure and prizing over the next two years for WCS Korea and WCS Circuit.
WCS 2017 Format
WCS Korea Standings
Just like last year, WCS Korea will be open to all players globally, and we expect that it will continue to represent the most competitive region, where only the very best players will compete. The majority of sanctioned events will take place within Korea.
Three GSL seasons will take place in 2017, scheduled linearly through the year. These GSL seasons will form the backbone of WCS Korea competition. Three other weekend tournaments will also be sprinkled throughout the year to provide additional opportunities for players to compete. The first of these will be IEM Gyeonggi in December.
- GSL – operated by AfreecaTV
- Three seasons
- ₩170M per season
- 1st Place – WCS Global Finals seed
- Awards WCS Korea points
- 3 weekend tournaments
- Single weekend format
- At least ₩30M+ per event
- Awards WCS Korea points
The three GSL season champions and the top players from the WCS Korea Standings will get direct slots into the WCS Global Finals at the end of the year, for a total of 8 players from WCS Korea.
- GSL Season 1 Champion (1)
- GSL Season 2 Champion (1)
- GSL Season 3 Champion (1)
- WCS Korea Standings (5)*
*(if the winner of the IEM Katowice event is a WCS Korea competitor, then only 4 players will be drawn from the WCS Korea Standings to fill out the complement of 8 WCS Korea players at the WCS Global Finals)
WCS Circuit Standings
The WCS Circuit will continue to be the home for StarCraft II pro players from North America (NA), Europe (EU), Latin America (LATAM), China (CN), Taiwan/Hong Kong/Macau (TW), and Australia/New Zealand/Southeast Asia (ANZ/SEA). To compete in WCS Circuit, players must be citizens or residents in one of these eligible regions. Residency rules remain largely the same as last year. Non-citizen and non-resident players will need an appropriate visa, and must compete regularly on the local ladder of their chosen region. Other guidelines and full residency rules will be outlined in a later Requirements blog.
The core of the WCS Circuit are four championship events, hosted by DreamHack. These events will take place in Austin, USA; Jönköping, Sweden (DH Summer); Valencia, Spain; and Montreal, Canada. For NA and EU players, the first stop to qualification for these events will be online cups or the ladder. High performance there will feed into Challenger Finals, where top performers will earn prize money and a chance at a qualifying spot and paid travel to the associated DreamHack event. Qualification methods for the other regions (LATAM, CN, TW, ANZ/SEA) may vary and will be announced later per region. For players able to manage their own travel, DreamHack will offer a number of open sign-up slots for each event. Stay tuned to DreamHack and WCS communication channels for details on those.
- WCS Circuit event – four per year, operated by DreamHack
- DreamHack Austin, Summer, Valencia, Montreal
- $100,000 prize pools
- 96 players
- 1st Place – WCS Global Finals seed
- Awards WCS Circuit points
- Challenger seeds
- (4) NA, (4) EU, (2) LATAM, (2) CN, (2) TW, (2) ANZ/SEA
- WCS Regional Challenger (NA, EU, LATAM, CN, TW, ANZ/SEA)
- Feeds into WCS Circuit events
- One per WCS Circuit stop
- $10,000 prize pools
- Formats and qualifiers are region-specific
- Awards WCS Circuit points
The champions of the four official WCS Circuit events, and the top players from the WCS Circuit Standings will earn a spot at the WCS Global Finals.
- WCS Austin Champion (1)
- WCS Jönköping Champion (1)
- WCS Valencia Champion (1)
- WCS Montreal Champion (1)
- WCS Circuit Standings (4)*
*(if the winner of the IEM Katowice event is a WCS Circuit competitor, then only 3 players will be drawn from the WCS Circuit Standings to fill out the complement of 8 WCS Circuit players at the WCS Global Finals)
IEM Gyeonggi will kick off WCS 2017 with GSL following soon after in Korea! The first Circuit stop will land after Katowice, and we’ll have a packed schedule after that. We’re working with IEM, AfreecaTV, and DreamHack to finalize exact details on qualifications, awards, and compiling detailed Official Rules for the year. Expect that in your newsfeeds and inboxes very soon.