It looks like Blizzard esports and ESL/DreamHack are holding hands together very tightly. A number of announcements relating to the 2020 esports seasons of StarCraft II, Warcraft III Reforged, and Hearthstone are all related to some level of partnership with ESL and DreamHack for each respective games’ pro tours.
For StarCraft II, the World Championship Series is officially being retired, replaced instead with an ESL Pro Tour and DreamHack SC2 Masters for a new esports circuit. StarCraft II esports fans can now look forward to two international tournaments a year — four with DreamHack and two with ESL — along with weekly tournaments that feed into ESL events, while the global finals will shift to the IEM Katowice World Championship in 2021. The 2020-2021 circuit will also feature an increased prize pool of $1.9 million, up from $1.2 million.
A similar ESL Pro Tour is coming for the soon-to-release Warcraft III Reforged, with one ESL competition and three DreamHack tournaments culminating in a Championship tournament in 2020. There will also be weekly ESL Open Cups for amateur competition.
As for Hearthstone, the Masters Tour is expanding with six events in 2020 instead of three and a guaranteed $250K base prizing for each event, which are also being vendored by ESL and DreamHack. In addition, the Grandmasters will return with two more seasons in April and August. Competition will play out over eight weeks like before, but the opening weeks will rotate, with all 16 players in the Americas, Europe, and Asia-Pacific regions competing against each other for placement points to determine each region’s two divisions. Subsequent weeks will consist of round-robin play within the divisions, leading into the Week 8 Playoffs, which will qualify one player per region to the World Championship at the end of the year.
The response from fans appears to be largely positive, with esports guru Rod Breslau noting that ESL and DreamHack are better stewards for SC2 and Warcraft III esports than Blizzard. We’d also be remiss if we didn’t mention Blizzard’s rollback of esports and general support for Heroes of the Storm or the botch job of Hearthstone and WoW esports last year, so maybe this is for the best.