Two of the biggest competitive PC titles right now, Starcraft II and League of Legends, have been chosen as the two official games for Season 7 of Electronic Sports League's Intel Extreme Masters, which kicks off at GamesCom in Cologne, Germany, August 15-19. While those are the two most prominent games in PC e-sports right now, ESL will be the first league to date to have only these two games for its entire season.
"We're not really married to any particular number of games in the Intel Extreme Masters," ESL director of pro gaming Michal "Carmac" Blicharz told GameSpot. "This season our main goal is to really up the quality of what we do, and we needed focus for that. Focus is something that will allow us to create an epic experience for the SC2 and LOL communities. It's a foundation that we are building for the next season."
This will be the first ESL season since Season 3 that it has had only two official game titles instead of three. Two weeks ago, ESL dropped Counter-Strike 1.6 from its game list after six seasons with the title. It was the only game that had been featured in every season. Quake Live was removed the year before.
"For a truly global project like ours, with events on four different continents and many different countries, we require game titles with professional players and teams from all corners of the world," Blicharz said in a statement. "In the recent years of Counter-Strike 1.6, the game has retained its status of a top professional game in Europe but declined in other parts of the world. This was evident at our events outside of Europe."
The season will start in GamesCom with a Starcraft II tournament and wrap up with the IEM World Championships at the German trade show CeBIT, just as it has done every year. Blicharz sees no reason to switch, especially with the rise of live streaming.
"Every season we break streaming records at GamesCom and at CeBIT. It's not easy to give up on that," he said to GameSpot. "GamesCom is the largest event of its kind in Europe and one of the largest in the world, and ESL is probably the biggest exhibitor at all of GamesCom."
The selection process for the GamesCom event calls for online qualifiers in Europe, North America, and Asia, which will yield a pool of 24 players from around the world. An additional eight players will then be culled from an open bracket tournament at GamesCom itself, resulting in a full 32-player bracket. The action will begin July 12, with the broadcasting schedule and prize money to be detailed soon.