Blizzard releases details on 2014 World Championship Series

Blizzard's largely revised 2014 World Championship Series ruleset was just released.

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Blizzard begins their gargantuan 2014 World Championship Series announcement by thanking those involved in the past year:

"After an exciting and successful global finals at BlizzCon, the 2013 StarCraft II World Championship Series has come to a close. All of our partners, including GomTV, OGN, NASL, ESL, MLG, and Twitch, did a remarkable job in producing WCS and bringing StarCraft II eSports to a global audience. We're now ready to share details on what's happening in 2014."

And then, bravely, they went right into it.

New American and European WCS Format

Blizzard focused on simplifying the Challenger and Premier League system by making the process in which players move between leagues more linear in the North American and European regions. Season two and three will play out a touch differently than season one, which will play out as quoted below:

"...as part of the transition from 2013, Season 1 Challenger of America and Europe will have a total of 48 players. The 24 players from each respective Season 3 2013 Challenger League will be taking on 24 new players from Season 1 Qualifiers. The top 24 players who win their Challenger match will join the 8 existing players in order to fill out a full 32 player Premier League roster in each region. In subsequent seasons, the system will revert to the bottom 16 players of Premier taking on a fresh set of 16 qualifiers in Challenger up-and-downs."

In seasons two and three, North Americans and Europeans can play in regional qualifiers where the top sixteen will make it to Challenger League. In Challenger League they will be met by the bottom sixteen players from their respective region's last Premier League season. They'll be paired off in groups of two where a player from the qualifier will play someone who had been lingering in Challenger. After this exchange of blows is had the winning sixteen Challenger players will join the top sixteen Premier league players from the previous season while the sixteen that lost are given the boot back the qualifying pool.

In Premier League they'll stick to the traditional group stage format where eight groups of four will do battle, and the top two players in each group will wander into the round of sixteen. Those sixteen players stay in Premier League the following season regardless of their performance after that, the sixteen that fell short go back to Challenger, and the process begins again next season with the regional qualifiers.

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Opportunities for Local Players

The, perhaps, most important part of the announcement was Blizzard's reasoning on how they were going to enable more opportunities for professional gamers in North America and Europe to compete in their regions when each region had been dominated by Koreans in 2013.

"We purposefully made the WCS an open system last year. While our intention was to have a sprinkling of players venture into other regions, we failed to anticipate the high volume of international players competing outside their home regions. "

In 2014 Blizzard will largely region lock the qualifiers, which in theory means we should see more local players going through the Challenger and Premier League systems. Blizzard's outlined how they the qualifier reservations would breakdown below:

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End of Seasonal Finals and Redistribution of Third-Party Points

Blizzard noted that they wanted to encourage the emphasis on regional play, and as such were eliminating the Season Finals that they'd been having the year before.

Below are the three big factors I thought went into making this decision:

Performing well in the Regional Finals and Season Finals could set you up for the entire year. As we crept into the third and final season of 2013's World Championship Series I noticed the person in absolute last place at the time could go from last place to second place in WCS points if they won both the Season 3 Regional and Seasonal finals.

I think this also does a decent job of the stopping Korean players from getting extra points, extending their lead, and making up a huge majority of the players attending BlizzCon next year. With no Seasonal Finals the Korean players won't be collecting extra points and stomping foreigners every three months in a Seasonal Finals.

This gives third-party organizers more room to breathe because their events will mean more. Several people noticed at the end of 2013 that the third-party tournaments affected the overall WCS standings very little. This is an extension of the first point.

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Blizzard released a thorough outline detailing how third-party organizers qualified for certain tiers of WCS points.

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GSL Returns, OGN's Focus Shifted

Blizzard paid deserved homage to the Global StarCraft 2 League:

"GSL was the model for other WCS regions. Going forward, GomTV will be the sole partner for StarCraft II WCS in Korea, and it will operate the region using the GSL name, as well as its classic league designations: Code S (Premier League), Code A (Challenger), and Qualifiers."

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OnGameNet, who hosted a season WCS Korea and a Season Final, will now work as the Korean broadcasting partner of Blizzard for non-WCS products. Blizzard notes they'll be producing, "entertainment shows and tournaments for Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft."

New Division of Prize Money

With the Season Finals gone Blizzard has decided to redistribute the prize money for their World Championship Series regional events.

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As strange as this might sound, I think the most important change might be the doubling of the Challenger League prizing. This might, kind of sort of, allow more locals without huge backings from bigger teams to be a little more invested in their progaming careers.

Image Credit: Battle.net

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