The Gamestah Ember Series came to its thrilling conclusion last Tuesday. The eight week event was a solid production with all the hallmarks of an organisation that means business. I sat down the man behind the organisation’s push into Heroes of the Storm, Chris ‘Chrisis’ McClement, to chat about where Gamestah came from, where it’s going, and what the group has in store for our region.
Gamestah have a rich history of esports broadcasting that dates back to 2003 – back when Twitch was still just a pipedream. No longer content with the stagnant attitudes some larger organisations have towards broadcasting, the group has decided to shift their focus away from producing content for other tournaments and instead start running their own.
“There is a perception that simply running a tournament is the most important thing, a kind of ‘if you build it, they will come’ attitude,” Chrisis said.
“It’s not good enough to just run a tournament. You have to run it in such a way that exposure is maximized because that is what sponsors are looking for – maximum exposure for their brands.”
This philosophy is evident when looking at the success of the ZOWIE Gamestah Overwatch League, which launched at the same time as the Ember Series. It boasts over $9,000 in prizes and a dedicated viewership that increases each week.
Over here in Heroes of the Storm things are not so grand; a reflection of the instability that still plagues our region. While not ideal, this didn’t stop Gamestah from pushing ahead with the Ember Series.
“Our focus with the Gamestah Ember Series is first and foremost to create the sense in the scene that there’s a point to maintaining a stable roster from one week to the next, because they’ll be guaranteed three to five competitive matches every week,” he said.
“Prizes for Ember right now are just a sweetener, the main goal is to get people competing every week.”
The ‘sweetener’ was a combined total of $400 cash split over eight weeks of play, as well as entries into the Plantronics MVP program that saw Arcaner walk away with a Plantronics Rig 500HD headset valued at $107. This makes the Ember Series the most lucrative non-Blizzard sponsored event to run so far in 2016.
With plenty of prizes for both players and viewers, mostly consistent tournament organisation and production, and the star appeal of powerhouse casting duo Skimmy and Starving, achieving roster stability should have been easy. Unfortunately, that was not the case, with an average of only six teams signing up to compete each week.
Chrisis has identified this as a massive hurdle not just for tournament organisers, but for the region as a whole as we struggle to compete on the international stage.
“There’s little desire for cohesion, developing teamwork, tactics, etc. Each week is treated as if the scene was just starting out. Until we get two or three teams that maintain their core roster week in and week out we won’t break the cycle of ‘starting over’ that seems to be the norm.”
Issues that Gamestah faced were not just limited to roster instability. While most of us have been celebrating the arrival of a new tournament organiser to our region, others are not so keen on fresh blood.
“Let’s just say we have copped more abuse from the HotS community than any other,” he stated.
“We’ve also had some really good interactions […] but I do think there are a few individuals that have a disproportionate impact on the community.”
— Daniel Morton (@mortondshort) July 30, 2016
With a vicious cycle that seems hell-bent on continuing to repeat itself, and a sometimes hostile environment, you could be forgiven for thinking that this might be the last we hear of the group now that the Ember Series is over. Thankfully, Gamestah are still forging ahead with their plans to launch a league in mid-August.
“We have been hoping to see up to eight teams regularly competing in Ember, but we seem to cap out at six,” Chrisis noted.
“If the league has to be four teams then so be it. However that will mean smaller overall prizes.”
In an unexpected twist, Chrisis also hinted that there could be even bigger things in store for Heroes of the Storm teams, with the group currently in the final stages of a partnership deal with an as yet unnamed LAN administrator.
“We are partnering with a major tournament and LAN admin and will be running leagues in CS:GO, Rocket League, Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch,” he announced.
“We’re hoping to run LAN finals, including subsidising attendance for finals qualifiers to the LAN, but at this stage that is still to be confirmed.”