This post is part two of our four part series that takes a look at how competitive Heroes of the Storm in each region has fared in 2017. Part one on Latin America can be found here.
Following the conclusion of Phase One, Blizzard announced changes to region locks for professional players. This allowed players from minor regions to move without restriction and paved the way for two of the biggest shifts in Southeast Asia to occur. Prior to BlizzCon 2017, the Singaporeans from Deadly Kittens, Mirr and Zeys left to join Soul Torturers in Taiwan. Losing these two core members, Deadly Kittens found their replacements in Jinwoo and Confidence, allowing them to secure victory in their regional BlizzCon qualifiers.
This new team was short lived, and upon the conclusion of BlizzCon 2017, Deadly Kittens revealed they would be disbanding. This announcement was made as we learnt the remaining core team of Stronger, Enavir and nsj from the Philippines had been picked up by Psistorm Gaming and, in 2018, would be playing in the North American Open Division. With the SEA player-base already struggling, this has shaken the faith of many regarding the scene’s competitive viability going into the future.
To understand the issues faced in this region, I spoke with former Deadly Kittens assassin player, Zeys, who stated, “SEA has the potential to be a major region” with “1.5x the population of USA”. Considering the popularity of other MOBA’s, Dota 2 in particular, this statement rings true. However, despite the game’s globally poor reception at launch, other factors compounded the hit Heroes of the Storm took to its reputation in Southeast Asia.
Originally licensed to Asiasoft for the game’s release in this region, only a handful of countries were actually granted access. Asiasoft officially stated that, due to heavy regulation of gaming, running Heroes of the Storm in Vietnam would be too difficult. Zeys also commented stating, “Because they had no physical labour in two huge markets, Indonesia & Vietnam (150m in population total), they excluded these countries from taking part in tournaments”.
This, on top of poor marketing strategies, led to a dwindling player-base, and an even smaller selection of players skilled enough to perform at a professional level. Since then, however, Asiasoft has lost licensing rights in this region and it is now up to Blizzard to capitalise on such an auspicious market. It remains unclear just how or why this occurred; even those close to the Asiasoft tournament organisers were unable to provide any insight. One can only assume that financial factors must have come into play for Asiasoft to discontinue a product from such a reputable organisation as Blizzard.
Now back under Blizzard’s management, players in Vietnam and Indonesia have been able to participate in tournaments throughout 2017 – giving the region a greater opportunity for growth.
Currently Zeys believes the biggest barriers to entry for competitive Heroes of the Storm in SEA are language differences.
“There’s English (Singapore), Malaysia (English & Malay), Philippines (Tagalog), Thailand (Thai), Vietnamese (Viet), Indonesia (Malay),” he states.
Mirr has stated previously that these language barriers are indeed what caused their Blizzcon 2016 team to part ways. Originally beginning 2017 in teams from their home countries, the members of Deadly Kittens found little success. Disappointed in their performance and knowing their previous teammates were their best bet, they decided to give each other another shot. This time, their goal was to work harder on communication – not just in terms of language, but in their relationships with each other outside of the game. This new mindset definitely showed, with Deadly Kittens coming back later in 2017 to seek vengeance on Resurgence, who took what they believed to be their place in the first Eastern Clash.
With what some may argue to be the best players in this region leaving, it now falls upon the second place team Resurgence to step up to the plate. This team, owned by the well renowned shoutcaster Babael, is composed mostly of MOBA veterans. After having a stable roster for one and a half years, they have since shuffled things up, now boasting the core members: Capricorn on the assassin role and ZaPpy on flex, alongside new members: meowpork on support, ZesN on the solo lane, and Yewyengzxck on tank. Keep in mind though that there’s always the possibility of roster swaps as we head into next year.
Resurgence have had an incredibly emotional journey throughout their Heroes of the Storm career. In an interview preceding the first Eastern Clash, Babael described how their team name came to be.
“The official reason they were called Resurgence is because this team was formed from a ragtag bunch of drop outs. They are not top-tier and they’ve always been getting 2nd and 3rd place. So the founder of this team came together and said you know what, we can try and get this first place. And Resurgence is the idea of getting to that place.”
Losing to Imperium Pro Team in the 2016 BlizzCon qualifier, they left with their spirit crushed – after training hard three times per week, the defeat was not easy for them to cope with. Leaving the team after their time at the Eastern Clash, former tank player cwCwCW was hit the hardest with this defeat. Team members say he stopped responding to messages and seemingly disappeared. He described himself as not being a very social person, with shutting himself off being his way of coping with things. Though he still hangs out in hero league from time to time, it goes to show just how much pressure these professional players are under to perform, and how hard it can be when they don’t meet their own expectations.
With all the uncertainty in the region right now, there’s one thing we can say for certain: Heroes Esports in SEA next year will be the year for former underdogs to show us what they’re made of!