BlizzCon is nearly upon us, and while many will be looking forward to the new game announcements coming from Blizzard this weekend, esports fans will be seeing it as a culmination of many different competitive events. Hearthstone, StarCraft II and Heroes Of The Storm will all feature grand scale finals for their respective Blizzard-run competitions, while Overwatch will also feature its own novel World Cup. So if you're planning on following BlizzCon this year, whether you have a virtual ticket, are attending in person or will just keep up with the news that comes out of the show, here's the events you need to keep track of...
Blizzard In 2017... And A New Game?
BlizzCon is the event to watch for each year if you're a Blizzard fan because usually they have something exciting to announce. Previous years have been home to new WoW expansions, Overwatch and even details on Hearthstone - whatever aspect of Blizzard games you're into, there will be something to tune in for. Basically it'll be a sort of plan for what to expect from Blizzard next year. But the big hype around BlizzCon 2016 is the potential of a new game announcement. The last game announcement was Overwatch, and that's been ticking over for a while now. WIth World Of Warcraft's Legion and Hearthstone's Karazhan expansions both having recently released, there's likely not much room for announcements on this front. The current teases are Diablo 4, and that's certainly a plausible idea. It's been a while since the base game released and with a number of significant original or Diablo 2 developers having recently visited Blizzard's studios there's something to be said for a potential reboot. And with the newfound push towards esports from the company, you can probably expect that - if a new Diablo is announced - there will be a heavy emphasis on player versus player, more so than the franchise has been so far. While Diablo 3 certainly tipped in that scale through content patches, it was never the focus for the game - if Diablo 4 is announced, then expect that to be a big part of the game.
Hearthstone World Championship Tournament
With $1 million on the line, the Hearthstone championship playoffs - and grand finals - will definitely be something worth tuning in for. The group stages have already been played out in the last week, so we now know the top eight that will be taking part in the Hearthstone grand finals - but there's still plenty of upset to be had. Star player OmegaZero, for example, failed to make it into the group stage, meaning Cydonia - who actually beat him in the group stage - has the chance to make a name for himself. The likes of JasonZhou, HotMeowth and DrHippi will be the ones to watch for, but it's Hamster who is standing out the most after having brought both Paladin and Priest decks to the tournament, two classes that are widely considered the weakest in the current meta. But Hamster is making these decks work, and for that reason alone he's building up quite a bit of a following. The sheer talent available in the top eight will make it hard to predict a winner - as is usually the case with Hearthstone esports - but it's a big deal for the scene, so definitely one to tune in to.
Heroes Of The Storm Finals
Also playing for a portion of a $1 million prize pool is the top teams in the playoffs of the HOTS Global Championship. Again, the group stages have already been played, and now we're ready to see who will be declared the best in the world for the year. Fnatic has been making a push for top contender, with a very comfortable set of group matches that put it high in the charts. This, alongside, MVP Black, has made them look to be one of the strongest competitors. But that's not yet set in stone. With some of the remaining group games to be played, the likes of Astral Authority and Please Buff Arthas are playing the hype game to see if they can't get some backing from the crowds. They're looking strong, too, so there's a chance that we could see these teams duking it out and perhaps even lifting the cup in the grand finals.
Overwatch World Cup
The first World Cup in Overwatch esports is also set to take place this weekend, and while there's no real financial benefit for competitors to take part - this is a World Cup, rather than a traditional, competitive pro-team tournament - there's still a lot to tune in for. With the top eight teams now having been decided - that's Russia, Spain, South Korea, China, France, Finland, Sweden and the United States - it'll be interesting to see how the playoffs end up. Already it seems that Sweden and South Korea are the teams to beat, with SK having already topped its group with a clean sheet while Sweden has proven its worth with some of the best Overwatch teams around. But what's interesting is how these teams are performing. Since they're not formed of competitive teams and instead mostly voted for by the community, there's a surprising amount of cohesion already being displayed. The finals will be taking place over the course of BlizzCon and while players won't be winning cash prizes for taking place, the world will be watching and that - if anything - could lead to a little bit of scouting and player transfer happening based on individual performance. It might just be a bit of fun, but none of these teams are seeing it that way - but, if nothing else, the much-teased Sombra character could well be finally getting announced this BlizzCon.
StarCraft 2's Grand Finals
And lastly it's Blizzard other big name esport that no one really talks about these days. StarCraft 2, like the rest of its Blizzard stablemates, is set for its grand finals this weekend too. And, just like the majority of the other games, we've already got the top eight figured out: Showtime versus Elazer, Dark versus Neeblet, TV versus ByuN and Zest versus Stats. It's going to be a tough call for any of these matches since it's so reliant on so many different elements. Many are calling for Showtime to at least make it to the finals, while Dark has proven himself in the league phase where he topped the table with a huge near-3000 point lead. Meanwhile Neeblet faces Dark, and while Neeb has a proven record many don't believe he has the necessary skills to take on Dark in a Protoss versus Zerg and win - Dark's mixed strategies can really help him handle any situation, no matter how good his opponent. The remaining two matches are pretty much a toss up between the two players in either match. However some pros believe that if Elazer can beat Showtime in the quarterfinals then he's got the hidden skills as the underdog to take it all the way. Either way it's going to be a close set of matches that you really shouldn't miss.