Heroes of the Storm hasn't taken off as an esport in quite the way its fans might have hoped, but evidently nobody told Blizzard, who just announced big plans for the 2017 season of competitive play, featuring spring and summer regional splits, invitationals and a Mid-Season Brawl on the way to the Global Championship Finals next November.
Open qualification for the eight-team regional leagues in North America, Europe, Korea and China begins later this month. Teams who come through that process will then join the six invited teams (Denial Esports and Astral Authority for NA, Dignitas and Fnatic for EU, MVP Black and Ballistix for Korea) when the real action begins in January. Each team will play each other twice over 10 weeks.
After five weeks of the regional leagues, the top three teams per region - along with representatives from Latin America, Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia and Taiwan - will then be invited to either the Western or Eastern Clash exhibition tournament, each of which has a $100,00 prize pool.
Regional league play then resumes, and the top team from each region five weeks later will be invited to the Mid-Season Brawl - a 12-team tournament with a $250,000 prize pool. Meanwhile, the two bottom teams in each region will have to face off against the top two Open Division teams to see who will take part in the summer regional leagues.
The summer split follows the same format as the spring regionals, including more Eastern/Western Clash invitationals with $100k prize pools.
Then it's onto the Heroes of the Storm Global Championship Finals at BlizzCon, featuring the top three teams from each region - the top two, who automatically qualify, as well as the winner of a 3rd-through-6th-place playoff bracket.
Whether Heroes of the Storm esports will catch on as a result of these activities and as more people pick up the game remains to be seen, but it was in a sorry spot earlier this year. It's certainly a lot of fun to play, but it has struggled to sustain the kind of regular audience numbers on Twitch that these games often need to become healthy spectator sports. If nothing else, though, Heroes' 2017 competitive schedule is great news for fans of the game and a sure sign Blizzard isn't giving up without a fight.