Heroes of the Storm Esports Scene is Surging Thanks to Grassroots Leagues Like Heroes Hearth
The Heroes of the Storm esports scene is back on the rise thanks to organizations like Heroes Hearth putting together excellent, grassroots pro leagues.
In 2018, Blizzard Entertainment’s Heroes of the Storm was arguably at its strongest. The game was constantly being updated with new and interesting Heroes, the dev team was consistently delivering fun events like Nexomania and the Toys Christmas, and, maybe most importantly, the Heroes Global Championship. This esports event saw Blizzard producing some of the best competitive gameplay in the history of the game.
Fans all know where this is going. Directly after the HGC 2018 Finals, Activision-Blizzard announced it was moving development resources to other properties, thus ending the HGC. This news came right after many pro players were told at the 2018 Finals that the competition would continue through 2019. Effectively, Activision-Blizzard put the game out to pasture without notice to the players who were making a living playing it.
Yes, fans did get a trickle of content here and there, but for most, the glory days of Heroes of the Storm were over. Or at least, that’s what many assumed. Fortunately, several different grassroots organizations have done what they can to deliver the competitive version of Heroes that fans know and love. And no one is doing a better job than Heroes Hearth and its Community Clash League event, delivering awesome moments like the one below.
Never forget the greatest moment in the history of the #HeroesCCL.
— CCL by HeroesHearth (@HeroesHearthCCL) January 6, 2021
Of course, this is strictly an online league. It lacks a bit of the pomp and circumstance that the live events used to have when Blizzard ran the HGC at Blizzcon. However, no one can say the CCL lacks high-level play. And that’s by design.
Recently, I spoke with CCL Commissioner Jules Scott, and we talked a bit about the other grassroots organizations that had sprung up in the wake of HGC ending. Places like Heroes Lounge and Nexus Gaming Series have given players from all levels a way to compete. However, the CCL is geared to the highest-skilled players. As Jules put it, “Competition is who they are and what fuels them.” Without that high-level competition, players were drifting, looking for something to catch that spark. That’s where Heroes Hearth came in.
The league is still a part-time job for players with only one best-of-five a week taking place. However, it’s top-tier play is at a level the league hopes can be kept sustainable. One way it’s doing this is how it has selected teams.
In HGC, teams were often just created by a group of players that wanted to play together, which usually meant that some teams hopefully liked one another, but some could be volatile toward their own team. For the CCL, Jules and her team decided to select organizations to lead the teams and then draft players. Obviously, the teams can still shuffle, but this model makes it feel more like a real sport. And, while it had to be a change for old-school HOTs pros, as a viewer, I think the move makes a ton of sense.
Not only do teams feel like more concrete organizations, but the draft means that teams have to adapt to their new teammates’ playstyles. And thus far, the gameplay results have been phenomenal. Whether it’s nail-biting best-of-five series, Yasu hard-carrying Granit Gaming as Lucio, or Chilly Mountain riding Hogger to their first win of the season in week five, this league is absolutely bringing it.
The CCL isn’t just killing it on the gameplay side. While there were a few technical hiccups in the pre-season play, those behind the league have really done a great job producing this event. Of course, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. As Jules mentioned to me, they’ve been running the Celebrity Clash League for a few seasons prior to this. The team knows what it takes to make this event run like a well-oiled machine.
Truly, it’s kind of wild that a Heroes of the Storm league that began as a small, North American-only series of events has morphed into what it is now. Not only is it providing fans with excellent weekly matches, but this has become a worldwide thing. Players from Europe and Korea almost immediately wanted into the fun, and Heroes Hearth has made the move to accommodate them. After all, it’s better to have the best competition possible.
This brought about a few challenges for Jules and her team, especially in regards to playing around time zones. However, they “make it work” because the match quality is worth it. And if the messages Jules is receiving on a weekly basis are anything to go by, the fans are loving it.
Now, I’m sure you’re asking yourself, “where can I watch this?” Well, I have great news for you. Tomorrow, the CCL Playoffs kick off on Twitch. The bottom five teams will fight for a spot in the final four in a weekend gauntlet of games. It’s going to be fun.
Of course, I couldn’t not ask Jules about a potential season two. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to share anything at the time of this writing, but I’d keep my eyes locked for the end of the play-offs. And, even if we don’t get a second season, it’s been an incredible ride that does so much to recapture the magic of the Heroes Global Championship.
Heroes of the Storm is available now on PC. Heroes Hearth’s Community Clash League playoffs start on January 9 at 4 pm EST. You can watch the event over on Twitch, or you can watch it below if you so happen to be reading this on the day.