World of Warcraft Arena expands with community focus

Confetti rains down on fans at BlizzCon 2016 after Splyce defeated Method NA for the World of Warcraft Arena World Championship. This year the prize pool is bigger with more chances to enter and an opportunity for large-scale community events. Blizzard Entertainment

Game developer Blizzard Entertainment announced Thursday what players and fans can expect from the World of Warcraft Arena in 2017 when it kicks off in April for North America and Europe and later this summer for Latin America and China. This season offers more tournaments and more chances to qualify.

Twelve teams, four more than last year's eight, will be able to qualify from each of North America and Europe's regional events. Each regional event will be LAN, and will have prize pools of $100,000.

The qualifier and regional stages will lead up to the world championship finals. Here, a total of 12 teams -- also up from last year's eight -- will qualify. Latin America will be given one spot and China will be given two. The world championship will have a prize pool of $280,0000, up from 250,000 last year. But the prize pool has increased for the entire WoW Arena season, closing in on a global pool of $600,000.

Additionally, Blizzard is adding additional qualifier cups in North America and Europe and revamping the points system to give teams a better shot at qualifying for the World Championship.

Point distribution for North America and Europe Online Arena Cup are as follows:

First - 160
Second - 80
Third - 36
Fourth - 20
Fifth and sixth - 12

This is addressing a key element missing for the WoW Arena scene to really take off. By increasing the amount of tournaments, not only will it make the game "viable for the players, but also to sustain a more consistent fan base," Panda Global's World of Warcraft Arena Captain Andrew "RubCub" Woods said.

The point system will also allow the 2017 season to be more spread out.

"If you look at World of Warcraft Arena last year, it was really compressed," World of Warcraft Esports Manager Jeramy McIntyre said. "[A] point system really allows and lended itself well to a yearlong program."

"In NA and EU, the way the tournament was designed, it really prevented our best players-once they earned qualification-they weren't allowed to compete in subsequent cups," McIntyre said. This has now changed. Top teams can continue to compete after qualification, which is great news for fans who want to see their favorite teams play year-round.

This points system also means that last year's champion, Splyce, will have to start from zero points and earn qualification like everyone else. Granted, that's not a change from previous years.

To encourage a more grassroots scene, Blizzard will also approve certain community events that teams can enter to earn points. Points at community events will be lower than larger Arena Cup events.

Approved community events point distribution:

First - 40
Second - 20
Third - 12
Fourth - 8
Fifth and sixth- N/A

The points above are not final. Community events will scale based on size. If an events organizer wants to go above and beyond and have a large scale tournament at a convention center, then players will be able to earn more points.

"If we give them a proportional amount of points, then pros will want to compete," McIntyre said.

The revamped point system coupled with community events makes the WoW Arena scene resemble the fighting game community, where players and fans can interact more intimately. It will also allow amateur players to play against the pros and see how they stack up.

Blizzard is concentrating most heavily on the North American and European regions by having five qualifiers each in 2017. Each qualifier will have a prize pool of $6,000. In North America and Europe, teams will be granted one free roster swap, meaning they won't have to concede points if they decide to change players out. But any further roster swaps will cost teams 50 percent of their remaining points.