This weekend, teams from Korea, Taiwan, and ANZ duked it out in Sydney for the World of Warcraft Arena World Championship APAC Regional Finals. Not only would the winning team be able to proclaim themselves champions of the Asia-Pacific region, but they would secure an invite to the Global Finals being held at BlizzCon later this year.

Our three ANZ teams; Gronks, Unitas Gold, and Mad Dog, looked one step above the other regions all weekend long. In the end, though, it was the third seed, Mad Dogs, who came out of nowhere to claim first prize in an all Australian grand-final series. Going up against first seed, Gronks, our APAC champions stuck to their tried and true Shaman, Ret Paladin, and Warrior composition through the whole series.

Though the Arena World Championship has been running since 2008, it’s only in recent years that things have taken off in ANZ. This year has brought with it a boost in both the prize pool and the sheer number of tournaments held, with this much-needed investment also extended to the WoW Arena esports scenes in Latin America and Korea.

In a recent interview, Product Manager for WoW Esports, Jeramy McIntyre, discussed the difficulties faced in supporting the WoW esports scene in these smaller regions.

“Looking over and assessing the regions, there’s a lot of elements there to look at, right? The success within the tournament, the number of participants that want to play in the tournament and then also the number of players just in that region itself,” McIntyre said.

“WoW is a global game though, and that’s something that’s super important to us. That’s why when we brought the Mythic Dungeon Invitational out of its college level, the first attempt was already a completely global program,” he added.

“I think with Arena, as we continue to expand globally, regions are very important because when we’re playing player vs player in a very dynamic fashion like Arena is, you need to have people in close proximity in order to compete,” he said.

He also stated their recent expansion of the program in smaller regions, like ANZ, LATAM, and Korea, has been a “great success,” and that “the competition in those regions is also increasing.”

This success is very apparent, not only with our strong performance this weekend but at last year’s APAC finals too, where we saw our very first representatives from down-under qualify for and compete at BlizzCon 2017.

Amongst one of the first few groups of Australians to go global in WoW Arena is the current healer for Unitas Gold, Kane ‘Yunex’ Dennis. Yunex played on Team Rock last year, helping push his team to first place at the APAC Regional Finals in Taiwan, alongside teammates Streaming, Primez, and Rook.

“Blizzcon is something, well for Australians, it’s so far away for us to attend. Most of us just watch it online, so to be able to be there and be in the crowd and be on the stage, it was pretty insane,” he stated in a recent interview.

While the scene here in ANZ is still growing, the players themselves are also learning the ins and outs of being a pro.

“When we competed in Taiwan, we didn’t really have a crazy schedule, because we didn’t know what to expect since it was our first LAN. So training before Taiwan, that was . . . just playing whenever we can really, and just playing for fun, hoping for the best,” Yunex said.

“But after we won APAC last year, we definitely fit in times through the week where we had to practice for a couple of hours, try new strategies, try new things, and work out who we’re playing against,” he added.

Though things are looking up for the Arena scene here in ANZ, more is needed to turn it from “a really fun second job,” into a professional esports career. While Yunex believes we are “heading in the right direction,” teams still need more opportunities to complete, as he states that, for the Australian teams, “they would play way more tournaments if they were available.”

The future is looking bright for World of Warcraft esports. So keep an eye out over the next few months for Blizzard’s exciting plans for 2019, and of course, don’t forget to cheer on our ANZ boys, Mad Dog, at BlizzCon 2018!

Image Credit: Blizzard Entertainment