Terminal Eclipse for WC3

Shockwaves ran through the eSports world today as MYM announced it would cut its superstar-laden Warcraft III and StarCraft teams. The StarCraft team – featuring ace foreign players DinOt, IefNaij, and recent ESL finalist White-Ra, among others – will certainly be missed, as its stellar lineup was one of the best sources for top StarCraft play outside of Korea.

The folks at influential StarCraft fansite TeamLiquid will definitely mourn this team’s passing, as IefNaij was a frequent victor in the site’s popular Liquibition series which features top foreign players duking it out in best-of-seven 1v1s every week with live casting. It’s not a complete shock that MYM would cut its SC team, as it’s proved very difficult to maintain profitability in StarCraft outside of Korea.

It is the loss of the WarCraft III team, however, which truly resonates throughout the eSports scene – particularly the non-Korean RTS scene – because of the pure shock of seeing two of WC3’s biggest names stripped of their prestigious tag. Grubby and Moon, listed as #10 and #2 on GosuGamers’ WC3 rankings respectively, are tremendous players with genre-crossing name recognition and star power. The consequences of this seemingly abrupt decision by MYM’s parent company ESNation couldn’t be more disparate between the two, however.

Dutch Orc player Grubby, 22 years old, is second worldwide among WC3 players when it comes to the amount of prize money he’s earned during his career (almost $165,000 from 2004-2009, according to SK Gaming). According to girlfriend Cassandra’s blog, the news that the entire WC3 squad would be cut was a complete surprise to Grubby and it seems he is currently considering retiring from WC3 altogether. Moon, on the other hand, is rumored to be moving to well-known Korean StarCraft team Wemade Fox, home to the much-beloved SC pro NaDa, perhaps to prepare for a career as a pro StarCraft II player. This switch would not be completely unexpected, since it was reported a year ago at SK that Korean SC teams were already "courting" Moon after finding out that "he won more money in 2007 than any of the StarCraft pros" that year.

What’s a WarCraft III pro to do? Gravitas Gaming unexpectedly cut its WC3 division a little over a month ago even though top players ToD and HoT had brought the organization new growth and popularity in Europe, but also at that time the WC3L announced new tournament rules that many predicted would breathe new life into the league and the WC3 scene in general. The outlook seemed, on balance, cautiously positive. But if Moon and Grubby aren’t safe from the new hack-and-slash approach in vogue among teams boasting top WC3 players, who is? And with Grubby and other top WC3 pros now rumored to be seriously considering retirement while still arguably in their prime, the short list of international fan favorites will only dwindle further. If the disbanding of the legendary 4K WC3 team heralded the beginning of the end of pro WC3’s golden age, the news from MYM seems to sound its death knell.

There is certainly no shortage of up-and-coming players to fill the rosters of eSports teams, but it takes time for great players to become stars, especially with the kind of poster-child pull Moon and Grubby developed. What other European eSports stars get mobbed on the street outside high schools in China? MYM’s decision may have been fiscally responsible, as the WC3 team’s expenses were astronomical, but the lack of warning and the shock to the WC3 community may be far worse in the long run.

The RTS crowd has one more disappointing reason to just hunker down and wait for the arrival of StarCraft II.

Pictures in courtesy of GGL.com

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