Esports Arena: Blizzard to Launch New Pro Circuits; Danish Organization North Re-Brands

A view of the Activision Blizzard booth - Getty - H 2019
Daniel Boczarski/WireImage

Elsewhere in competitive gaming: NFL star Jay Ajayi joins Philadelphia 'FIFA' squad; Cloud9 signs South African 'CS:GO' roster for 2020 season; and Rogue acquires Giants Gaming's 'Rainbow Six: Siege' team.

Esports Arena is a curated weekly roundup of the biggest stories in the world of online competitive gaming.

The Electronic Sports League (ESL) and Dreamhack, a Swedish event production company, have partnered with Blizzard to launch two new pro circuits based on Starcraft II and Warcraft Reforged.

The ESL Pro Tour Starcraft II will offer a $1.8 million prize pool and replace the current Starcraft II World Championships, moving the Global Finals of the event from Blizzard's annual BlizzCon convention in Anaheim to Intel Extreme Masters in Katowice, Poland. ESL Pro Tour Warcraft Reforged will be the first pro tour for the new remaster, offering a prize pool of $200,000 in its first season.

“We feel extremely honored to establish a new home for RTS esports fans and be responsible for two of the most prestigious esports titles of all time,” said Sebastian Weishaar, CPO at ESL. “Tying both StarCraft II and Warcraft III into the ESL Pro Tour narrative is our contribution to these passionate communities and will provide both titles with a promising platform to continue writing esports history.”

Rankings in the Starcraft II competition will follow the WCS format, with the new season running seven events including Katowice 2020 and 2021, while Warcraft Reforged will consist of four events leading up to a championship tournament later in 2020. Weekly Open Cups will also be held for each game’s greater community. Specific competition dates have not been revealed.

Elsewhere, prominent Danish esports organization North has gone through a full re-branding, complete with a new logo, as it seeks to expand into more competitive games. The re-branding comes after the team came under new ownership in October and deleted all posts from its social media sites over the past week.

The new North will debut an Apex Legends team in the Apex Legends Global Series. “We are going to invest in more esport titles in 2020 and we’re confident that the new players and the new staff behind the teams together will strengthen the organization significantly,” said new CEO Christopher Håkonsson.

Here’s what else is happening in the world of esports.

NFL Star Jay Ajayi Signs With Philadelphia FIFA Squad

The Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer has signed former Philadelphia Eagles running back Jay Ajayi to its FIFA 20 eMLS squad, the team announced today. Ajayi will replace Cormac “doolsta” Dooley, who won all three 2019 eMLS championships for the Union last year but has since moved on to Nashville SC’s eMLS team. Ajayi will take the virtual pitch for the Union when the eMLS season begins on January 10.

Cloud9 Signs South African CS:GO Roster for 2020 Season

Esports org Cloud9 has re-entered the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive competitive ranks by signing the entire roster of ATK’s CS:GO team. The South African squad — consisting of Johnny “JT” Theodosiou, Ian “motm” Hardy, Aran “Sonic” Groesbeek, Joshua “oSee” Ohm and Ricky “floppy” Kemery — have had a strong showing in recent tournaments, including a 1st-place finish at the WESG 2019 North American Qualifier and a 7th/8th finished at the ESL Pro League Season 10 Finals. The new Cloud9 team will begin competition at the IEM Katowice Closed Qualifier starting Jan. 9. 

IEM Katowice 2020 Announces Competing Teams

IEM Katowice 2020, one of the most-anticipated Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournaments of the year, has announced the first 10 teams that will compete in the event. The list of competitors follows:

- Astralis (Major winner, automatic invite)

- Fnatic (Major winner, automatic invite)

- mousesports (Major winner, automatic invite)

- 100 Thieves (Direct invite)

- Evil Geniuses (Direct Invite)

- Ninjas in Pyjamas (Direct invite)

- Natus Vincere (Direct invite)

- Virtus Pro (Direct invite)

- Team Vitality (Direct invite)

- Team Liquid (Direct invite)

The final six slots will go to teams who compete in open qualifiers leading up to the event. IEM Katowice 2020 begins on Feb 25, culminating in the championship matches on March 1. 

Rogue Acquires Giants Gaming's Rainbow Six: Siege Team

Rogue will be returning to the Rainbow Six Siege competitive scene after completing its purchase of Spanish organization Giants Gaming’s team. Théophile "Hicks" Dupont, Valentin "risze" Liradelfo, Maurice "AceeZ" Erkelenz and Lukas "korey" Zwingmann will now play under the Rogue banner, with former NaVi player Jan "ripz" Hucke also signed as the fifth player. Rogue’s newest team’s first match in the Pro League was on Jan. 6, the same day the acquisition was announced.