Every year, new games come out and pro leagues and tournaments shake up their rosters with these fresh titles. There have been some stalwarts for years though – Counter-Strike, Halo and StarCraft 2 spring to mind - but there are always new titles popping up across the world, and you only have to look at the likes of Dota 2, League of Legends and Call of Duty: Ghosts. These games are only a few short years or even months old, and already they’re commanding seven figure prize pots.
But even these games will have to eventually make way for even newer heavyweight titles too: join us as we take a look at some of the rising stars of the eSports world and why you should start training for them now.
Heroes Of The Storm
There’s no question MOBAs [multiplayer online battle arena games] are huge right now, and since they’ve evolved out of the mod scene for some of Blizzard’s own real-time strategy games, isn’t it time the online gaming giant got involved? Enter Heroes Of The Storm - previously known as Blizzard All-Stars – it’s Blizzard's equivalent of Super Smash Bros, bringing together many of the company’s iconic characters such as Diablo, Kerrigan and Arthas, all in a MOBA mash-up that the WarCraft-maker is actually calling a “team brawler”.
Needless to say, it looks set to be one of the hottest games to get into this year, and if the popularity of League Of Legends and Dota 2 is anything to go by, you can be sure Heroes Of The Storm will bring hordes of players to Blizzard’s Battle.net, each scampering for a shot at making the big time with their favourite hero. The game has just entered its “technical alpha” stage, which means if you were lucky enough to be invited by Blizzard, you’ll already be playing your heart out - if you weren't, don’t fret, you can sign up now to get invited into the beta, which is set to launch in the next few months, meaning you’ve got plenty of time to start training before its public release.
Hearthstone: Heroes Of Warcraft
Sure, a collectable trading card game might not sound like the most exciting eSport around, but Blizzard’s deceptively simple Hearthstone is anything but. The intricate Magic: The Gathering card game has gained a vast following online, and Blizzard is hoping to build on that audience with a digital version. Jump into the hot seat, and you’re treated to a fast-paced strategy card game on your PC or Mac, with smartphone versions on the way soon too, so you can keep on top of your next killer deck. It sounds simple from the outset, but what Blizzard has crafted is a deep one-on-one battle of wits and strategy that just happens to be played with cards. Take turns to play your hand and cast spells, equip weapons or even summon minions to battle for you – there are countless was to play, making this a strategy game right from the start.
With more than a year of testing gone into it, Blizzard’s making a serious play with its card game and the results have started to show: Major League Gaming and the ESL have both picked up the title on some of their various circuit stops, while it was even chosen as one of the top games at this year’s Intel Extreme Masters World Championship in Katowice. Start building your deck, as Hearthstone is only going to get bigger from here on out.
Xbox One gamers, your go-to shooter has landed. Forget Halo, the console-exclusive Titanfall free-running, mech stomping deathmatch is the best of every action genre rolled into one. Concocted by one of the co-creators of Call Of Duty, with many of the original Modern Warfare developers onboard, Titanfall has plenty of pedigree behind it to put it toe-to-toe against some of the top shooters currently played professionally around the world... And then some. With fast and fluid gameplay that’s on par with even the likes of Quake and Call Of Duty, huge maps to explore on foot (with parkour skills) or in a Titan and Twitch.tv broadcasting baked right in, it looks prime to go big in the eSports world. Right now, it’s not quite ready for pro-level play, but Respawn, the studio behind the game, has hinted at big things to come, so don’t be surprised to see this breaking into the Major League Gaming tour sooner rather than later – start practicing your Titan takedowns now.
MOBA titles aren’t just limited to the high-fantasy melees of Dota 2 or League Of Legends: DC Comics is proving that comic books make the perfect setting with its upcoming game Infinite Crisis. With 52 different DC universes on offer, DC’s MOBA game lets you take on the role of various heroes and villains, each with their own parallel versions, including four different takes on Batman, three versions of Green Lantern and two Supermen, meaning you’ll have plenty of characters to choose from when the game officially takes off.
As the game sticks to the traditional MOBA format, if you’re already accustomed to the likes of League Of Legends or Dota 2, you’ll be right at home - only there’s a comic book-feel to the whole game and you’ll be spoiled for choice over who you want to play as. With the game currently in open beta, there’s plenty of time to hone your skills before it officially launches, and even eSports giant MLG has picked it up for its Invitational Pro Tournament at this year’s PAX East in Boston, meaning, all-in-all, this is one MOBA you’ll want to get stuck into. Just remember, Superman is beatable.
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
Nintendo GameCube all-star brawler Super Smash Bros. Melee has been played competitively around the world for 13 years, and shows no signs of slowing down. A sequel released back in 2008 on the Wii, Super Smash Bros Brawl, failed to capture the imagination of hardcore fans in the same way, and even needed heavy modding to make it even semi-playable at tournaments - but Smash fans have still been holding on for a return to competitive form.
Melee made a surprise return to last year’s largest fighting game tournament, EVO in Las Vegas, and it’s set to make a resurgence after a lengthy absence at this year’s MLG Anaheim final, making the upcoming Wii U version the perfect title to get ready for. Nintendo’s surely learned from its past mistakes with Brawl, and it’ll be tooling up the ultimate version of Smash Bros that both competitive and casual gamers can get into, meaning you’d better dig out your GameCubes, practice with Mario, Link and co. and get ready for the upcoming Smash, as it’s going to be big.