This afternoon Blizzard announced their second official Arena Ladder Tournament. The 2008 iteration differs quite a bit from last year's, though; not only is the format changed from 5-vs.-5 to 3-vs.-3 -- a format which has been vastly more popular among the competitive gaming leagues -- but the entire system itself has seen an overhaul.
No more will you have to deal with the "normalcy" of the arena system if you want to play competitively. Blizzard has opened their arms and embraced Arenas as an eSport this year, by creating a special private server cluster, where players can sign up for the tournament and instantly gain access to a level 70 character. That character will also come kitted out in top of the line Player-vs.-Player equipment, meaning your farming days are over. It's time for teams to win based on skill, and that alone.
"eSports is one of the most exciting facets of online gaming today," said Mike Morhaime, CEO and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment. "We're pleased to expand World of Warcraft's tournament options for players who want to focus mainly on the competitive aspect of the game."
This new ladder system will be kicking off in April, with two rounds of qualifier tournaments in the following areas: Europe, South Korea, North America, and the regions of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau. Each qualifier round will come with an entry fee, so expect there to be issues similar to what was seen with the tournament last year, where certain players could not participate due to their region's rules against gambling or paying to compete for a "luck of the draw" type of contest.
If you want to participate, expect to pay more than a month's worth of subscription per-qualifier, but also keep in mind that if you feel you're good enough, this is very worth your while. The regional finals alone have a prize pool of over $27,000 USD, and the winners of each regional will be able to compete in the global championship, for a chance at a $75,000 USD first-place prize. Yes, that's $75,000 in cold, hard cash -- split three ways.
Blizzard has created an Arena Tournament FAQ for would-be competitors to peruse, and if you want to read everything about this announcement, you can do so at the press release. I guess it's time to brush up on 3-vs.-3 Arena play, eh?