Blizzard and Twitch have partnered to create a new program called HGC Cheer that will let Heroes of the Storm fans receive in-game, team-themed items for cheering for their favorite teams.
HGC Cheer will allow fans to purchase Bits, a Twitch currency meant to support streamers, and use those in support of teams playing in the Heroes of the Storm Global Championship. Individual players cheering with Bits will unlock team-specific cosmetics for HotS once they contribute 100 Bits to a given team. Additionally, fans will receive general HotS cosmetic items for cheering for any team at all, and all fans who cheer will be given special items after hitting certain community milestones.
"We’ve always wanted to do program like this since we started HGC and since we were developing technology with Twitch Prime to be able to distribute items in-game, it actually opened up a lot of opportunities for us to partner up with this program," HotS' esports franchise lead Sam Braithwaite told theScore esports. "I think it fits both of our objectives of what we’re trying to achieve and the goals that we have for each of our programs."
According to Braithwaite, the HotS team has created more than 100 items for HGC Cheer, which won't be available through other means. Those include emotes that reference HotS memes, including a Third Guy emote, which will be part of a "caster meme pack" available to players who spend Bits cheering for multiple teams, on top of banners, mounts and sprays.
Braithwaite also says that Blizzard doesn't anticipate HGC Cheer to drive competitive HotS viewership. In fact, that was never the goal behind the initiative, it was more about engaging with the existing audience.
"What we’re trying to do is engage the people that are watching it, and engage the people who know about the esport, that care about the teams, that care about the brands and to really give opportunities for fans to support their favorite teams," he said. "On top of that, the main purpose of the goal is to create an ecosystem where organizations are incentivized to invest into the HGC because there's direct revenue opportunities for them.
"And so, we're hoping with this program, as well as all the other changes that we've made this year, and the trajectory of our viewership, that we won't have any unsponsored teams next year. That's the ultimate goal."
According to Braithwaite Teams will receive 50 percent of all revenue generated by Bits purchased for HGC Cheer. He also said this was the sort of project their team would not have been able to launch last year. HotS lacked the consistency and stability needed to make HGC Cheer work.
Some might question why Blizzard isn't trying this with the upcoming Overwatch League, but Braithwaite said not only are the esports divisions for the two games separate within Blizzard, they're also not sure exactly how this particular initiative will work out.
"I think this is something that has never really been done before," he said. "We are creating over 100 items that are going to be sold or distributed on a platform that is not our game, which is something that is new and unique for us, so we're really trying to get a gauge to see how this goes.
"I think if it's successful, there's no reason why we wouldn't think or consider about it for other games, but I think that's something that we have to see how it goes."
HGC Cheer will start on August 1, ahead of the HGC Western and Eastern Clash.
Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. He'd like to dedicate this article to Josh Bury. You've been allowed to bang, my friend, somewhere out in the great wide yonder. You can follow him on Twitter.
Dennis "Tarmanydyn" Gonzales is a news editor for theScore esports who enjoys whiskey, D&D and first-picking
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