Esports Notebook: Canadian Starcraft pro makes history in Pyeongchang

Canadian Starcraft II pro player Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn (Blizzard)

The 2018 Olympics have only just gotten underway, but Canada already has a champion in Pyeongchang.

Kingston, Ont., native Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn took that top podium spot and made history Wednesday, becoming the first woman to win a premier Starcraft II tournament after she defeated South Korea’s Kim “sOs” Yoo-jin 4-1 in a best-of-seven maps grand final at the Intel Extreme Masters Pyeongchang (IEM Pyeongchang).

IEM Pyeongchang was a pre-Olympic esports tournament that provided a glimpse of what Olympic esports could look like in the future. Granted, South Korea has a particularly close relationship with esports, having embraced the new form of competition from its earliest days. This could, then, just be a one-off Olympic tie-in, but that shouldn’t take away from its potential significance for the esports space.

Hostyn’s accomplishments shouldn’t be overlooked, either.

Not only did she become the first woman to win a premier event (the most prestigious tournaments in the community with the highest payouts), she became just the second Canadian to do so in the game’s near-eight year tournament lifespan — Chris “HuK” Loranger won three premier events during his tournament career.

Hostyn is also one of just 26 “foreigners” to win a Starcraft II premier — “foreigner” meaning non-Korean since the game enjoys outrageous popularity in South Korea and many of it’s strongest players have been Korean.

For winning, the 24-year-old pocketed a cool US$50,000 and she’s now off to compete in South Korea’s 2018 Global Starcraft II League (GSL) Season 1 round of 16 as the lone foreigner remaining in a field that featured just three — fellow Canuck Jake “NoRegreT” Umpleby and Sweden’s Rickard “SortOf” Bergman were the others.

The prize money adds to Hostyn’s record mark as the highest-earning female esports player in history.

Hostyn began playing Starcraft II at a tournament level in 2011.

Some news and notes around esports heading into the weekend:

Another first — the OWL stage final

Sticking with Blizzard, the Overwatch League’s first-ever stage final goes Saturday with US$125,000 worth of bonuses on the line.

As much as the OWL is trying to emulate traditional sports leagues, its stage format sets it firmly apart. The season is broken into four five-week stages with the top three teams from each stage moving on to a playoff round at the end — the stage finals — to compete for a little extra cash. The winning team will receive $100,000, while the runner-up walks away with $25,000.

Barring a real disaster, the London Spitfire and New York Excelsior look to have the top two spots in Stage 1 locked down. The battle for the third is a real dog fight, however, with the Los Angeles Valiant, Seoul Dynasty, Houston Outlaws, Boston Uprising and Philadelphia Fusion all in the mix.

You can watch the first Overwatch League stage final Saturday at 7:00 p.m. ET.

What’s missing from Evo?

Evo, the world’s largest and most prestigious fighting game tournament, announced its official game lineup on Tuesday.

The games are Tekken 7, Super Smash Bros. 4, Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition, BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle, Guilty Gear Xrd: Rev2, Injustice 2, Super Smash Bros. Melee and Dragonball FighterZ.

The story here is in the titles that were omitted. The fighting game genre has no shortage of options and, generally, the games featured at major tournaments — particularly Evo — are the ones that get played for the year.

The inclusion of BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle is bizarre considering it hasn’t even been released yet, but what’s really got the FGC buzzing is the omission of Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite — a game that just came out in September and is part of a very popular, longstanding series.

Evo tournament organizer Joey “Mr. Wizard” Cuellar offered an explanation of its absence during Tuesday’s lineup reveal show.

“We know [Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite] was on a slippery slope and it had a lot of competition going forward, and it just kind of fizzled. It’s not to talk smack on Marvel or anything, it’s always been a great game for Evo [and] it’s had a stoic 15 years at Evo. It was the main game for eight straight years, it was crazy.

“But I don’t think people are playing it, and that’s the problem. We’ve always had to support games that people actually play.”

There you have it, Mr. Wizard has spoken. But does his take actually reflect the opinion of the community as a whole?

We’ll find out at Evo. The tournament always attracts sideline competitions for games attendees love. Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite fans could still come out in force.

Evo 2018 will be held at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas from Aug. 3-5.

Prize money, salary details revealed for NBA 2K League

The NBA 2K League has revealed it will have US$1 million in prize money up for grabs and offered a first glimpse at what player salaries will look like.

Full details of the announcement can be found here.

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