Australia and Latin America Enter the Fray in WoW Arena
Over the years, we’ve come to regard North America and Europe as the powerhouse regions of competitive World of Warcraft. In fact, only one team from outside Europe or North America has ever won the World of Warcraft Arena World Championship at BlizzCon—Korea’s OMG took home the trophy in 2011.
It seems that the rest of the world has grown restless in the shadow of these colossal regions: this year marked the most regionally diverse lineup of teams that came to BlizzCon Opening Week to challenge EU and NA for the title. Among the contenders are Unitas Black and Blank Esports of Australia—the first teams from Latin America and Australia, respectively, ever to set foot on the World of Warcraft Arena World Championship stage at BlizzCon.
We sat down with the players—and de facto cultural representatives—of Unitas Black and Blank Esports to learn about the esports scenes in their countries, the challenges they face playing in smaller regions, and their thoughts on BlizzCon so far.
Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Oi, Oi, Oi!
Kane ‘Yunex’ Dennis, Nathan ‘Primez’ Saccuzzo, Joel ‘Streaming’ Barker, and Jonny ‘Rook’ Brett—the smiling, starry-eyed Aussies of Blank Esports—have never been to a BlizzCon before. These blokes have been fighting hard all season, and they secured a spot at BlizzCon by winning this year’s World of Warcraft Arena APAC World Championship.
Playing competitively in Australia isn’t easy, which makes Blank’s arrival at BlizzCon a huge achievement in and of itself.
What’s the general perception around esports in Australia?
Streaming: It’s still pretty stigmatized. The older generations are just unaware of what’s happening, but once they understand I think they’ll support it. When people talk to us about it, they think it’s pretty cool that we get to travel to Taiwan and the States to play video games.
What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered as Australian players?
Yunex: There’s a much smaller player base in Australia, so we usually play on North American servers to face more teams. It’s hard to practice against a lot of teams because of our time zone, and [sometimes] the queue times are super long.
Doesn’t dealing with those issues make things a lot harder?
Streaming: Definitely. One of the biggest things is Kicking. If you don’t land your Kicks in a match, it’s your mistake. And when you’re dealing with 200 ping, you’re doubling the delay on your Kick.
Are you nervous about playing in front of such a big crowd?
Primez: The biggest audience we’ve ever had was maybe 100 people. I actually think we’ll have an advantage playing on stage here because there aren’t any expectations being put on us by the crowd, so we don’t feel the pressure that a top-seeded team might. It only takes one mistake for them to fall over.
Any words for your fellow Aussies before you take the stage?
Streaming: Hopefully we can get a win to make Australia proud and help get rid of the stigma against esports back home!
¡Viva Unitas Black!
Half a world away, Unitas Black have been honing their skills and working toward this moment for years. Bernado ‘Rynd’ has been to BlizzCon once, in 2014, but this is the first time for teammates Henrique ‘Shapis’ Pedro, Jaime ‘Aiden’ Rodriguez, and Sebastian ‘Hozitojones’ Toriello. “It’s way bigger than I expected,” Shapis says.
Unitas Black is a truly representative Latin American team, with members hailing from Brazil, Guatemala, and Mexico—and, after winning an elimination match during Opening Week, they’re ready to show the world what the region is made of.
What’s the general perception of esports in your region?
Rynd: In Brazil, esports is a newer thing, but people are starting to understand what it is. Three years ago, people thought it was sketchy to be playing video games so seriously. Now there’s an understanding since the esports scene is growing, and that’s good for us.
You mentioned the esports scene in your region is growing. Is the WoW scene growing by association?
Rynd: It’s been hard to create an esports scene around World of Warcraft, but the WoW Copa America tournament in our region has done a really good job of getting more people involved.
Why do you think the WoW Arena World Championships are dominated by NA and EU teams?
Shapis: The PvP scene is so much bigger in those regions, which makes it easier to find really good players. They also understand the current meta a lot faster, so they’re usually a step ahead of other regions.
What does being the first Latin American WoW team to compete here at BlizzCon mean to you?
Rynd: It’s an honor. We’ve received a lot of messages from our friends, families, and fans. We just want to perform well and make everyone proud—and prove that Latin America is . . . not that bad!
Well you’ve certainly proved that already! What’s the most exciting aspect of playing at BlizzCon?
Shapis: Playing on stage is such a small part of the experience. You meet so many great people here—people that I’ve known online for ten years have come up and hugged me for the first time in real life.
What would you say to an aspiring player from Latin America?
Rynd: To the players in our region: if you have the chance to get serious and compete in esports, take it. You get to learn so much, travel, and meet so many cool people.
Despite the competitive challenges and cultural perceptions of esports in their home countries, Blank Esports and Unitas Black have overcome all odds to earn their place at the World of Warcraft Arena World Championship. Their euphoric attitudes and overwhelming appreciation are refreshing—and contagious. No matter what happens on stage this weekend, their epic BlizzCon expedition is sure to inspire countless players and fans—in Latin America, Australia, and all over the world.