The servers are live and Blizzard's $120,000 arena tournament has begun. This is your chance to prove that your team is the best in the world, or at least among eligible participants. The first two qualifying rounds are divided into Asian, European and North American Regions.* You have to place among the top four teams in one of these rounds to qualify for the big bucks. Before you sign up, be sure to check out the official tournament rules.
Players must have their accounts upgraded to tournament status in order to view the tournament realms. Entrance into each of the qualifying rounds will run individual participants $20 USD. Qualifiers run from March 31-May 20, 2008 to June 3-July 15, 2008. Players may use user interface modifications in the qualifying rounds, but will be limited to the default UI and custom macros in the live stages of the tournament.
The competition will most certainly be fierce, so come prepared. The rules for the tournament are the same as those in existence for the regular realms. Prizes will be awarded based on team rather than individual rating. Players have unlimited access to items and gold, so Blizzard has minimized the incentive to dodge queues, trade wins or sell team slots "legally." Blizzard has a hard line on the exchange of currency for gold in the game, I trust they will hold this line for the purchase of points in the arena tournament. They have taken action in the past over underhanded dealings in cash-based tournaments.
There can be only one grand prize winning team, but if you enjoy PvP, it may still be worthwhile to enter the tournament. Playing in the tournament will give you a chance to hone your arena skills, which will benefit your game play on the regular realms. Since all characters on the tournament realm are level 70 with access to a wide array of epic loot, you may surprise yourself with how well you play with a gear upgrade.
You'll also have the chance to experience other classes. Take it from my experience, it's not terribly fun to level a Priest to 70 and then decide that you don't like playing Priest. You have up to three character slots and the ability to delete existing characters for new ones, you can give playing the opposite faction a shot.
The arena tournament may have an impact on arena play on the regular realms. With the best players vying for cash and prizes, I expect to see a slight normalization of arena scores. While players will surely continue to work toward their epics on their normal servers, I suspect those who are serious about being contenders for the arena tournament to spend more time on the tournament server. Season four will definitely be released at some point during the contest, which could make things interesting on all realms.
Supporting resources for the arena tournament on the World of Warcraft official site are still under development. Bornakk christened the arena tournament forums today. If you don't have a team, you may be able to meet up with someone there who can help you battle your way to prizes and glory. Statistics and rankings will be posted on a special section of the armory as information becomes available.
Unfortunately the Tournament realm has had several issues in its early days. Despite stress testing on the tournament test realm, the live server continues to be plagued with lag, long queue times, and numerous errors. Some players are understandably angry that the servers are in such poor shape. Blizzard representatives have reported that they are diligently working to resolve these issues. They have requested that problems be posted to the arena tournament forums.
So far it looks like the good outweighs the bad. Here at WoW Insider we're holding our own off-line gladiatorial event to determine who will represent our blog in the tournament. We will keep you posted on our team and our progress. Everyone enjoyed meeting, greeting, and beating during the tournament test realm stress test.
Good luck and good hunting.
* Residents of