“Trill desperation stun[s], BUT THAT’S NOT ENOUGH! You cannot stop The Gosu Crew!” roars Sid “Supatease” Compston, a regular commentator for the World of Warcraft Arena World Championship, as the stream’s Twitch chat is enveloped in a single emote: a simple box of thin, white text reading THE MOVE.
Technically, the 3v3 arena team comprising Jason “Pikaboo” Smith, Carlos “Absterge” Correa, “WizK,” and Vincent “Jellybeans” Tran is named The Gosu Crew, but they are called The Move, a self-assigned name from months before when they were without a sponsor or much reason to compete outside of their complicated love for a game they have all played since childhood.
And The Move has just dominated their fellow North Americans on Method Orange with a resounding 4-0 in the Grand Finals, having already knocked them into the lower bracket with a swift 3-0 earlier that day. The Gosu Crew's capabilities had been no secret in the months prior, but in the second Fall Cup, they seemed to crescendo.
This team, Pikaboo tells me, is formed of “the players who had no one else.” His previous team had been dropped by their organization, Tempo Storm, before The Move formed and the roster fell apart in the aftermath. “We split up because we all had different ideas of what we wanted to do and what was our best chance of winning,” he explained.
Absterge and WizK, meanwhile, had floundered after their stint with Method Awakened ended prematurely, and although Jellybeans had been apart of a dark horse North American team that fought its way to the Grand Finals of BlizzCon 2017, it, too, had crumbled in the build-up to Battle for Azeroth.
“I believe I [now] have the absolute best roster I could ever have in the entire game and I could not be more proud of what me and my team have already accomplished thus far,” said Pikaboo back in September. When The Gosu Crew claim first place and secure their tickets to BlizzCon 2018 nearly a month later, Twitter is immediately set alight with their post-win exuberance.
“INSANELY PROUD OF MY TEAM HOLY SH*T. GGs to everyone in the tournament. WIZK AND PIKA PLAYED LIKE LEGENDS,” writes Absterge. “My teammates are absolutely insane LET'S GOOOOOO!!!!” says Jellybeans, who did not compete, and in his tweet, WizK just adds 29 letter Es to the end of The Move.
"The Move has created its own community and culture based not only on the
individuals it is comprised of, but on the roster as a whole,"
From there, each of the players promptly turns on their own streams as the main World of Warcraft broadcast wraps up. To their growing collective audience of thousands, they each give excited play-by-play commentary of the match that just went down, punctuating each sentence with something like “that game was in-sane” or “my teammates are gods.”
“It’s all in the moment,” says WizK to his chat. “It’s not even possible for us to have an actual game plan against [a double Demon Hunter] comp because it’s so impossible for us to kill anything. And then if they make a little mistake, we have to capitalize on it instantly, and we managed to do that every game somehow.”
World of Warcraft arena’s competitive infrastructure all but collapsed in late 2010 when MLG pulled the esport from its docket, and although a handful of passionate community-members-turned-Blizzard-employees have worked tirelessly to rebuild in recent years, the space has yet to return to its former glory. The majority of arena tournaments are still online-only; long-term team sponsors are a rarity outside of Method; and, PvP persistently lacks the marketing efforts and substantial prize pools of Blizzard’s other esports titles.
Streaming, then, is an essential component of the following The Move has garnered. It is the only way for arena fans to consistently see content from and engage with teams -- sponsors are not common, much less producing media to promote their players, and most tournaments offer only gameplay.
The Move’s members all streamed sporadically prior to Battle for Azeroth, but new expansions make for new opportunities. They make for poorly balanced, volatile gameplay, too, but like the Nile’s flooding brings prosperity each year, World of Warcraft’s bi-annual releases bring a deluge of new and returning viewership.
"...there is basis for the epic rivalry the casters and the audience insist exists
between North America’s definitively strongest teams,"
Pikaboo’s stream in particular has had explosive growth in 2018, but the entire roster has seen more viewers, subs, and donations in Battle for Azeroth than in recent years, and their streaming under “The Move” banner is partially to credit. All offer their own “The Move” emotes; peddle the same “The Move” merchandise sold through Teespring; and, more often than not, are playing together on stream and promoting their teammates’ Twitch channels as they do it.
Their loud, high energy approach to the game and easy, deprecating rapport with one another makes the roster both entertaining and approachable. This season's autumn arena cups have typically pulled between 20k and 30k viewers, but when The Move went head-to-head with Method Orange last week, viewership climbed steeply towards 50,000.
Method Orange, of course, has a comparable following and competes for the title of Most Popular Team in the WoW community, but this team differs in that much of their relevance rests on Chuck “Cdew” Dewland’s shoulders. As one of the most popular, established World of Warcraft streamers and arena players ever, his competition team will always be heavily supported. Elevating his teammates to his tier is another matter.
In short, The Move has created its own community and culture based not only on the individuals it is comprised of, but on the roster as a whole, and that dynamic keeps viewers engaged with the players and the esport. Other veteran pros may have personal followings, sure, but what Pikaboo, Absterge, WizK, and Jellybeans have built is a brand and a movement -- albeit somewhat accidentally.
The Move is not the first to do this in WoW arena, however. Theirs is reminiscent of “3 Amigos,” an unsponsored team from 2014 comprised of Elliott “Venruki” Venczel, Kelvin “Snutz” Nguyen, and the aforementioned Cdew. Likewise, these players were -- and, to an extent, still are -- some of the scene’s most popular faces, and although 3 Amigos started as a joke, it, too, rapidly developed into a brand and community crusade.
When they fell short of a BlizzCon championship, coming in at 3rd overall, much of the World of Warcraft community mourned for weeks. Four years later, should The Move be eliminated in similar fashion, we can expect a similar reaction.
And if they were to face Method Orange on World of Warcraft’s biggest stage? Well, the community may very well implode -- after all, there is basis for the epic rivalry the casters and the audience insist exists between North America’s definitively strongest teams.
"Back to back to back years, it’s always Cdew’s team that’s just the
hardest NA team to fight at all times,"
Absterge and Cdew have long vied for the title of best Resto Shaman, for example, but more concretely, the former snatched the latter’s teammate, Smexxin, right out from under him last year. This year, The Gosu Crew and Method Orange competed for #1 and #2 in every NA cup, and they are easily the esport’s two most popular teams, creating inherent competition.
But none of that really matters.
In World of Warcraft, rivalries are typically hyperbolic and fleeting in nature; the community is simply too tight-knit and its players too veteran for flames to burn for long. Every player has slighted every other player at one point or another, and while some may sting more than others, most are forgotten come early November.
Moments after the finals of the second Fall Cup, Cdew releases a storm of tweets decrying his opponent’s composition and half-heartedly acknowledging their skill. Within an hour, he has rightfully recanted his words and apologized.
“Losing sucks. It really does,” says WizK as way of commiserating with his opponent. Pikaboo goes a step further, telling his sizeable stream audience that the hardest games he has ever played out of all of his years of competitive gaming are against Cdew.
“I don’t know what it is. This guy is handling having a child, a wife, streaming WoW all the time -- he’s like a full grown adult and he’s still a god at WoW on top of all of it? I can’t believe it. I actually cannot believe it,” he says. “Back to back to back years, it’s always Cdew’s team that’s just the hardest NA team to fight at all times, man.”
In the third and final Fall Cup, both Method Orange and The Gosu Crew advance immediately to the Upper Bracket finals with swift 3-0s over their opponents. Both make it look easy, as if they are not shredding apart players with as impressive competitive histories of their own.
And both, of course, will be going to BlizzCon 2018 where they will have another opportunity to prove North America's worth against 4-time back-to-back European champions. Tomorrow, The Gosu Crew and Method Orange will face off again, maybe even meeting in the finals for a repeat of the previous cup, but really, rivalry or no rivalry, the regional leg of this competition is over.
All eyes are on BlizzCon -- and determining whether or not the hype that has been building around these teams for the better part of a year was all for naught.