For a person that’s spectating an esports event for the first time, it can be overwhelming, confusing, and, perhaps, boring. Everybody who understands is cheering at things that look insignificant to you, but what’s transpiring is actually imperative or impressive to those in the know.
It’s not an easy task for a tournament organiser that aims to produce an entertaining experience for spectators of all levels of knowledge and understanding. It’s not like it hasn’t tried it before, however – some companies have dabbled with trying to spice things up in a variety of ways. This includes WePlay! Esports with its Forge of Masters series.
WePlay! Esports is a self-dubbed ‘esportainment’ company that strives to combine best practices for both esports and entertainment. It creates esports and gaming content for its own WePlay! Esports cross-media platform and on its Twitch channel within the live streams from an in-house studio.
By harnessing what the public is most passionate about – esports and entertainment – it has embraced the opportunities and challenges in esports that empower businesses by evolving with the valuable global audience in the modern media environment.
The WePlay! Forge of Masters competition is a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive league geared towards teams from the CIS region, aiming to give a boost to grassroots rosters by allowing them to play against more established organisations. It all sounds pretty straightforward, but the viewing experience for a Forge of Masters event is like nothing you have ever seen before. Incredible sets, crazy outfits, yoga sessions before the action, and a commentary team dressed like 19th-century explorers – what more could you ask for?
This mix of esports and entertainment has been labelled, by WePlay! Esports itself, as ‘esportainment’. Mixing entertainment into an esports product is an ingenious way, not only keeping traditional fans happy but making the viewing experience a lot easier for first-time viewers. It is something that many sports have done in the past. Take Cricket, for example: a sport typically seen as being watched by stuffy old men. However, the Indian Premier League added more entertainment factors and it became a billion dollar league. Even to a lesser extent, we all remember when the World Wrestling Federation became the WWE with the ‘E’ obviously standing for… you guessed it, entertainment.
“What if we turn a boring broadcast of semi-pro events into a show as spectacular as pro-level competitions?” pondered Maksim Belonogov, General Producer at WePlay! Esports.
“It’s all about bringing the best practices of traditional sport into esports. Every game in any sports league is turned into a show: opening ceremonies, celebrities, additional content showcasing how players train, what they eat, how they take part in photoshoots or fan meetings. We will get viewers more involved in the League by creating stories around the participating teams and the event itself. We’ll bring the show and meaning to the game the players got used to.”
It isn’t just the fans that get something out of this new esports experience, both endemic and non-endemic brands have seen great success. Promoting a product isn’t always easy. Sure, you can get players to use something but does that really convince someone in the crowd or watching at home that they want to go out and spend their money on it? However, through esportainment’s fun factor, brands can have their product marketed in some much more inventive ways. This was something WePlay! Esports found out when they added DXracer as a brand.
“I truly appreciate new and bold ideas rising up in esports,” said Alex Smagin, Marketing Manager CIS at DXRacer.
“This prompts competition and raises the bar for everyone — as a result, regular fans reap the benefits. As far as I know, the audience loved the tournament, which means the sponsors of Forge of Masters WePlay! League succeeded in building a positive image as well.
“Forge of Masters. WePlay! League gave the audience a spectacular show, and this was really incredible. Most visitors saw these teams fighting each other before on other events. Without the well-designed and thematic ambience, it would be just another typical tournament. WePlay! Esports made it in their own way, by creating a unique atmosphere of a championship, and I’m sure this is a show to remember”.
While esportainment may be a better experience for the viewers and brands, how does it actually work for a team? How do coaches get their players to look past all of what is happening on stage and focus on picking up that all-needed victory? We know players can feel extreme pressure what performing in front of crowds. Some organisations have added psychologists and team doctors to ensure performance is as optimal as possible. In the Overwatch League, we saw Dallas Fuel making mistakes during their Homestand Weekend thanks to a raucous crowd. While WePlay! Esports’ Forge of Masters events are all about that entertainment factor, what do the talent really think about performing in that environment?
Alexander Lemeshev, CS:GO Team Manager for Vega Squadron, believes being involved in something unusual and more entertaining is a great thing: “In my opinion, it is nice to have some sort of an entertaining broadcast. WePlay! Esports stream looks fresh; I totally enjoyed watching it during our online matches.
“Talking about LAN events, it was a pleasure to be a part of it. The staff was incredibly nice to everyone, and any problem was solved instantly. We felt totally comfortable, and we’re looking forward to qualifying to the next event so we can experience that once again.
“CS:GO is currently oversaturated with the events as there are lots of games going at the same time. The audience has to choose, therefore having something unusual and more entertainment style catches the community’s eyes.”
The goal for the Forge of Masters and WePlay! Esports’ esportainment is to break the U.S. market and, well, it makes perfect sense. If there is one thing the American viewing audience love, it is entertainment. From dancers, singers, kiss-cams — anything that makes their experience more entertaining is seemingly welcome.
WePlay! USA aims to break the United States market and introduce everyone to the wonders of esportainment. If there is one thing the American viewing audience love, it is entertainment. From dancers, singers, kiss-cams — anything that improves their experience and makes things more entertaining. With esports now becoming a billion industry and global viewership growing to 194m according to a report by Goldman Sachs, all eyes are on the landscape. For non-endemic first-time viewers, they may be overwhelmed by tier-1 esports, or they may simply be bored by the very straight style that many organisers use. One thing is for sure though, tuning in to a WePlay! event is something that will certainly captivate the audience.
“The non-endemic audience could easily relate to the theme as it is not about video games, comics or modern technology,” said Yana Medvedeva, Esports Journalist at Championat.com.
“Those who were not familiar with the game had a chance to enjoy all kinds of contests or talks by the fire at the end of a day.
“As far as the players are concerned, format means everything — not the entertainment part. This league let the young teams serious practice and gave an opportunity to meet high-skilled opponents officially. Experienced teams could test the refreshed lineups and gain expertise for future tournaments.”
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