When esports fans and pundits consider the biggest and most storied tournament operators in the industry, a slightly newer WePlay! Esports isn’t necessarily the first organisation to come to mind.
With that said, the Ukrainian-based tournament organiser is growing rapidly and taking a different approach with the events it hosts; a strategy that appears to be paying off. Recently, it announced that would host an official Regional Major Ranking Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament that will compensate competitors with points to help qualify for the upcoming Major event.
In May, General Manager Oleh Humeniuk and VP of Sales and Marketing Anton Gribovskiy spoke at the ESI Digital Summit. The pair explained how the company had transformed challenges into opportunities and continued to deliver stellar tournaments despite restrictions brought about by COVID-19. In light of the discussion, we thought it would be valuable to talk with the pair further about their presentation and learn more about WePlay! Esports’ approach to events.
Esports Insider: It was impressive to hear that you organised and executed the WeSave! Dota 2 event in just seven days. In that process, did you learn any valuable lessons or more efficient ways of doing things that you will try and implement in the future?
Oleh Humeniuk: The main thing that we have learnt for ourselves is that a good idea can and should be implemented as soon as possible and with maximum quality, despite the short preparation time. Encouraging creativity in working with a team is also very important: it makes such spectacular tournaments possible.
ESI: With WePlay! Esports looking to open arenas in Europe and North America in 2020, can the esports industry expect to see the company make massive hires across the two continents, or will WePlay! Esports endeavour to relocate many of its Ukrainian staff and reduce its presence in that region?
OH: We are not going to reduce our presence in the European region, and we will maintain a balance of personnel. On the one hand, we will fuel the creativity and quality of our content using the mindset of the current staff, but new people will also be hired not only in North America but also in Europe.
ESI: It’s no secret that WePlay! Esports put a lot of effort and resources into making its unique sets and branding. Why do you think you’re one of the only leading tournament organisers to do this?
Anton Gribovskiy: There are two key points here. The first one is a certain inertia of the market. Indeed, for many, it makes no sense to change something if it has always worked. If five years ago the stream just saw two analysts studying the game in the studio, then this can still be the way now. But the world has changed.
The other point: if you decide that you need to change something, then what? Do you have the tools and resources to make it both different and better? WePlay! Esports’ answer to this question is yes! We have needed expertise to become an esports media company. WePlay! Esports’ business model is to generate a constant stream of the best-in-class content and monetise it. Our team has all the skills in storytelling, design, production, and technology to make this possible, and that’s a unique combination to duplicate.
Let’s take WePlay! Pushka League as an example, where the atmosphere of a traditional gentleman’s club reigns with modern graphics. We had to create an idea and visual communication, add technology, and carry out a high-quality project. It is not a piece of cake. That’s why WePlay! Esports is one of the very few companies on the market with such an approach.
ESI: Is it common for you to talk with developers and publishers about designing unique sets and stages to promote a product or game? Do you include design details and suggestions in event proposals?
AG: Storytelling rules this world, and this market in particular. Even in modern ultra-short formats, a correctly told story is significant. A post on social networks or a short commercial is a story. All the cool adverts you see during the Super Bowl are micro-stories with their drama, finale, and heroes.
Every tournament that we do is always based on storytelling. We strive to give the audience an exciting story to follow. The studio concept of the WePlay! Clutch Island tournament is our latest story. The theme is full of dangers of a desert island, the scorching sun, hot sand, palm trees, and the mission to survive. We look at tournaments in terms of the plot. Each of our next events will feature a new script, design, and heroes. It sets us apart from the rest of the players in the market.
Of course, we always speak with brands and publishers about stories from the very beginning. Each of our proposals is a story in itself, it always has the idea and visual design concept. That’s most likely why Valve chose WePlay! Esports as an official partner for a CS:GO tournament for the first time.
ESI: At the beginning of your ESI Digital Summit keynote, it was mentioned that WePlay! Esports wants to expand into China and Australia, as well as opening new operations in the West in the future. Could you explain some of the ambition behind moving into Australia when the region has such a small esports ecosystem in comparison to other regions?
AG: We are talking about the region as a whole: about Australia and Oceania. We’ve proven that a world-class product can be produced by WePlay! Esports. Our goal now is to build a global brand and become present on all continents, regardless of current esports opportunity. We want to influence its scale. We understand that the Australian market is smaller than the American market or the Chinese market, and we realise that there is not such a large community in this region but it’s certainly still worth it.
From a business point of view, Australia is an interesting region relatively high income and a high standard of living. If global brands are present in Australia, then Australia also has a place for WePlay! Esports.
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by WePlay! Esports