Old dog, new tricks: The World Cyber Games is back

World Cyber Games BUSAN 2023
Image credit: World Cyber Games

Old school esports fans will be familiar with World Cyber Games (WCG).

As one of the world’s first recognised multi-event esports competitions, World Cyber Games held regular offline events from 2000 up until 2019 with the goal of bringing together esports fans from around the world. 

However, following WCG 2020, which took place online due to the COVID pandemic, the prestigious tournament series went on a temporary break. Three years later, WCG is back with a completely different structure under South Korean start-up Bigpicture Interactive Co. 

Since World Cyber Games’ first esports event in South Korea on October 2020, the esports industry has gone through multiple adaptations. Perhaps the biggest of those shifts is that game developers’ official competitions now dominate the esports market.

As a result, WCG has taken a new direction for its comeback.

ESI Lisbon 2024

South Korean esports company Bigpicture Interactive, WCG’s new owner, was founded by CEO Kwangjun Song on May 16th, 2015 with the mission to “Make gamers’ lives happier”. 

The company’s initial services included GameCoach Academy — the first pro-gamer school — gaming channel GCL and esports tournament platform LVUP.GG. Bigpicture Interactive went on to take over KPOP performance content company MSTORM in 2019 and esports data company PLAYXP in 2021.

Moreover, it currently manages performance company and game search platform DAK.GG and in 2023 has expanded into the Internet Cafe (PC Bang) industry. It’s safe to say the company is going all in on the esports and gaming sector. 

From a competitive gaming standpoint, Bigpicture Interactive is organising live esports tournaments with game publishers such as Riot Games, Nexon, Krafton, Smilegate and Supercell, whilst also diving into content creation.

Bigpicture Interactive considers the experience it has accumulated in esports over the years as a stepping-stone, with the company currently working to attract series C funding. The company states that its value is estimated at approximately $156.8m (200bn won).

Bigpicture Interactive and WCG (World Cyber Games)
Image credit: World Cyber Games

In its own right, World Cyber Games has also witnessed the growth of the esports industry over the past 20 years. So, by joining forces with Bigpicture Interactive’s esports platform technology and know-how, WCG has expanded into an open platform where gamers and game developers from all over the world can participate. 

The ultimate goal for WCG and Bigpicture Interactive is to provide a competition capable of continuously offering new entertaining content and competitions to all gamers, online and offline. 

In 2023, for example, WCG held an open tournament lasting five months, from January to June, for all users. Interestingly, Clash Royale and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, two mobile esports titles, were chosen as the tournament’s main events. 

According to WCG, 5,604 players from 58 different nations participated in the three games, ranging from teams making their professional esports debuts to casual players. 

Nevertheless, WCG’s re-debut in 2023 hasn’t been without its challenges. 

Bigpicture Interactive’s CEO spoke in a media preview held in South Korea last July stating that reorganising WCG by connecting it to online platforms was one of its hurdles. He revealed that the company was preparing to have the technical ability to cover not only Asia but the whole world, however, this was unable to occur for the open tournament.

World Cyber Games BUSAN press event
Image credit: World Cyber Games

The amount of official esports companies, particularly within the events sector, has also slowly grown and expanded. Moreover, holding esports events for third-party brands has become increasingly more difficult. In order to tackle this issue, WCG has looked into collaborating more with game developers to help cooperate on tournament projects.

This is none more so prevalent than the company’s partnership with Riot Games for VALORANT Challengers Korea, a second-tier division within the VALORANT Champions Tour.

The partnership offered more entertainment to VALORANT esports fans, through shared hosting of the Korea VALORANT Challengers League and the WCG VALORANT Open Tournament. According to World Cyber Games, it is looking to secure more cooperation opportunities with leagues around the world.

The growing challenge of hosting major third-party tournaments also led WCG to pivot slightly. The WCG Rivals Series was a new esports content IP emphasising the concept of international competition, which is at the heart of WCG. The series, which included influencers from each region involved in gaming and esports, garnered over 40m views on numerous platforms, including TikTok, according to WCG.

World Cyber Games Rivals
Image credit: World Cyber Games

Meanwhile, WCG has previously garnered a notable reputation from gamers all over the world due to it embracing offline competitions every year since 2000. As such, WCG is back on LAN for the first time in four years under WCG 2023 BUSAN, an esports and gaming festival taking place where it all started, in South Korea. 

At Korean game festival G-star, Bigpicture Interactive revealed its hopes of developing WCG into a major festival for the coming summer. The festival, which sees WCG also return to Busan after 12 years, will take place over three days at the BEXCO convention centre from July 28th to July 30th.

In order to hold esports competitions — and new events — at WCG 2023 BUSAN, developers such as Smilegate, HoYoverse, Supercell, Nexon, Devsisters, Moonton and Riot Games will be in attendance.  The festival also features participation from pro-teams across Southeast Asia and Asia Pacific.  

Similar to most modern gaming festivals, WCG 2023 BUSAN will also have various events and activations that will take place throughout. This ranges from a virtual KPOP group showcase designed to match the spread of VR, to a sparring zone where visitors can challenge each other in classic games and fan meetings with famous South Korean game influencers.

WCG claimed the decision to provide more fan activations is because it will no longer just be an esports competition, “but become a real festival”. 

WCG’s return to the global esports sector after four years is not the series’ only ambition. Bigpicture Interactive has revealed that it has considered many plans to help esports brands understand how they can capture the hearts of today’s gamers, just like WCG did in 2000 with the older generation. 

From WCG’s permanent tournament to WCG Rivals, WCG Valorant Challengers League, and WCG 2023 BUSAN, the new World Cyber Games looks to become a platform-friendly tournament series, no matter if it’s online or offline.

There is a saying that an old dog can’t learn new tricks, well WCG is proving those doubters wrong as it looks to revitalise its prestigious brand.  

Esports Insider

This piece has been written in collaboration with World Cyber Games.