In July, popular esports LAN series World Cyber Games (WCG) announced a new direction — moving from a ‘competition’ to a ‘festival’.
Last month, Esports Insider highlighted WCG’s comeback and structural shift following the pandemic, which included collaborations with esports platforms, including influencers, leagues and game companies.
However, how different was WCG’s latest ‘festival’? And was it a successful re-debut for the esports brand?
Held in Busan, South Korea from July 28th to July 30th, Korean esports startup Bigpicture Interactive, the owners of WCG welcomed gamers to a newly transformed event following an overhauling of its old image.
WCG 2023 BUSAN was held at the BEXCO Convention Center, South Korea’s second-largest convention centre, with the support of the city’s government. According to the organisers, the event surpassed 20,000 Korean attendees.
As part of WCG’s transition into an esports festival, attendees not only witnessed esports competitions but the venue featured ‘Sparring Zones’, a mix of Western LAN parties and Korean internet cafes, in which people could compete in.
WCG was one of the world’s first recognised multi-event esports competitions, a title it holds very dear. However, as the ecosystem evolves, it’s important to adapt. Instead of just bringing together esports fans through LAN tournament events, WCG aims to attract wider gaming audiences as well.
The organisers in particular highlighted that subculture genre game events (Gensin Impact: Genius Invokation TCG and Epic Seven), which could have easily gone unnoticed at WCG, were well received. Further bridging the gaming space, the festival interestingly featured a new releases booth for trading card games (TCG) attempting to enter the esports market as well as a flea market selling things such as classic Game Paks (ROM cartridges) and merch.
Despite WCG’s shift in presentation, the event’s esports leagues still took centre stage. The Grand Finals featured top players across traditional WCG leagues where players competed for three days to be named the victor. To put an emphasis on mobile esports — one of the industry’s rising sectors — WCG 2023 BUSAN featured tournaments in Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, Clash Royale and Hearthstone.
Whilst WCG has looked towards instilling more of a community focus in its events, competitions will always be in its lifeblood. However, transitions such as this are becoming more and more of an effective way to keep the spirit of esports, whilst also attracting general gaming fandoms.
Alongside WCG, the success of this model can also be shown throughout DreamHack’s portfolio of events as well as Evo becoming the FGC’s largest community showcase. But even at the heart of these events, there’s esports.
At WCG 2023 BUSAN Indonesian MDL team EVOS Icon won in Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, beating the Philippines’ ECHO Proud. After the competition, players from EVOS Icon greeted Korean gamers and other competing teams to commemorate the global competition being held in Korea.
Former Tribe Gaming and paiN Gaming Brazilian player LucasxGamer won nearly all of his Clash Royale matches, save for one disqualification, and took home the winner’s title. Meanwhile, Korea’s DuckDragon walked out victorious in Hearthstone.
WCG Rivals #4, the series’ esports content IP emphasising the concept of international competition, was also present at the event with Korea taking on China. The event somewhat paid tribute to esports’ roots with the two countries facing off in Starcraft 2 and Warcraft 3.
Jaeho ‘Moon’ Jang, a professional Warcraft 3 player for DRX, commented on South Korea’s victory: “I’m happy that I was able to participate in WCG and I’m twice as happy that the Korean team won. Thank you everyone for all your support.”
According to WCG’s organisers, the Sparring Zones, where attendees could compete with each other directly, garnered interest during the event. Similarly to how Western gaming and esports events have developed from LAN parties, WCG stated that it looked to encourage attendees to participate as players rather than spectators.
A Bigpicture Interactive spokesperson told Esports Insider: “The Sparring Zones, which were one of WCG’s challenges, have been successful and WCG will continue to serve as a stepping stone for fresh change.”
Whilst there was an apparent new focus on mobile esports, Bigpicture Interactive detailed to Esports Insider that it also looked to pioneer two new genres, TCG and subcultures.
During this year’s WCG, the event showcased traditional esports leagues such as the Hearthstone Grand Final, whilst also demonstrating the physical card game “CookieRun: Braverse” — created by Korean game company Devsisters — ahead of its formal launch date. According to Bigpicture Interactive, Devsisters’ choice to showcase CookieRun: Braverse at WCG 2023 BUSAN as opposed to Korean B2B gaming trade shows like G-star could be seen as a move into the global esports market.
WCG also noted that other popular, subculture events included the Genshin: Genius Invokation TCG tournament and Epic Seven guild leagues. The implementation of these leagues continues to solidify how diversification is now ever present within the esports sector, even when it comes to wide-scale events.
Whilst it may seem like an obvious move for many esports and gaming showcases, perhaps the biggest addition to WCG was its cosplay event. Taking more of a professional tone, the event featured professional and amateur cosplayers, with the goal to showcase the event’s festival vibe.
This year’s festival in Busan, South Korea, demonstrated WCG’s willingness to adapt and change with the new esports climate. A climate that puts a heavy emphasis on attendees and fan interaction as opposed to esporting excellence. Since WCG’s reboot, Bigpicture Interactive has focused on entertainment content, attempting to give new life to an old brand with over 20 years under its belt.
In a Korean media interview, Bigpicture Interactive Co. CEO Kwangjun Song emphasised: “Through repeated experimentation, WCG will continue to showcase new exhibits. We are doing our best to make gamers happy and WCG will continue to evolve as an event to excite gamers by carefully considering meaningful new ideas.”
The conclusion of WCG BUSAN, World Cyber Games’ biggest event since the global pandemic, provided a glimpse into the future of the new-look WCG. One that we may be seeing for years to come.
This piece has been written in collaboration with World Cyber Games