As a company that takes pride in doing things differently in the esports industry, WePlay Holding has long been an established media holding company and esports event organiser.
Its esports division, WePlay Esports, has recently been converting this approach into fruition, setting viewership records with some of the biggest esports events it has worked on in 2021 — CS:GO’s PGL Major Stockholm 2021 and Dota 2’s WePlay AniMajor.
Whilst both events were a success, WePlay hosted the latter and became the official Russian-language broadcaster of the former.
Esports Insider sat down with Oleh Humeniuk, WePlay Holding CEO, to talk about the company’s biggest endeavours in 2021, the key insights the company has gained throughout the year, as well as its plans going forward in 2022.
Setting viewership records
According to Humeniuk, 2021 was a busy year for WePlay Esports: “We organised five events and covered seven tournaments as broadcasters and our results suggest that we did a great job.”
The two biggest and most important events for the company were its two major tournaments in CS:GO and Dota 2. Based on data provided by Esports Charts, the media company has achieved remarkable results in both disciplines.
Its broadcast of the PGL Major Stockholm 2021 set a record among Russian-language CS:GO broadcasts, peaking at 865,000 concurrent viewers.
Humeniuk commented: “We are really crazy about CS:GO and tried to show this love to our viewers. Our in-house broadcast talents Oleksii ‘yXo’ Maletskyi, Yuriy ‘Strike’ Tereshchenko and Aleksandr ‘Enkanis’ Polishchuk had been hungry for a CS:GO major for years and they gave it everything they had.”
According to Humeniuk, several other factors also contributed to the event’s success. Not only had the audience been waiting for the event for a long time, but there was also the ‘NAVI effect’ one should never disregard. Indeed, Natus Vincere triggered a real hype wave with the team’s astonishing performance at the event.
Furthermore, the WePlay AniMajor — supposedly the first-ever anime-themed Dota 2 competition — was especially successful, garnering over 37m hours watched and set a new all-time record for Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) majors.
“Our events always have some kind of engaging theme, a special twist. WePlay AniMajor was no exception,” said Humeniuk, explaining the impetus behind hosting the anime-themed esports event.
“We have been considering holding an anime-themed tournament for quite some time and offered the theme as one of the options to Valve for a DPC major. Moreover, announcing the TV series DOTA: Dragon’s Blood, Netflix whipped up interest in both anime and Dota 2. So, when we were granted the right to host the Major, we already had it clear what show we wanted to put on.”
Consequently, the event became the highest priority for the whole WePlay team. “For over a month, all the thoughts of the WePlay Holding employees only revolved around how to make WePlay AniMajor an event of the highest caliber,” he said.
“The strict deadlines were probably the biggest challenge. We had to prepare the event in about 40 days. It took roughly 4,500 work hours only to create and decorate the set. All our teams and partners gave it their all to put up a one-of-a-kind show.
“For example, we decided to make our adaptation of the Valley of the End [a symbolic location in anime series Naruto], which required around 600 m3 of foam plastic. In the end, we spent a whole month constructing the two 10m tall statues.”
Besides hosting events in grassroots esports, WePlay expanded its portfolio in 2021, working on a range of new titles including VALORANT, multiple fighting games and Rocket League.
“I’d like to especially highlight Rocket League, as it is the discipline we definitely want to contribute to in the future. Our debut WePlay Rocket League Invitational became the most successful event among non-RLCS competitions in terms of hours watched.”
The competition reached a peak of over 78,000 concurrent viewers and accumulated over 631,000 hours watched in the EMEA region, according to Esports Charts.
Humeniuk continued: “Rocket League is a unicorn among esports titles as it’s suitable for all ages, it’s free, has intuitive gameplay and many other unique advantages.
“This title has a great future and we strive to contribute to its popularity by cooperating with Psyonix further. I hope the WePlay Esports Invitational featuring Rocket League is just the beginning of our robust partnership.”
WePlay Academy League
In addition to top-tier esports events, WePlay also introduced the WePlay Academy League, a series of tournaments for youth CS:GO rosters. According to Humeniuk, the league has quickly become a fundamental part of the Tier 2 CS:GO scene.
Eight teams joined the company’s efforts to create a nurturing environment for newcomers, including Astralis Talent, Fnatic Rising, FURIA Academy, mouz NXT, NAVI Junior, BIG, OMEN Academy, Young Ninjas and VP.Prodigy.
“Esports has never had a formal and structured Tier 2 scene yet, which doesn’t make the future of esports easy and straightforward. Only well-known players and teams participate in worldwide tournaments and get sponsorship contracts, while young prodigies have a slim chance to get on the stage,” he argued.
“The WePlay Academy League is a prototype of the Tier 2 scene that all esports organisations currently need. In the future, CS:GO organisations will hopefully, thanks to our Academy League, have a wide player pool from which to recruit fresh blood for their main rosters.”
2022 sneak peek
The WePlay Academy League has concluded two seasons in 2021, but the company has committed to producing at least four more.
“We would like to expand the WePlay Academy League, invite more teams, and probably extend it to several regions. Our skilled and experienced team is preparing many new announcements, which we can’t wait to share,” stated Humeniuk.
Moving forward into the next year, WePlay intends to expand its portfolio further, as well as continue to focus on organising themed events. “We are always on the lookout for new titles. In 2022, we aim to expand the range of titles we organize tournaments in,” he said.
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“When it comes to hosting tournaments with different themes, such as cyberpunk, high-tech garage or anime, it’s something of a tradition to us and we are going to carry on with it. Perhaps tomorrow we will get inspired by some holiday or historical event.”
Last, but not least, WePlay started using its Esports Arena in Kyiv for various events, including non-esports competitions, and is planning to continue to do so in the following year. Moreover, its esports arena in Los Angeles is supposedly almost ready to host its first tournament. “We’re going to use it at full blast in 2022,” Humeniuk warned.
Supported by: WePlay Holding