What is unique about the WePlay Academy League and what can it contribute to the development of esports?
Just yesterday, young esports athletes were playing for the junior rosters in the WePlay Academy League. Today, they are being signed by major esports organizations. This article explores how the league has become a stepping stone to professional esports.
What is the WePlay Academy League?
The WePlay Academy League is a series of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournaments. In 2021, it was founded by WePlay Holding along with several esports organizations. Its goal is to uncover new talents and nurture esports pros who could later get into the main rosters.
The competitions feature youth teams of well-known professional esports organizations. According to the tournament regulations, a team must have four players aged 16 to 21, with one player over 21 years old allowed.
In 2021, two seasons of the WePlay Academy League were held. The WePlay Academy League Season 3 is underway: it began on January 3 and will run until February 13. Three more league seasons are projected to take place before the end of 2022. The prize pool is $100,000.
During matches, spectators can monitor team members’ heart rates in real time. It was reported that its normal value ranges from 80 to 110 BPM, while during a gunfight, it can reach 140 BPM.
The trouble with young talents and players
The stereotypes that used to surround esports have long since become a thing of the past. Many countries have recognized it as an official sport, including Ukraine, where it happened on September 7, 2020.
With each passing year, esports gains in popularity — here are several facts to attest to that. First, the number of viewers keeps growing. According to analytics provider NewZoo, the esports audience was 474 million people in 2021 and is projected to rise to 577 million by 2024. Second, large-scale esports broadcasts are breaking records. A striking example is WePlay AniMajor 2021, a Dota 2 tournament that set a record for hours watched among similar events at 37.3 million hours. Also, at the CS:GO tournament PGL Major Stockholm 2021, a record 865,000 viewers were recorded in our region alone. Third, the teams show a high degree of professionalism, and the prize pools are growing (at the already mentioned PGL Major Stockholm 2021 it amounted to $2 million for the first time in the history of such competitions).
However, due to this rapid development of the industry, esports organizations are experiencing a shortage of young players, while those sitting on the bench stay there due to their lack of experience, waiting for a chance to get into the main roster.
Where to get experience
In the U.S., the NCAA student leagues are solving a similar problem for traditional sports. There, the players are paid a salary in the form of tuition fee compensation, become popular, and finally enter the professional scene. Outstanding athletes such as basketball player Michael Jordan, golfer Tiger Woods, swimmer Rebecca Soni went from university leagues to professional sports.
In esports, there are separate tournaments for up-and-coming players, but they are rather an isolated phenomenon, not a systemic one. That’s why the WePlay Academy League was created to be held regularly. It’s similar to a U.S. student league: youth squads improve their skills and gain experience in an academy league setting that’s as close as possible to the senior one. Winning teams get a money prize depending on the place they end up in, and the best players can get a chance to move up to the main roster.
Young players succeeding
During the first and second seasons of the league, we saw players who would impress everyone with their professional performance, out-of-the-box thinking, and the ability to make the right decisions at the most critical moment. The attention of the audience was riveted on them throughout the tournament, and they also held the highest positions in the best player ranking. They are Dorian “xertioN” Berman of MOUZ NXT, David “prosus” Hesse of BIG Academy, and Iulian “regali” Harjau of Fnatic Rising, who moved to the Fnatic main roster to play at the Elisa Invitational Fall 2021.
Also, shortly before the WePlay Academy League Season 3 kicked off, it became known that two talented esports players from the previous seasons moved to Tier-1 teams. Ilya “m0NESY” Osipov signed a contract with esports organization G2. He has been playing for the Natus Vincere junior team since 2020, and in the first two seasons of the WePlay Academy League, he took the first and second positions respectively in best player rankings.
Also, Adam “torzsi” Torzsás, a player of the MOUZ NXT team that won the first season of the WePlay Academy League moved to the club’s main roster.
The WePlay Academy League was created to uncover new stars of the global esports arena, and this is confirmed by success stories. This, of course, can be considered a new stage in the development of esports at both national and international levels. Since the league has shown itself to be a long-term and promising project, sponsors started supporting it.
For example, during Season 2 of the WePlay Academy League, the broadcast was sponsored by energy drink brand Tornado Energy. The third season of the WePlay Academy League is supported by the international betting brand Parimatch. All of this indicates that large companies integrating into high-profile esports tournaments also strive to support young talents and the junior league, and are making every effort to help with their professional development.
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