WePlay Holding – Summing up 2021. Credit: WePlay Holding

WePlay Holding – Summing up 2021

Dec. 30, 2021
Business 10 min read

WePlay Esports made it into the top 10 most-watched Russian-speaking Twitch esports channels in 2021.

In 2021, WePlay Esports – the flagship company of WePlay Holding – held five tournaments that spectators watched for 41,143,259 hours in total. And to add some numbers, 226 professional esports players competed for an overall prize pool of $950,000. According to Streams Charts, WePlay Esports made it into the top 10 most-watched Russian-speaking Twitch esports channels in 2021. The company’s CS:GO channel amassed 19.9 million hours watched. Let’s dive deeper and remember 2021 in detail.

How the year started: WePlay Ultimate Fighting League

Back in the winter of 2021, WePlay Esports announced that for the first time, it would hold a tournament featuring three titles at once — Mortal Kombat 11, SOULCALIBUR VI, and Tekken 7. With a prize pool of $150,000, the event involved 48 fighters from around the world, including the USA, Pakistan, Japan, France, Germany, the UK, and the Republic of Korea.

Pulling esports and traditional sports together, WePlay Esports signed an agreement with world cruiserweight boxing champion Oleksandr Usyk and two-time Olympic champion Vasyl Lomachenko. The aim of the partnership was to develop and scale up the fighting game project.

WePlay Ultimate Fighting League was held at the WePlay Esports Arena Kyiv from March 25 to April 11. The audience had a chance to compare how the WePlay team managed to transform the set so that it hardly resembled the previous tournament at the same venue, WePlay Dragon Temple.

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Another milestone is reached: WePlay AniMajor

When WePlay Esports organized the Bukovel Minor 2020, it became evident that the next bar to reach should be a Major. This year, the company received the privilege to host WePlay AniMajor, one of the two DPC Majors in the 2021 Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) season. The stakes were high, as this was the last chance for many teams to make it to The International 10. WePlay AniMajor got 37,351,630 hours watched, setting a new record for DPC Majors, and became one of the greatest events in the Dota 2 scene in 2021, according to Mike Stubbs, Forbes contributor.

The show stood out for many reasons, but primarily for the anime theme. Catering to both fan bases of Dota 2 and anime at the same time is a challenging task with which WePlay Esports had to cope. There were less than fifty days to prepare for the event, during which 4,500 work hours were spent only on the dressing of one stage. An adaptation of the Valley of the End made of 600 m3 of foam plastic was manufactured, as well as two 10-meter statues, and lotuses that looked like the stolen lotuses from the Netflix series “DOTA: Dragon’s Blood” and lots of other details close to the anime and Dota 2 communities’ hearts.

WePlay AniMajor Opening — Talent Introduction. Credit: WePlay Holding

Some organizational issues needed to be addressed immediately. For example, due to the pandemic and changes in international air traffic, return tickets for Chinese teams, without which they couldn’t leave China, were canceled. In search of the most convenient solution, the company decided to book a private return flight to China.

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Besides dealing with ongoing matters, WePlay Holding put in place every safety measure for the teams and event participants, including gloves, sanitizers, masks, COVID-19 tests, and a first aid room with doctors and nurses available round the clock.

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“It was the first Dota 2 Major in the company’s history. For about a month, all our employees could only focus on the primary goal — to make WePlay AniMajor smashing. So, first, I would like to thank our team. While COVID-19 and tight deadlines did cause several obstacles, we still put on a show that the entire esports industry won’t forget anytime soon,” says Oleh Humeniuk, chief executive officer at WePlay Holding.

For its digital campaign, WePlay AniMajor won the DGTL STAR MRTH award. Here are more facts about WePlay AniMajor:

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New title: Rocket League

What title is free-to-play, intuitive, and family-friendly? The answer is Rocket League (RL), the unicorn of esports. Anyone can figure out the mechanics of the game in minutes, even if this is their first video game. In addition, RL is one of the most-watched titles globally that brings together people from different countries. From September 2020 to September 2021, Rocket League grew 105% on Twitch in terms of hours watched metrics, according to SullyGnome. This is a record among other esports games that existed for more than a year.

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With a blessing from Psyonix, WePlay Esports hosted the WePlay Esports Invitational featuring Rocket League. The tournament engaged 16 teams in competition for a prize pool of $100,000. The WePlay Esports Invitational featuring Rocket League, EMEA region, became the most-watched Rocket League non-RLCS event of 2021, reaching over 631,000 hours watched.

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We intend to continue our cooperation with Psyonix. The results of the WePlay Esports Invitational featuring Rocket League are inspiring, and we’re sure that WePlay Holding can host more tournaments worthy of this discipline,” claims Eugene Luchianenco, head of esports at WePlay Esports.

Contribution to esports future: WePlay Academy League

The WePlay Academy League, a series of tournaments for youngsters, is the cornerstone of a structured Tier-2 scene. Eight leading CS:GO organizations teamed up with WePlay Holding to provide an ecosystem for nurturing professional esports players.

The tournament’s goal is to help esports overcome one of their main problems — the lack of experienced players. From Major to Major, viewers can observe the exact same faces on the Tier-1 scene, and only occasionally, young prodigies get a chance to participate in a LAN event.

The WePlay Academy League provides up-and-coming players with the opportunity to get on-stage experience and gain all the basic knowledge on how to act in front of a camera, interact with opponents and give interviews. Season 2 has ended, revealing several of the discipline’s rising stars, such as Ilya “m0NESY” Osipov, who has expressed his intention to perform against top teams on the Tier-1 scene.

We want to engage more teams. Over time, the WePlay Academy League will grow and change to meet the needs of all academies. After two seasons, we concluded that the robin-round system is the most interesting one for the teams. Our format allows each academy to play with different rivals, test themselves and analyze others’ strategies. Thus, players can prepare for the Tier-1 scene,” says Eugene Luchianenco.
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While these were competitions between skillful yet young players, according to Esports Charts, the first season peaked at 28,429 concurrent spectators, and in the second season — at 51,914 concurrent spectators. To contribute to esports further, the company is going to arrange at least four seasons more.

A new field of development — BLAST Premier and PGL broadcasts

WePlay Esports has experience hosting tournaments, but this year, the company reached beyond and broadcast BLAST Premier and the long-awaited PGL Major Stockholm 2021.

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“When working on third-party competitions, it’s essential to keep your own unique approach. It’s in the spirit of WePlay Holding to adjust a tournament’s style to a common basis. Cooperating with BLAST, we tried not to reshape its event but rather to strengthen the audience’s impression taking advantage of experience and skills. We know that BLAST is excellent at its job, as we are. This is what an ideal partnership should look like,” - says Maksym Bilonogov, chief visionary officer and general producer at WePlay Esports.

WePlay Esports was in charge of the Russian-language broadcasts and organizing the in-house analytics studio, engaging regular talents Oleksii “yXo” Maletsky and Aleksandr “Enkanis” Polishchuk, as well many other prominent personalities of the CIS CS:GO world.

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The PGL Major Stockholm 2021 stream by WePlay Esports had a peak of 865,132 concurrent viewers, setting a record among Russian-language CS:GO broadcasts.

Goals for 2022

“WePlay Holding is looking forward to an intense year. We have built an arena in Los Angeles and are ready to conquer yet another region. It will be a challenge because no matter how significant our previous achievements are, we will have to prove we are worthy of trust over there, too. The company will be in the spotlight, that’s for sure: new partners will be closely monitoring how we do business, what we can take on, and so on,” states Maksym Bilonogov.

Next year, WePlay Holding will keep raising the bar for the entire esports world. The company continues developing its emerging project, the WePlay Academy League, and attracting more esports organizations and partners.

WePlay Academy League is the fuel of future esports. We have created a space where skillful yet inexperienced players can find everything they need to evolve as professional esports teams. Therefore, we will put in the effort to ensure that the WePlay Academy League gets the attention it deserves,” says Oleh Humeniuk.

In 2021, the company managed to work with titles ranging from Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive to Rocket League. While the pandemic put a squeeze on esports LAN tournaments, WePlay went the extra mile to provide the esports community with eye-catching content. In 2022, the company is willing to arrange events in all of its tried and tested disciplines and, of course, reach other publishers, too.

We strive to expand our portfolio of disciplines and build rapport with publishers like Riot Games. Its esports ecosystem is one of the most streamlined and open to both local players and worldwide personalities. League of Legends, VALORANT, League of Legends: Wild Rift, and even Project L, which hasn’t been released yet, are in our sights as a tournament operator,” adds Eugene Luchianenco.

The company has progressed from a tournament operator to an esports media holding in several years. Now WePlay Holding organizes tournaments that attract hundreds of thousands of spectators and uses every opportunity to move the esports world forward.

"Stay tuned because the upcoming year will bring more surprises from WePlay Holding. Partnership with BLAST is a concentration of professionalism with clear goals and order. If we once again have a chance to hold such a broadcast, WePlay Holding will take the opportunity and give it 100%,” sums up Oleh Humeniuk.
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