With the first season of WePlay! Pushka League already in motion, we’ve been fortunate to be able to talk with the WePlay! Esports General manager, mister Oleh Humeniuk about the company rebranding process, what it takes to deliver successful LAN and online events, what’s the biggest challenge when switching from offline to online competitions and how is the WePlay! Team able to put together tournaments during pandemic times.
You joined the company in 2019 and I’m guessing you had a large role in the WePlay! Esports rebranding strategies and the whole process. Now that esports fans have seen several products already, what would you say is the main factor contributing to WePlay!’s success?
There are several factors that help us create topnotch creative events, but the most important among them is the team. We see WePlay! Esports as an esportainment company that develops popular classy products, and acts to make that vision a reality.
For the Dota 2 audience, WePlay! Bukovel Minor 2020 and WePlay! Mad Moon were an absolute blast. What stands out for WePlay! Esports is the ability to deliver great tournaments wrapped into a theme. Has that been a bigger challenge since you had to go back to online events?
Offline events make it easier to create the presence effect even to the people who are watching it online. When you don’t have direct access to a live audience, it gets harder to interact with people and conjure strong emotions. It also gets trickier to gauge what impact we have on the people watching the event.
During the past LAN events, we used the stage to do unexpected creative things. I’m sure many of your readers remember players entering the arena riding the #madmoontruck during WePlay! Mad Moon. For the lack of players on site, and due to other constraints, you can’t do such a trick in a studio. Plus, without a live audience, the awe-effect would be smaller.
Despite those limitations, we strive to find other ways to make people enjoy our shows, and feel something different while doing so. The last two LAN events set a bar for us, and we have every intention to keep it on the same level.
In fact, we keep using our Augmented Reality solution even during the studio broadcasts. AR was present during WeSave! Charity Play, and is also around in WePlay! Pushka League.
WePlay! Bukovel Minor was a part of the Dota Pro Circuit, while WePlay! Mad Moon had no DPC implications. Did that influence in any way how the WePlay! team prepared the event? Simply put, is the DPC bringing extra pressure for you as a tournament organizer?
With WePlay! Bukovel Minor, the exact dates and tournament format were set by Valve. Beyond that, the DPC status had no practical impact on how we were working on the event. WePlay! Esports works with maximum concentration and makes effort to maintain a high level of quality with every tournament, regardless of its status.
The only reason we felt those events were different was the destination location of the DPC tournament. WePlay! Bukovel Minor was taking place in a ski resort hundreds of miles away from our main office and a couple of hours from the nearest big city. That made logistics and planning much more complicated.
Unfortunately, the pandemic forced everyone else to re-adapt and re-invent. One of the most significant changes brought by the coronavirus pandemic is that most people have to work from home. However, WePlay! didn’t simply shut the door and wait for the crisis to go away before bringing new tournaments. How is the company able to work through these times? What were the WePlay! solutions for being able to still organize tournaments while not everyone can come to the office every day?
As noted before, I’m fortunate to work with an outstanding group of people. For most of us at WePlay! Esports, it is not just a job, but an opportunity to make a change and make esports better and more successful. Members of various departments reinvented the way they interact with each other on the fly and adapted to new circumstances. We quickly organized the workload and now can do many things remotely. Now that most of the staff works from “home offices,” we don’t feel the overall productivity has dropped, in fact, in some cases it even rose.
Many members of our team stepped up and zealously threw themselves into preparation for WeSave! Charity Play. The event allowed them to use the object of their passion (esports) to help solve a global and very tangible problem. Where there’s a will there’s a way, and we’ve come up with many solutions to various problems. Those solutions are now applied to WePlay! Pushka League.
You already had an online tournament put together pretty fast after the pandemic hit, WeSave! Charity Play, and now the first season of WePlay! Pushka League is undergoing as we speak. Was this league already in plans for WePlay!, and you just brought it to life earlier or did coronavirus force you to find a new solution to keep going?
A Dota 2 league with that same name existed in blueprints a long time ago. It was supposed to be somewhat different and end with LAN-finals. When the pandemic shut down LAN events around the world, we saw a window of opportunity to modify the plan we already had and host an event that is the current WePlay! Pushka League.
Pushka League has two divisions. Division 2 serves as a promotion system for teams to get into Division 1 for Season 2. When should we expect Season 2?
We have specific dates in mind right now, but unfortunately, the esports landscape is very unpredictable. We need to make sure many moving parts will be in place when we are doing Season 2. Right now, I can only say that the next season will be bigger than the current one.
WePlay! Pushka League is entering today, May 1st, the second week of group stage matches. Eight teams from Europe and eight from CIS are fighting in separate groups for a spot in the playoffs stage and a shot at taking the larger share of the $250,000 prize pool. The playoffs bracket seeding will ensure that the grand finals will bring a CIS vs Europe showdown. At the same time, the league also features a second division with a total of eight squads, four from CIS, four from Europe, fighting for a shot at promoting into Divison 1 in the next season of WePlay! Pushka League.