The Esports World Cup: millions, ambitions and questions

The Esports World Cup: millions, ambitions and questions
The Esports World Cup: millions, ambitions and questions

In the pipeline for a while, successor to a short-lived “Gamers8” which served as a crash test for its host country, the Esports World Cup will see the light of day this year in Saudi Arabia. A huge project with gigantic ambitions for the kingdom, which sees esports as a new tool for diversification and soft power, it will be held from the beginning of July to the end of August. For two months, 20 competitions will take place in almost as many games. With several tens of millions of dollars distributed among the various endowments – five million for DOTA 2a million for Counter-Strike 2, League of Legends Or Street Fighter 6

But what makes this XXL meeting special is its classification by clubs. Points will be awarded to the structures of the best performing teams or players (1,000 for the winner, 600 for second, 350 for third, etc.) of each tournament and at the end of this EWC, an overall ranking will reward the best clubs: 7 million dollars for the first, 4 million for the second, 2 million for the third… Obviously, the organizations present in a maximum of games will start with a clear advantage.

To encourage clubs to engage their best elements in this race for millions, Saudi Arabia has also created a special program to support structures: thirty of the most popular in the world – including Vitality and Karmine Corp for France, but also G2 (Europe), FaZe Clan (Americas), GenG or T1 (South Korea) – are part of it and thus benefit from financial aid depending on the number of games in which they engage. Result ? Many clubs have been piling up announcements in recent weeks, recruiting players to fill the EWC program… without really risking, thanks to this Saudi money injected intravenously, of putting themselves in economic danger.

“The biggest global esports competition”?

In total, 60 million dollars make up the Esports World Cup pot for this first year of existence. A colossal sum, shared freely for months and the basis of the kingdom’s communications plan. “The Esports World Cup will try to take clubs to a new level, with financial benefits that should make the competition unmissable, for fans and teams alike who want to be more stableexplains Ralf Reichert, formerly of ESL and one of the thinking heads of the tournament. Which should help move the ecosystem forward. The idea is for the industry to be united to grow together. »

Yes, but here it is: despite these ambitions which accompany this pharaonic project such as Saudi Arabia knows how to produce, beyond the millions invested, the competitive interest, the prestige of the meeting and by extension its development potential raise questions. Even if some are already predicting that the EWC will ultimately become “the biggest global esports competition »the path is long.

Firstly because it is not a huge novelty in itself. This “esports Olympic Games” format (by clubs, not by nations, which many followers demanded) has existed for around twenty years: we can cite the World Cyber ​​Games, the ESWC – to which Esports World Cup has also bought the brand – or more recently the WESG, in China… Less monumental than what Saudi Arabia offers, these competitions have lived, with more or less enthusiasm and intensity, at different eras. All of them came up against the emergence of an esport more controlled by the publishers of popular games in the discipline.

60

This is, in millions of dollars, the amount committed by Saudi Arabia in the various grants and financial aid of the EWC.

For the moment the Esports World Cup risks facing a comparable problem: when we look at the complete program, the tournaments are for the majority of them quite far from being “the” big meeting of the season, no matter the game. On League of Legendsit looks like a friendly international competition inserted right in the middle of the long straight to the Worlds.

On Counter-Strike 2, the Majors (a label which changes destination every year, which could also one day be attributed to the EWC) but also the IEM Katowice or Cologne are otherwise prestigious. On Rocket League the tournament will be held shortly after the Worlds, the main objective of professional players… And Valorant is completely absent.

Overall, we must instead turn to mobile games, very popular in Asia, or secondary titles to find events whose prestige does not rest solely on the cash prize. The EWC therefore looks like a juicy business opportunity – but with a fairly unsustainable economic model, which does not seem to push back esports in recent years, quite the contrary – than a real competitive objective.

A “win-win” bet?

“Players and teams want more international eventshowever assures Alban Dechelotte, general director of G2 Esports. What makes us burn is fighting against the best teams in the world. » Nicolas Maurer, CEO of Vitality, adds: “We ensure, in the tournaments we join, that there is an economic model that pays the clubs, and the EWC model puts us forward. In an “esports winter” context, this is an important opportunity. Now we will obviously have to perform well. Our DNA has always been competition and winning major tournaments. »

There are almost all the conditions met: sporting, business, personal for our playerssummarizes for his part Arthur Perticoz, general manager of Karmine Corp. It’s an opportunity in so many ways. We are talking about an event where the 30 clubs are almost the best in the world. It’s going to attract a phenomenal audience. In terms of a structure that wants to grow internationally, that wants to be present in tournaments that matter, I would say that participating in this competition is not far from being accepted in VCT (the elite on Valorant). Or to succeed in finding a solution to enter the LEC (the continental elite on League of Legends). »

The success of the EWC is therefore based on a bet that is intended to be “win-win” with the clubs: financed to expand into new games and participate to the best of their potential, they bring visibility through their presence and those of their stars, to legitimize a competition which hopes to gain prestige over time. But, here too, two objections arise: few structures generate interest through all the games in which they are present… and Saudi Arabia still attracts wary glances.

Despite everything, before its start, it must be recognized that the EWC has the potential to become an unmissable event: even if it is only a first edition, it is already shaking up the world of esports in all directions . Ultimately, it could change a lot of things in the discipline… or nothing at all.

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