History of WePlay Esports events
History of WePlay events — from LAN events to online tournaments.
WePlay! Tug of War Mad Moon Upper Bracket Final, Virtus.pro vs. Team Secret. The arena in the center of Kyiv froze in anticipation because, for several hours, the organizers have been moving at an increased speed behind the stage, periodically showing up hugely excited. Something really cool is about to happen, and Dota 2 fans are yet to think about the match.
Such a plot twist that blew everyone’s minds...
However, our story began much earlier than many might think. Dota 2, CS:GO, VALORANT, even Artifact, and Dota Underlords are all good, but the origins... Oh, well, let’s just jump into the DeLorean and get there!
Set the year for 2012 — the actual year of WePlay’s creation. Don’t forget about the butterfly effect: no touching, only observing!
Long before the borders were closed and the worldwide quarantine started, people held events in arenas, with hundreds or thousands of people in one place. Fans came to watch their favorite teams play, take part in entertaining micro-events during breaks, and just have a good time. Back in 2016, WePlay held the LAN finals of Dota 2 League Season 3 for the first time in our history.
May, almost summer, the streets of Kyiv are heated, as well as the tournament. After all, $200,000 is at stake, and only the best teams are on the list. The arena is ready.
The legendary MVP Phoenix with DuBu, Forev, Febby, QO, and MP won that tournament. Vega Squadron (the same roster with Solo and No[o]ne) smashed the rest of the teams with ease, but in the Grand Finals, they lost with a score of 1-3.
The arena looked like this (slideable):
There were no epic scenes, costumes, or themes. It looks pretty sterile, but it somewhat resembles the scene for The International.
“We organized it from scratch in just three months and decided to hold it,” says Irina Chugai, creative executive who has been working for more than five years. “We changed the dates a month before LAN because Valve set Manila Majors Quals for the original dates, which forced us to do the LAN two weeks earlier. The Greeks even bootcamped after the tournament and played the Manila Quals in Kyiv”.
“Back in the day, we just wanted to be the top TO in the region and hold regular leagues.
Now, the plans are much wider; the ecosystem is more interesting. No one even dreamed of this. Not Max [Belonogov, now Chief Visionary Officer / General Producer], not me, for sure."“We planned right away that we would be holding the fourth season afterward,” Ira added. “And then came the understanding that just tournaments are not attractive, you need to look more broadly. It was necessary to redesign the site (so that there were no more jokes about the site for the left-eyed, whoever saw the old weplay.tv would understand) to understand what we wanted to achieve with these tournaments. Everyone learned a lot of lessons and conclusions from that LAN, and this stuff required rethinking and creating a working system. It took time. Therefore, the construction of the studio began, as well as the new site and the general WePlay rebranding. We put together a team that we can trust. It took two years to do this."
To do such a feat as in 2016 and carry out a LAN with a team of 18 people + a contractor was ... not too pleasant.
The next tournament was Reshuffle Madness, which was held in September 2018.
WePlay: The Comeback
In 2018, the first WePlay! Reshuffle Madness took place, marking the beginning of a new era. The teams were returning from vacations after TI, while the just-summoned stacks were looking for an opportunity to practice. True, it was not LAN, but it was the first sight of what WePlay fans from all over the world adore: a special theme, technical innovations, and an informal atmosphere.
Then came a bunch of interesting online tournaments. First, Winter Madness for $100,000, then Valentine Madness with the same prize pool. By the way, VM was Kyle Friedman’s first tourney with us, whereas today, he’s a complete part of the team.
“I was on a vacation on a tiny island in Vietnam, and GodZ hit me up. He said, ‘Hey, I can't do this WePlay tournament, do you want to?’ ‘Sure,’ I said, ‘sounds like fun.’ He gave me Anton Tokarev's contact, and I booked the gig under mosquito netting in a faraway land. Then I flew in; I remember I knew everybody from HoN and such. It was the Valentine Madness; it was a ton of fun. I was a rainbow dinosaur. A really good time, very cozy, maybe even the coziest event I ever did. And when it was over, I think I stayed in Kiyv for another week! [laughs].”
Kyle now lives in Kyiv and visits the WePlay office every day. Like a true white-collar.
“It’s about being a part of the team. I like Kyiv, and also, WePlay puts on the best show. It's cool to be able to learn about how that goes down and to be a part of making and creating some dope things. That's what life is all about!”
In the first half of 2019, there were no LAN events for Dota 2, but after Valentine Madness, there were two parts to the Tug of War trilogy — Radiant and Dire. And between them, we held the spiritual successor of WePlay! Lock'n'Load, our first online CS:GO tournament; it was called WePlay! Forge Of Master Season 1, with AVANGAR grabbing the winner’s title.
In addition to major disciplines, we also dealt with some of the scene’s newcomers. For example, there is another series of tournaments, WePlay! Mighty Triad, for Valve’s brainchild, Artifact. A total of three tournaments were planned (respectively, Strength, Agility, and Intelligence). However, you can guess for what reasons the final part did not take place. Artifact faded so quickly that it was decided not to continue. By the way, attempts to revive the game are still not felt, although if Valve comes up with something, we may well see the final part.
And in mid-2019, there was the WePlay! Dota Underlords Open. You can guess which game was used. While the tournament was open to everyone, you just had to get past the qualifiers. It was followed by a series of amateur tournaments on our tournament platform, which is built into the website, but DU never blossomed into a serious esport.
WePlay: Forging the Talents
Between Dota 2 and Artifact, there was a CS:GO tournament: a spy-action called WePlay! Lock'n'Load. We wonder, could James Bond outshoot pro esports players? Never gonna know, though.
And despite the fact that the restart of WePlay was based on Dota 2 tournaments, it so happened that the first LAN events were the CS:GO finals. Forge Of Masters was planned as a trampoline tournament for mid-caliber teams: they could be seen, they could shine, but more importantly, they could gain invaluable experience of playing on stage in front of a roaring crowd of fans.
The first Forge of Masters took place in May 2019.
The tournament was themed as a boy scout camp, and this felt right because nothing can better temper the skill and the players. Surely, the preparation has been one hundred percent successful because, after some time, the winners of the tournament, AVANGAR, were bought on by Virtus.pro.
The success of the first season certainly required a continuation. WePlay did not delay, and the second season was announced as soon as possible.
The stakes were higher, the hype was louder, and the prize money was bigger ($100,000), but the dream of another AVANGAR victory did not happen. GODSENT gained some more experience, and there were no more sensations.
WePlay: Make Dota 2 Great Again
Of course, according to the already established tradition, another Reshuffle Madness was held immediately after The International 2019. It was online, and again, new stacks against the giants who just came from vacation. But in general, we saw an interesting and fun tournament with a beach party theme.
But the beginning of 2020 turned out to be very significant for us. The first-ever official DPC event in our history, WePlay! Bukovel Minor, although Minor, but according to reviews, overshadowed some Majors. Indeed, it couldn't be boring in Bukovel.
At WePlay! Bukovel Minor, we experienced not only a huge number of positive New Year and Christmas vibes, but also a lot of breathtaking Dota. Besides the dramatic struggles in the playoffs and group stage, the final was both exhausting and marvelous: the classic lower-bracket Team Nigma outplayed the fast-paced, and unbeatable Royal Never Give Up. We also saw some cool new stuff:
- The AR Map
Players played in front of fans, no booths. Although the arena was not very large (only for 300 people), it was packed, and even more people who came to the ski resort stayed in the hall’s special zones where the broadcasting TVs were installed.
You can check the Bukovel aftermovie here:
And then the most important and, unfortunately, our last LAN-final tournament happened. Remember the Tug of War Radiant and Tug of War Dire tournaments? The final part of the trilogy was WePlay! Mad Moon, which took place in Kyiv.
The large-scale project caused a furor among all viewers. Also, as always, we watched some excellent Dota besides these other absolutely fantastic things:
- Cybertruck (yep!)
“By the way, before that 2016 LAN, I first heard Oleg Krot’s [WePlay co-founder] phrase: ‘You can do whatever you believe in and what you think is right. We’ll find the resources, the people, and the circumstances. There are no walls. And there will never be.’ This changes one’s perception a lot. And it greatly raises the belief that you can do anything. But yes, this also dictates the appropriate level of responsibility that you take for your decision,” Irina Chugai recalled.
The Era of Online
After Mad Moon, there were several more tournaments awaiting us, but they were all exclusively online; the coronavirus was to blame. Of course, all broadcasts were conducted from the main office in Kyiv under the supervision of medical personnel, with frequent checks and utmost care.
The first was WeSave! Charity Play, a charity tournament that has funded the fight against the coronavirus. Talents, employees, and teams participated in the tournament at no cost. All the prize money was donated.
Then came the much larger project: WePlay! Pushka League. A big championship in several divisions with the teams’ progression system divided by regions and the theme was an elite closed club like the Ivy League. Twenty-four teams competed for a prize pool of $250,000.
Pushka League has become the most pompous and stylish Dota league that we could have imagined. And also, we proved that Kyle isn’t always wrong after all!
In June, we returned to CS:GO with WePlay! Clutch Island. Our second Valve-game tournament to fit into an official ranking system. On the island, the teams fought not so much for the money but for the precious RMR-points, and although the Rio Major had not yet been officially canceled, it was hard to believe in the close return of any kind of LANs.
After a summer resort on an uninhabited island, we jumped into the retrowave. This is not a joke, but the next theme. WePlay! VALORANT Invitational was held in July as part of the official VALORANT IGNITION SERIES. This was a serious test for all of us because no one treats their children as reverently and seriously as Riot.
Then, in August, a much larger project took place: OMEGA League. Our job was to broadcast the English-language part of the tournament. OMEGA has become Pushka League’s successor, with a similar format and size. This time, the theme was Ancient Greece, and all the talents were reincarnated as philosophers, demigods, and scientists.
OMEGA League was a kind of TI substitute because the main tournament of the year did not take place, and no one planned any other tournaments for these dates. Still, people loved the replacement.
To be continued
What's next? Unfortunately, the coronavirus does not allow making long-term plans, and Valve and other market players are in no hurry to reveal their cards for next year. Dividing into regional online leagues in a way structures esports disciplines, but no one can tell when our favorite offline events will come back completely.
However, just a couple of days ago, we announced a new tournament, this time surprising you with the choice of the discipline because we are talking about Mortal Kombat! We all like fighting games, especially the good old brutal, bloody MK. In addition, we plan to bring players to Kyiv and arrange a real LAN, but, unfortunately, without any spectators. The event will take place at WePlay Esports Arena Kyiv, in a fully enclosed and carefully crafted bubble.
Onward to the Dragon Temple!