WePlay Esports Announces $60,000 Mortal Kombat 11 Event
WePlay Esports has announced their expansion to the FGC, and probably not a moment too soon – they are promising a live, in-person Mortal Kombat event at their new WePlay Esports facility in Kiev in an era that has not seen a live fighting game event since February 2020.
WePlay Dragon Temple will be a $60,000 Mortal Kombat 11 tournament running from December 10 through December 13, and will feature “some of the best players from around the globe,” according to the release. Just who these players are and how many of them remains to be seen, as the organizer did not reveal much in the way of details on the event, especially the player list.
One thing we do know is that the event will feature a group stage and a playoffs, so it’s likely that it’s an invitational of some sort. How the invites will be determined, whether it’s just going to be an elite who’s who invited, or if there will be open qualifiers, still remains to be seen.
A WePlay Esports representative told us to “stay tuned” for more details, which will presumably be announced in the run up to December.
WePlay Esports Wants to Bring UFC Hype to the FGC
WePlay Esports has previously been known for their Dota 2 events, which were very well received by the community, especially in an era where Valve doesn’t seem to know when or how the next season of events will be run. Seemingly in response to that, WePlay has decided to expand to Fighting Games, citing the UFC (as so many esports orgainzers have) as a key inspiration.
“We at WePlay Esports recognize that fighting games have all they need to become a form of mass entertainment, just like boxing and UFC. The potential audience of these titles is enormous and includes many generations of casual players. Everyone interested in the MK multiverse will enjoy WePlay Dragon Temple. Our teams will do their best to make this event special, so don’t miss it.” says Anton Gribovskiy, General Manager Americas at WePlay Esports.
This UFC inspiration has been tried before in the fighting game community by esports organizers to limited success. WESG tried something similar, but they faded away unfortunately quickly from the public consciousness, as did Turner’s ELEAGUE. WePlay hopes to succeed where others have failed in capturing that consistent and flighty FGC audience, who much prefers the organic, open nature of grassroots events.
“With WePlay Dragon Temple, our team gets to create a new experience in a title we have never worked on before. We are probably as excited as the fans will be when they see all the great matchups we have planned for them. We intend to provide the same level of entertainment you have come to know us for,” says Eugene “Hitras” Shepelev, Lead Esports Manager at WePlay Esports.
WePlay seems to have some good heads on their shoulders, and have even brought in James Banks as a consultant to advise on this competition. Those that know Banks’ pedigree should be breathing a sigh of relief, as he got his start back in Virtua Fighter in the UK scene.
“As an ex-professional player back in Virtua Fighter, I have always had a real passion for fighting games. When I first learned about the event, I was thrilled to get the chance to be involved. It’s awesome how WePlay Esports plan to bring us Christmas early with the Dragon Temple tournament. Together with the team we will do everything possible to make this one of the best Mortal Kombat events you have ever seen!” says James “BanKs” Banks, project consultant.
Despite Hype, Questions Remain for Dragon Arena
While this is very good news for fighting game fans, WePlay Esports does have some questions to answer for the FGC overall. Many esports orgainzers have tried and failed to engage the audience in the fighting game community, with many feeling that the efforts of those outside the FGC fail to capture its grassroots spirit.
One of the main complaints that comes from these events is that they’re done with more of a corporate sheen to them, and one that limits the expressiveness of the players through more stringent rules around trash talk, pop offs, and generally limiting the energy of the players and experience. It’s unclear exactly what rules WePlay will have in place, and surely will be a topic of contention as the competition gets underway.
The FGC also tends to bristle at corporate sponsorship of events, though this has become less of an issue over time. Surely, WePlay plans to monetize their event with such a large prizepool for the FGC – the question will be if they can incorporate these in a tasteful way.
Lastly, with the event being so close, we have to question whether or not it was a good idea to announce the event sans details on who is playing or how to qualify for the event. They may end up forcing players into a difficult choice on whether or not they can block out time to travel to Kiev – unlike many other esports titles, the FGC and MK11 (aside from a few choice players like SonicFox) largely do not compete in the game full time and are forced to work regular jobs to support themselves, especially without events running in 2020. Indeed, announcing it so close to the event could also confuse fans who might not even know it exists – given that WePlay is not a big player in the FGC, that’s sure to be a problem with the event now less than a month away.
Regardless, Esports Talk has reached out to them for an interview to answer these, and other burning questions for the FGC