The second edition of WePlay! Reshuffle Madness is set to start today, September 21, after the tournament had to be delayed for a few days to give the teams the extra time needed to finalize their rosters for the new competitive season.
Ahead of the first matches of the group stage, we caught with Eugene Luchianenco, head of Esports at WePlay!, the mastermind behind all the projects of the Ukrainian company. We talked about the current event, of course, but we were also curious to find out what future plans has WePlay! for the Esports consumers and how the company developed over the last few years.
Hello Eugene and thank you for taking the time for this interview. I know that the WePlay! office is super busy these days.
For those who just recently started to follow the esports scene, we should mention that WePlay! Esports is not exactly what you would call a brand-new company. You guys have actually started back in 2012 with small online leagues. So, please walk us through the process of your growth and how you reinvented the WePlay! Esports brand.
You are right. For a long time, we were holding various online tournaments in different games. In 2016, we hosted a full-scale LAN-event in Kyiv, which culminated with WePlay! Dota 2 League Season 3. The tournament had over $200k prize pool and the top teams at the time,` such as EG, MVP Phoenix, NAVI and others. The event went smoothly, and our team was happy about it, considering we hadn’t had any previous experience organizing LANs of a similar magnitude.
Throughout 2017, WePlay! was keeping a low profile. We were still holding online tournaments in Dota 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Hearthstone, and World of Tanks, but they were relatively small.
During that time, most of our energy and resources were spent on internal efforts, such as changing the structure of the company, long term strategic planning, and of course, fundraising. At the beginning of 2018, we began going through a rebranding, and also started working on our new studio.
By July of 2018, we moved to our new office, and in September our studio went on air for the first time. This is pretty much when WePlay! Esports returned and started doing things you’ve been hearing about.
WePlay! Esports is clearly becoming one of the most important tournament organizers that cares about the health of the tier-2 scene. For CS:GO you have the Forge of Masters league that helps the up-and-coming squads, while for Dota 2 you started Reshuffle Madness last year. Both last year and this year’s edition were scheduled at the beginning of the competitive season, why do you choose this time-frame?
This certainly is a very exhilarating and challenging time for the professional scene, as most of the teams are trading players and forming new rosters. The process is under the spotlight because the fans want to know where their favorite players will end up and how the teams will shape. Another important question on everyone’s mind is how strong the new teams are and whether the new players fit in their new rosters.
We chose this period to be the first tournament organizer who shows the updated teams in action.
Unfortunately, it’s not easy to come up with optimal dates for such a tournament in advance because some participants need more time to get ready, thus we want to make sure the teams finalize their rosters.
Based on what we saw at previous tournaments in various disciplines, the open qualifiers are extremely important for you. For Reshuffle Madness 2019, for example, you have a total of eight teams advancing into the tournament. However, we often hear from the Dota 2 pros that their time is very limited and that the schedule is too packed. How were the open qualifiers for Reshuffle Madness received by the teams?
During the post-TI reshuffle period, players are actively forming new stacks. A qualifier tournament is an excellent opportunity to gauge the state of your team and decide on the next step. Let’s say a team has just accepted a new player to fill in a vacant role. During the qualifiers, the captain could see how the newcomer communicates with teammates, and if everything else is working as intended.
Qualifiers can be stressful because they are very time-consuming, and you are usually out after the first blunder. If you are planning to go all the distance, you’d better be ready to play and maintain the optimal condition deep into the night. Returning to my previous point, it’s also a great opportunity to learn what your new teammates are made of in real action.
It’s also something everyone has gone through, all the professionals played long qualifier sessions at one point of their career.
The WePlay! Reshuffle Madness 2019 qualifiers were received positively, considering the opportunities they brought for the new teams.
Alliance are the defending Reshuffle Madness champions, should we expect them to headline the playoffs invite list for this year’s edition?
Of course, we would be happy to have Alliance at WePlay! Reshuffle Madness 2019, and extended an invitation to the playoffs to them. At this point, it’s up to the team to decide if they want to take a longer break from the competitive season.
The tournament will feature a total of 20 teams, the group stage invites are already known, but when should the fans look for the playoffs invites announcements?
As the tournament start date has been moved, we are taking some additional time to work with the teams. Mostly, we are waiting for everyone to lock on the rosters.
We will announce the participants as soon as we are sure they are playing.
Last years’ and this upcoming Reshuffle Madness is dedicated to the European and CIS teams, are you planning to expand the series to North America and/or Asia?
These regions are very interesting for us, and we had a positive experience working with many NA/SA and Asian teams during Tug of War: Dire.
Unfortunately, aside from the advantages of working with the teams, there is a layer of complexity, caused by the difference in time zones. We’ll keep finding ways to include teams from different regions in our tournaments though. It will become easier to do once our new office in Los Angeles is up and running.
Talking about plans, 2020 is a big year for WePlay! Esports. You will host Tug of War: Mad Moon LAN tournament. What is the next step from there?
Of course, as a big international company, we aim to hold full-scale Tier-1 LAN tournaments. The WePlay! team can take an exciting esports competition and elevate it to an even more engaging esportainment show. Our creative teams want to be able to cater to a broader audience which means working with the best players and teams.
So far, after rebranding in the year 2019, we’ve had one CS:GO LAN (Forge of Masters Season 1 Finals), and the rest of our events were limited to studio format. In the near future, we plan to hold three big LAN-competitions and reserve the studio to broadcast other TOs’ events to local audiences.
I want to emphasize the fact that if we get the rights to broadcast non-WePlay! tournaments, our creative approach and entertainment value will remain in place. The audience will be able to enjoy both the top-level games and the engaging plugs between them.
WePlay! was the first studio to host a Dota Underlords tournament. Should we expect more of the same caliber or even bigger ones to come for this Valve title?
I got very inspired by WePlay! Dota Underlords Open. Since that tournament, we have been drafting a more significant project related to Valve’s autobattler — not a singular tournament but rather a series with a storyline and culmination.
Please keep in mind that putting such a project together is a very complex task and you are never sure if it will work out in the end. It has many moving parts requiring a lot of planning and negotiations.
Valve has to be fully on board with us so that we are sure no patch release or server maintenance is happening during a broadcasted match. And it’s just one of the many pieces of this complex puzzle.
Therefore, I can’t tell for sure when or if a tournament or tournament series will launch. All I can state at this point is that we are working on this project and want to see it through.
I know that you found the passion for esports starting in the old days of StarCraft: Brood War. That’s perhaps one passion that will stay with you forever, so let me ask you this: Is WePlay! going to tackle the StarCraft scene?
Right, I used to be one of those people who would download replays of professional players from Chinese websites via dial-up.
It’s entirely possible that WePlay! will hold StarCraft events in the future. We have interesting StarCraft-related ideas put in writing.
Unfortunately, there are so many projects one team can be focused on at the same time. Right now, we are engaged in preparations for two LAN tournaments — Forge of Masters Season 2 Finals and Tug of War: Mad Moon. There are also other plans set in motion that we’ll announce soon.
I hope the day will come when we’ll be organizing events with Blizzard.
Alright, we can’t wait to see the future projects of WePlay! Esports and we wish you smooth sailing with the Reshuffle Madness 2019.
WePlay! Reshuffle madness features a total of 20 teams fighting in an online format for a share of the $50,000 prize pool and a ticket to the 2020 LAN event WePlay! Tug of War: Mad Moon. The group stage starts at 13:00 CET with 16 teams seeded in four groups. At the end of the group stage battle, only eight will make it to the playoffs stage, where they will be joined by four directly invited squads.
WePlay! Reshuffle Madness Day 1 & Day 2 schedule:
Saturday, September 21
13:00 CEST – The show begins
13:45 CEST – Uvajenie.Hope vs PRIES Gaming [BO1] First opening match
15:15 CEST – Ad Finem vs Team Singularity [BO1] Second opening match
16:30 CEST – Uvajenie.Hope/PRIES Gaming vs Ad Finem/Team Singularity [BO1] Winners’ match
17:45 CEST – REDCODE vs Positive Guys [BO1] First opening match
19:00 CEST – UNITED vs Hippomaniacs [BO1] Second opening match
20:15 CEST – REDCODE/Positive Guys vs UNITED/Hippomaniacs [BO1] Winners’ match
Sunday, September 22
13:00 CEST – The show begins
14:00 CEST – Burning Fire vs Fried Pudges [BO1] First opening match
15:15 CEST – Aachen vs FlyToMoon [BO1] Second opening match
16:30 CEST – Burning Fire/Fried Pudges vs Aachen/FlyToMoon [BO1] Winners’ match
17:45 CEST – Nemiga Gaming vs Old but Gold [BO1] First opening match
19:00 CEST – Cyber Dogs vs Winstrike [BO1] Second opening match
20:15 CEST – Nemiga Gaming/Old but Gold vs Cyber Dogs/Winstrike [BO1] Winners’ match
English Broadcast: twitch.tv/weplayesport_en
- Nick “BreakyCPK” Caras
- Jack “Elevated” Williams
- Benjamin “Bkop” Kopilow
- Donnie “Mofarah” Chell