MMOGames have traveled to Warsaw, Poland to view this year’s Grand Finals for World of Tanks performed live in Złote Tarasy, one of the largest covered shopping malls in the country. The fourteen top ranking teams from across the world are battling right now to become World Champion. The local favorite team, Lemming Train (LTR) is greatly supported by Polish fans in the audience.
Wargaming opened their largest eSports event to date with a press conference hosted by Viktor Kislyi (CEO), Mohammed Fadl (eSports Director). They were joined by special guest Michał Olszewski, Vice Mayor of Warsaw, who happens to be a huge fan of World of Tanks himself, which he admitted contributed to his eagerness to host the events in their beautiful city. Here are the highlights:
Wargaming has hosted the Grand Finals for the past four years and each year their event is considerably larger. They say this is just the beginning for eSports, and there is no limit to what they aim to achieve. Mohammed Fadl says eSports offers a unique opportunity for players worldwide to enter competition in a way that supersedes language. They have seen the player’s requests and had to answer to these huge expectations. Last year eSporters were recognized as sportsmen in their own right for the first time, which means a change in culture, technology and behavior of players. This means massive potential and even larger demand.
Fadl continues to explain that the demand for these tournaments arose from the community itself. First they started with casual community tournaments, checking who’s the best.Then they wanted larger tournaments covering larger amounts of players. “What do we do with this? Let’s start to have fun!” said Fadl’s who now leads the full eSports department dedicated to the whole championship experience. Since their first eSports event, they have received a lot of feedback each year and points to improve. If there’s one thing that Wargaming has always done it’s listening to their players. They have grown from 30K participants in 2011 to 40K teams (each 4 – 7 players) in 2014 and 1000+ tournaments on a yearly basis. In case you’re wondering how much they invested in this: $10 million USD just this year.
It’s transparent that Wargaming believes that eSports will grow far beyond today’s events. As their tournaments grow naturally (based on demand) they expect that limits will be surpassed each year. They aim to create an entirely balanced setup for World of Tanks, advocating that “everyone is equal which means truly the best will win.” True to form they are involving the community in the new Partnership Program, which gives people from the community money to create businesses which will help Wargaming’s eSports events. This leads to user oriented tools and players becoming part of the World of Tanks eSports Universe. Their motto is an inspiring one:
“The community can do better than you.”
– Mohammed Fadl
Viktor Kislyi’s vision of a free to play world of MMOs, with a passion for historical accuracy and a drive to change the eSports world adds that today’s event is the start of a “cultural event”, paving the way for future companies to achieve similar goals. The proof, he states, is visible in the professional players, which we can call athletes and the business around the support for these teams. Right now fourteen teams have battled through dozens of local teams and battles. “They are probably training right now. They came here for victory! There is $300,000 USD prize money for the teams, they deserve it.” Kislyi admires the eSporters, and stresses that their hundreds of hours spent in practice, training together for strategic movements, studying tactics and opponents puts them in the realm of sporters. Worldwide many people may still think of this weekend’s participants as “just teenagers killing time, or people think they are geeks. Today eSports is a very serious thing. It’s not an exact comparison to something like weight lifting, but you have to be absolutely mentally fit. It’s like chess, lots of training goes into it and it takes a lot of time to do that,” Kislyi explains. In his final words he admits that his own mother gave him a hard time for playing video games. Now the pro kids receive checks to play if they are really good, and become admired by audiences around the world, something he is visibly happy to have provided.
“World of Tanks is a live community project. It already belongs to the players as well as Wargaming.”
– Viktor Kislyi
The press conference concluded with several questions from the audience. Some of the answers give us hints as to what Wargaming is planning or willing to do. A World of Warplanes world championship is definitely something they would like. Of course the game is only out for five months so they ask for some patience for the community to gather critical mass before moving ahead. Further more, a line of World of Tanks branded gaming gear might follow soon as well. Last but not least, the topic was raised whether they could envision an eSports Olymipcs event, featuring them together with other eSports companies (think League of Legends, Counter Strike, DOTA) to which they replied: “Everything is possible.” Where might this be held? Well, we definitely heard Michał Olszewski offering the Polish Olympic Stadium (as long as the infrastructure would oblige, of course…). Let’s see if they can make that happen!
The Grand Finals
Right now the grand finals are progressing and the teams are sweating it out. You can follow the latest tournament details on http://thegrandfinals.com/ and follow #thegrandfinals on Twitter. Today the teams will battle each other and tomorrow they will face each other in 1 on 1 battles. Sunday the finals are held! Stay tuned for more interviews with Wargaming and Teams from the Finals to follow.
Do you think a worldwide eSports Olympics is a realistic expectation? Let us know in the comments!