WCG was established in the early 2000s and was once called one of the largest international esports competitions or esports Olympics. However, after 2013, WCG disappeared. After six years, WCG has revived in Xi’an, China. The company that had the most will and worked actively for this project was Smilegate.
There were many different perspectives on bringing WCG back. First, there were people who thought of having players represent their country in a competition was grand itself. On the other hand, there was always that 2% lacking with the titles being played in WCG compared to the popularity of the competition.
On the 20th, where the festival was successfully in progress, we met WCG CEO Lee Jeong-jun and director Oh Seung-hwan and talked about more details on WCG 2019.
WCG has come back in 6 years. How do you feel?
This may be an obvious statement, but I feel emotional. After taking over the rights from Samsung, we had a lot of doubts and worries. There was a period where everything was on hold, and we had anxieties about whether it would be right to carry on the new stuff we added to the event. Still, the reactions at the site were better than expected, so we were relieved.
We’ll be straightforward on this question. What would benefit Smilegate if you brought WCG back?
To start with the conclusion, there isn’t much that benefits the group internally. WCG isn’t an event that can benefit commercially. It wasn’t that we didn’t know that from the beginning, and it was a business that WCG Chairman Kwon Hyuk-bin lead us through. Our goal was to create a festival that suits the new era properly. To find anything that may be beneficial would be maybe gaining better impressions towards the group.
What has changed in this WCG that’s distinguishable from the events in the past?
The main keywords are participation, future, new, and healing. Basically, in all parts of the event, participation is melted in. The ‘future’ part would be for ‘new horizon’. Although its called esports now, but as time passes, the ‘e’ would disappear and naturally over time, it could just simply become another sport.
VR can provide diverse experiences. It has to not only satisfy the player but has to make watching it fun as well. In those parts, I think we can pioneer that part and up to now, it seems pretty good.
WCG is a global competition, but maybe because it’s held in China this time, the major events seem to be China-centric. If WCG is to be held in different countries or regions, are you considering having events based on that region?
Basically, we tried to select the events according to the global index. To take the Olympics for example, Korea has Taekwondo, Japan has Judo, etc. We have to consider the local audiences and the popularity in that region. The events selected in WCG 2019 considered that. If WCG is to be held in other countries or cities, there’s always a possibility of considering popular games in that region. However, we’ll be focusing on trying to select the most popular games in the world.
This may be the biggest question fans may have. Currently, League of Legends and Overwatch are the most popular esports and they have a systematic operation going on, but these two weren’t included in the WCG. Can you go into details about that?
We are not a company that owns the games. Therefore, we cannot control the companies that do. In a perfect world, everything would go as planned, but there was some trouble with negotiation. By finishing this event successfully, we’ll put in more effort so that other companies can become more open-minded for future events.
As you said, there could be trouble with negotiation. Would that affect the continuity of the event?
Negotiations aren’t easy. Especially with the games that have an individual league. This could be a strength as well as a weakness. However, if we can strengthen the brand of WCG, we should be able to end up on a positive solution. I think if the event does well and gains more popularity, it’s beneficial to the developers. In other words, the more popular WCG gets, the more companies would want to participate in the event.
While preparing for WCG 2019 in Xi’an, you communicated a lot with the Chinese government. What does China seem to have in mind regarding esports?
China also has some negative issues on games socially, maybe not as much as Korea. We worked with China’s local government and they were very supportive and didn’t hold back on investing. It seemed that they wanted to step above Korea; they even have a whole department dedicated to esports.
What was the most impressive moment you saw at this WCG?
On opening day, it was raining and it was a weekday. Even so, the queue at the ticket office was amazing. That really stuck in my mind. Also, I was really surprised that Moon was still widely popular among the fans.
In the Olympics, if a player wins a medal, honor follows. However, it doesn’t seem to go the same way in WCG.
The honor that goes to the medal winner in the Olympics goes way back more than 100 plus years of history and tradition. Obviously, WCG lacks much in that area. However, I’d like to say we’re trying to figure out solutions in many different ways. For example, we could make a hall of fame, or by showing the nationality before their names or teams. We’ll be preparing many different aspects that can do so. We’re also considering increasing the whole size of the competition.
Could you tell us about WCG’s vision?
I feel that we need to diversify events in VR. We’re thinking we can bring up new events and consider if it can become an esport. We’ll try to discover new-tech games that can be made into a sport.
To talk a bit more about VR; there actually were VR game competitions in other events. However, the games are in VR, but the fans have to see it on a 2D screen. To resolve this issue, we tried to make the audience see and feel what the player sees. We created a spectator mode with the developers in VR RTS game, Final Assault, and with the Robot wars, there are projects that we’re working on together with GJS. We’ll be continuing WCG every year now. We hope all the fans watch with keen interest.
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