You may know WePlay Esports for WePlay AniMajor. Or you may have been following WePlay Esports as an event organizer since 2011. The company is well-known in the Dota 2 community, and in 2020, it decided to host one of the most popular DPC events at a challenging time for esports, the Bukovel Minor.
WePlay Esports has delivered an outstanding production quality, and it has very well elevated the standards for such events, relying on strong expertise in live event production, paired with an excellent crop of casting talent.
Today, WePlay Esports is nothing but a powerhouse in event organization, appealing to Dota 2 and esports fans across the world. The company is also developing its own dedicated esports arenas, one of which is based in Kyiv, and the other, currently under development, in Los Angeles.
Our team has approached WePlay Esports’ Chief Visionary Officer and General Producer Maksym Bilonogov to find out more about how a company starts on such a strong foothold in esports and to better understand what motivates it to expand thousands of kilometers from home, bringing its esports arenas to be new and undoubtedly promising markets.
Q: Could you tell us how WePlay Esports is always able to deliver on sterling quality in esports production, essentially setting a golden standard in what esports event organizers need to do to meet fans’ expectations?
Thank you, it’s nice to hear such a high appraisal of our work. The gold standard you are talking about is not a goal but rather a consequence of our attentive attitude towards each tournament. We are fond of making every esports event one-of-a-kind. While the fans’ expectations are growing, we don’t want to put on the same shows.
We respond to the viewers’ needs because we love what we do, combining esports and entertainment. Every discipline, every game, every tournament requires a different approach. Here at WePlay Esports, we have a team of professionals with backgrounds in theatre, cinema, and television. For them, esports is not merely a field of work but a lifestyle. They’re improving, developing on all fronts, and looking for features from other areas that can be applied in our tournaments.
Q: The first esports arena you debuted was in Kyiv. What motivated you to pursue esports beyond digital and create physical spaces?
Of course, we can create a show at the studio or in a rented location, as we did with WePlay! Mad Moon, the WePlay! Bukovel Minor 2020, and other events. However, with an arena at your disposal, you can perform at full blast: build a stage, organize an area for participants, a press area, and a place for the technical staff.
The WePlay Esports Arena Kyiv can host a tournament in any discipline, and we only need our own instruments and other stuff without renting anything. If we want to install two 10-meter statues or set up a boxing ring, we will do it! Once a tournament is over, we start preparing the next one using the same equipment.
Moreover, everything you see during broadcasts is tested at our arena. We have a lot of ideas to check before showing the end result to viewers. Therefore, the WePlay Esports Arena Kyiv is a sort of lab where we can run tests and decide whether ideas fit our events or not.
Q: You are now in the process of developing a second location in Los Angeles. Can you tell us more about the project, your goals, and how it fits in the Los Angeles esports community?
Los Angeles is the heart of the media industry, it’s where its pulse beats. There is Hollywood, the stars, and entertainment for all tastes. Still, there is room for esports to grow. We researched the region and made sure that WePlay Esports’ approach would be appreciated here. I look forward to meeting the guests in our LA arena and will be proud to showcase what we have achieved.
Q: What are the main challenges when choosing to build an esports arena?
Many tasks need to be solved before you lay the first brick in the arena wall. I’m talking about choosing a place, analyzing the market, and so forth.
The building process itself also presents many challenges, especially in terms of exhausting red tape. We have had to make sure to meet both U.S. and California regulations, check all building materials, find suppliers, check their documents too, and much more.
Plus, the pandemic has caused quite a few delays. We couldn’t get a lot of things in on time because the ports were closed. But it was all worth it because owning an arena in LA is another milestone for the company.
Q: Do you think esports need more physical venues where fans can meet as opposed to consuming the hobby through screens?
Online events are definitely exciting too, but they can’t replace LAN competitions. From a spectator’s point of view, watching a broadcast on Twitch and attending a real-life tournament are entirely different things.
At large, the publishers support this idea and want to see more creative events. With the opening of the LA arena, we will be able to organize even more events and host a tournament in any discipline.