The World Showdown of Esports - which goes by the acronym WSOE - introduced a new format to the world of esports competitions.
They award a championship belt for each of the games they hold competitions in. So far the WSOE has held five events in four different games. This interview was recorded before that fifth event so I apologize for that incongruity.
In the interview we talk about the inspirations for the WSOE, how Bishop runs the ship and what esports we can look forward to in future WSOE events.
Now, onto the interview…
Mitch: I've got Christian Bishop, the commissioner of the WSOE who is joining me on this podcast. Welcome in Christian.
Christian: Thanks so much for having me Mitch, glad to be here.
Mitch: So I've already done a quick introduction of the WSOE format, but I was hoping we could start with your elevator pitch of the WSOE. What is it and what makes it unique?
Christian: Absolutely. We are the World Showdown of Esports; we look to do what UFC did for MMA, but for gaming. So we need to focus on the most relevant games, teams, players, influencers, and supporting the communities that love them.
Mitch: Awesome. I love it. I always ask for elevator pitches and they're usually not actually fit for elevators. So that was, that was good. So what did you feel about the WWE format that would translate well to esports?
Christian: We wanted a feature match component where we crowned a champion. That champion has an opportunity to continue to defend their title and you have a story telling element to it where people are challenging them, calling them out saying, hey look, I want an opportunity to go after that crown. And we know we wanted to really have fun with it and challenge our winners.
Mitch: Yeah. What's the response been from community members? Cause this is not like anything esports has ever done before. This is very new. When I was first introduced to it, I was like, Oh, a championship belt in esports. Interesting. What have you heard back from people who have now become fans of the WSOE?
Christian: Yeah, look, it's always super delicate because esports has been around for a bit and you traditional organizers like ESL and Star Ladder that have been doing it a certain way for a while. We knew that in order to do something different we had to innovate, and we had the push the envelope a bit. I think the communities that we’re supporting because we’re investing heavily in these games and these tournaments and these matches have welcomed it. And then, of course, there are a couple of people that are a little bit confused by it initially and I think we've done a good job to try to explain that and introduce people to the brand.
Mitch: Yeah. That education is crucial when you're doing a whole new format like this. So looking at it right now, WSOE 5 is this weekend up to here, you've had four different events obviously, and they've been in four different games. Do you have an amount of games or esports that you would like WSOE to compete in? I know you said it's the, it's the trendiest the name brand esports. Is there anything on your wish list for future WSOE events?
Christian: The number you will see us supporting is 6-8 games a year, running two matches per game, we like to crown a champion in our initial tournament structure, then giving them a chance to defend themselves throughout the year. There are definitely a lot of games that we're excited about. I think when you look at what the kind of response, EA is having with Apex [Legends], with Respawn (the game's developer) that's a really exciting game to be a part of and a community that I think is right for an event structure like ours. These new games come out man, and you see it just as well as I do that was everybody's wondering what's going to happen with the pro scene, when, what's going to go down here. And I think we step in nicely because we were able to move very quickly in these situations to provide some infrastructure.
Mitch: Yeah, that definitely helps. Esports just sort of come and they go quickly. So the first four events, it was Dota 2 #1, Hearthstone #3, then Rocket League and Fortnite I can't remember which one was three and which one was four, is that correct?
Christian: Yeah, Fortnite was three in December; we had that right before the New Year and then Rocket League in January.
Mitch: Awesome. I loved that rocket league event. I'm a huge Rocket League esports guy and that was really fun to watch.
Christian: I appreciate that. Yeah, there were some really exciting matches there towards the end. It was great. We really love the community.
So this weekend is WSOE 5 and this will be airing for our listeners will be airing after the event happens. So I'll be splicing in the result of that competition, in post, but right now we're recording this before the event takes place.
WSOE five is the first title defense. It's the second Hearthstone competition. So Christian, what changes on your end for a title defense versus an initial competition?
Christian: For me, my number one priority was to celebrate our champion and then that was a big deal, right? We've got, Jia who has an incredible story and a body of work in Hearthstone, as a caster and as a player and kind of her journey.
So we wanted to make sure that we were to doing a good job to tell her story and give people an opportunity to get to know her and see a different side of her because everyone's used to her being a caster and on-camera talent, they just don't know how great of a player she is.
So that was a big deal for us. We also wanted to make sure she was taken care of, right? So we got her first class, gift bags, she had an awesome dinner with all of her friends; a private driver picked her up from the airport. So we wanted to give her that champion experience and we look to do that for all of our winters.
Mitch: Yeah, I saw that, that swag bag you said to her, that looks pretty awesome. What were some of the highlights in that?
Christian: Airpods and some different gift cards, they don't know yet, but we got some makeup bags from Dose of Colors. There are good partners of ours at a pretty high value as well. So there's a variety of things man, that I wish I had.
Mitch: Yeah. I'm still waiting on my Airpods; I guess I got to get better video games or something. So looking at the WSOE format, I'm really curious about undercards right now. You've been doing a lot of show matches, but do you see different esports, as almost like different weight classes were eventually WSOE events might hold competitions in different games on the same card or on the same weekend?
Christian: Funny enough, I think we've been evaluating mobile - mobile games, mobile series - some of the other games just because of formatting and structure. With PC games like Dota it's tough to really schedule the timing on that. And if you're going through like five matches, you really need all the time you can get because our tournament is run on Saturdays or Sundays it would be tough to work through a whole bracket or a tournament structure with a variety of games. Mobile, we may be able to do that.
Mitch: That's really interesting. Yeah, that does pose some logistical problems for sure, like the Caster desk, like this weekend you have four big names in the Hearthstone community coming in, but if you want to do a Fortnite event at the same time, I don't know if Firebat (Hearthstone's first world champion and a caster at WSOE 5) would be able to commentate on a Fortnite game in the same way he can break down, a Hearthstone competition.
Christian: Yeah man. Absolutely. Think of the difference in terms of staging. Supporting a 1v1 based game to now having a Battle Royale All the infrastructure, you certainly have to have a different set up of on camera talent that actually knows the game and can provide that color commentary. The list goes on and on, and frankly, I don't know how many games companies actually want to be on the same title card with other games. I think they tend to like being focused; they kind of want their own tournament.
Mitch: The game publishers are kind of finicky. They're a little uptight about their titles. Has it been hard as a third party tournament organizer getting game publisher support for your series?
I always say 'it's there sandbox, we're just playing in it.' It's our communities, we're looking to just add value and be good partners to them. Fortunately for us, I think we've done a very good job to date fostering these relationships and really making sure we cross the t's and dot the i's right. Like we really take care of our players. We take care of our talent. Our prize payouts are super timely; everything we do is above board. So I think as we've established a brand in the space and built these relationships, it's gotten easier and I think, I think it could definitely be a challenge and people don't realize how hard it is.
Mitch: Yeah. It seems like you've done pretty well, pretty consistent events and some of the biggest titles. Dota, I mean Valve is tough to communicate with, but they do sort of license out the Dota thing to other people. What games do you think are never going to happen? Like League of legends probably not in the cards for a WSOE event?
Christian: Some games are more difficult to get licensing for. Especially because, they don't even want to cannibalize their core, pro team strategy or their league or infrastructure. So it's definitely difficult with League, but I think it is possible.
We're evaluating and doing some stuff with some of the most prominent influencers in the world and their championship series. Wink, wink, wink, if you can read between the lines on that Mitch, we may produce that and take that over.
(Note: I have been asked not to say explicitly what I believe that is referencing, but I will say that the Championship Series has nothing to do with the LCS)
I think there are also other opportunities with things like the All Stars matches. I think they'd be open to, celebrity influencer style thing. It's difficult with the pros. I don't know if you'll ever see an Overwatch kind of thing from us either. Some esports are easier than others.
Mitch: Overwatch and League with the franchise models. I appreciate the wink wink; by the way, I won't spoil what I believe you're talking about their here, without your permission. Overwatch and League with the franchised leagues, they're very, very controlling, very protective. I shouldn't say controlling. They are very protective of their IP (intellectual property) and what they're doing there.
Christian: We can debate that. We can look at how League started, right. They were relying on third party tournament organizing, and then they went through a shift themselves.
Mitch: Yeah. It's, I mean when you look at like CS:GO for an example and the way that they have been built off of community tournaments. IEM Katowice was just the most watched CS:GO tournament of all time and Valve has done that in this way. And it's interesting to see publishers like Blizzard and Riot and how they've chosen to run their game's esports scenes and it is different than the previous esports model. And now here you guys are doing it and another completely new model. So it's just always changing in esports.
Christian: Yeah I think that if you really want to push the scene you have to innovate. We can't be like everybody else.
Mitch: So you said six-eight games you want to have in WSOE. This past weekend was WSOE 5 but it was a repeat of Hearthstone and WSOE 6 will be another Dota competition. We've talked about two games that might not be included Overwatch and League. What are some games that are coming? Is that under embargo or are their negotiations right now?
Christian: I can tell you that if you look at the top ten esports titles globally in terms of the amount of events that are ran, we look to support, that scene in particular. In addition to up and coming games like Apex Legends I mentioned before. Otherwise, I'd look at the top ten, scratch out some IP you know isn't accessible and you can narrow in your focus.
Mitch: Awesome. Awesome. So that's all the questions I had for you, Christian. I really appreciate you taking the time. Is there anything I didn't ask you about the WSOE event?
Christian: One thing you can look forward to from us is we are going to try it. We are going to try new things and innovate. In addition to the championship belt we have a sub brand, which is called WSOE Presents, which is what we're running those other fun, exciting matches. Whether or not it's an influencer led online tournament, whether or not it's something with, Dr. DisRespect, there are these different things we're going to do under our brand. So we're always looking to say 'Hey, what's new, what's exciting in gaming, that's really fun that we can be a part of.' I think that is a big thing to keep in mind when you think of the WSOE.
Mitch: Cool. Absolutely. You guys have done a great job to have some of the biggest names in your respective games for your events and that's crucial in esports. It really is an influencer led industry. So it's awesome to hear there'll be more events like that in the future.
Outro: That was Christian Bishop the Commissioner of the WSOE. I hope you enjoyed learning more about the WSOE format and what makes it unique.
All WSOE events are held in Las Vegas, Nevada at the PokerGO Studio and I am hoping to make the trip down there at some point to see the event in person.
Now looking at some of the games, we danced around what games we think may or may not be suitable for upcoming WSOE events. While he doesn’t want me to share anything about the “Wink, wink” section because they are currently in negotiations and nothing is finalized, we can use the top ten game list to try to pinpoint some titles that make sense for future WSOE events.
That could be games like CS:GO, StarCraft II, Heroes of the Storm or Rainbow Six: Siege. Call of Duty is in that top ten but they also fall under the Activision Blizzard IP umbrella so that is unlikely for the WSOE. Heroes of the Storm is also a Blizzard game but they recently disbanded the esports division for that game so it is ripe for a third-party tournament.
There are so many esports out there it is hard to judge. You have games like Apex Legends that were released in February 2019 that seem to be scheduled for upcoming WSOE events so everything can change quickly in esports.
It will be interesting to see how the WSOE develops. We have UFC cards in the 200s now and you could look back on this podcast with WSOE on its 70th event and it would be cool to see how the tournament has developed.
That wraps up this podcast. Thanks for listening. This was a feature presentation of the Esportz Minute, by the Esportz Network. For all the up to date news on esports, everything you need to know, visit EsportzNetwork.com. And you’re probably already here but check out EsportzNetworkPodcast.com for longer versions of the esports podcast.