Ubisoft is trying to turn Just Dance into an e-sport, so you can finally shake your groove thing until the break of dawn or until someone hands you a trophy — whichever comes first.
The French publisher revealed recently that it will partner with the Electronic Sports World Cup to hold a Just Dance competition at its championship event in Paris in October for the body-controlled motion game that has player busting a move in front of their TVs. To get into the finals, players will have to compete in qualifying events around the world. They will then have to compete in front of a live audience in Paris — although Ubisoft and ESWC haven’t laid out the format for the final tourney yet. This isn’t Ubisoft’s first attempt to bring one of its games into the e-sports scene, but it’s hoping that maybe this game will find an audience.
“We’ve been working closely with the ESWC organization for several years to showcase Ubisoft games on a world stage,” Ubisoft senior e-sports manager Jean-Baptiste Pennes told Red Bull’s entertainment website in an interview. “Last year we introduced Just Dance on the ESWC main stage and were totally surprised, and excited, by the positive response it got.”
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That encouraged Ubisoft to introduce Just Dance as a competitive event for this year’s event. The company also sees this as an opportunity to attract new people to e-sports.
“When you think about it, there’s an inaccessibility to e-sports that doesn’t let the experience extend to a broader audience beyond core gamers,” said Pennes. “We are able to get [that] with Just Dance.”
After all, Just Dance is just dancing. While complex multiplayer online arena battlers like League of Legends and Dota 2 have a barrier of entry due to their skill-intensive hardcore gameplay, Just Dance is all about performing easily recognizable moves with your body.
“Everyone can feel the appeal of dancing and the appeal of seeing it on stage,” said Pennes. “You don’t have to be an expert in the game to participate or enjoy the experience.”
E-sports is a growing segment of the gaming market. It has millions of online viewers on sites like Twitch, and it’s easy to see why Ubisoft wants a piece of that business. Gamers, however, are usually pretty picky about what they will watch. If a developer sets out to create an e-sport, people will often reject it. Instead, communities tend to form around competitive games slowly and turn them into e-sports organically. That’s something that Ubisoft knows all about.
The publisher previously tried to create an e-sport with its competitive multiplayer game ShootMania Storm. Ubisoft poured money into promoting it with e-sports events, but both those events and the game failed to capture an audience. Players have largely forgotten about ShootMania since its April 2013 release.
Just Dance could face the same challenges that ShootMania did, but Ubisoft is likely hoping that this game’s mass-audience appeal will help it break through.