Alisports, the sports branch of China’s Alibaba Group, has a global presence, but it has a heavy focus on teams and tournament events in Asia. Vainglory is the first mobile game to be included in the WESG championship tournament, which also includes other competitive titles including Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Dota 2, Hearthstone, and StarCraft II.
Overall, market researcher Newzoo believes the esports market will grow from 191 million enthusiast viewers in 2017 to 286 million by 2020. Hundreds of millions of more fans will watch esports on a casual basis, Newzoo said.
Altogether, the prize pool for the entire tournament is $5.5 million. Vainglory will be included in the WESG 2018 line-up, which kicks off later this year. That’s a big win for Vainglory, which recently unveiled its five-versus-five multiplayer gameplay.
Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba formed Alisports in 2015 with ambitions for improving the sports industry through technology. In 2016 Alisports formed WESG, an international esports tournament that saw 63,000 participants from 125 countries compete for a share of $5.5 million and had a total viewership of over 375 million.
“The WESG has quickly become one of the biggest esports tournaments in the world,” said Kristian Segerstrale, CEO of Super Evil Megacorp, in an interview. “The tournaments have rapidly growing viewerships, and that’s good for us. We are excited they are including us in the tournament going forward.”
The WESG 2017 Grand Final will take place this week, March 13 to March 18 in Hainan, China, where Vainglory is being revealed during a live showcase as the new title to be integrated into the WESG 2018 roster. This will be the first-ever Vainglory 5v5 cross-region esports event, with teams representing China, Korea, Indonesia, and Singapore.
“Our ambition for the World Electronic Sports Games is to incorporate the most influential titles in each genre in order to unite fans and talent from each corner of the world. Our current line up sees some of the most popular games played and welcomes the best teams. We are always looking to evolve,” said Jason Fung, global esports director of Alisports, in a statement. “Vainglory is one of the world’s biggest mobile esport with one of the most engaged communities. We’re excited to welcome Vainglory teams and fans to WESG 2018.”
Segerstrale said that Vainglory’s own official league will be separate from the WESG tournament.
“This is very much a global initiative, as WESG has teams from all over the world,” he said.
WESG also has considerably higher prize pools than existing Vainglory tournaments. But Segerstrale said the company isn’t focused on prize pools, as it prefers to create a sustainable league structure, rather than one where the winners take all.
Originally launched with a 3v3 format in 2015, Vainglory has grown to become a big international mobile esport, played and watched by millions every month and supported by sponsors including Coca-Cola, Razer, Nvidia, Amazon and global esports franchises TSM, Cloud9, Fnatic, Rox, DetonatioN Gaming, G2 Esports, SK Gaming and more.
“We are still early days,” Segerstrale said. “We are just excited this is happening, and another large traditionally PC esports event is taking mobile esports seriously. That will help the entire ecosystem grow.”
San Mateo, California-based Super Evil Megacorp created its E.V.I.L. engine to run Vainglory, and it has raised $63 million in funding from backers to date, with investors including General Catalyst, Index Ventures, Signia Venture Partners, Korea Investment Partners, CrossCut Ventures, Initial Capital, The Raine Group, ZhenFund, Yuri Milner, and Jim Breyer of Breyer Capital.