Wargaming is expanding its eSports business beyond its core World of Tanks PC game, which has grown a strong global audience over the past few years. The publisher recently ran a successful one-day tournament featuring sixteen World of Tanks Blitz teams as a final test before slowly jumping into eSports with it. Now Wargaming is gearing up for its first Blitz Twister Cup.
The tournament will kick off with online preliminary matches starting September 26 across four regions with the best team from each region competing at a live offline event later this year. As many as ten players can register per team for the 7-vs.-7 competition.
Carlo Delallana, senior producer on World of Tanks Blitz told [a]listdaily that everything is handled on the client inside of the mobile game. “We give them all the tools to register for the tournament and they’ll get pinged before a match.”
Although this is Wargaming’s first step into mobile eSports, it’s part of a detailed road map that was laid out last year by the eSports team. The development team has added training rooms to the game and the ability to seamlessly launch tournaments. “We’ll add more features to expand things like camera controls so casters can fly the camera around and comment on the match,” Delallana said. “We’ll also add built-in livestreaming support in a future update.”
Even without built-in support, Delallana said players are using Mobcrush and Twitch on their own to stream games today. Wargaming will livestream the Blitz Twister Cup just as they’ve livestreamed the Wargaming.net League competitive tournament.
“We’ve been able to learn a lot from the World of Tanks (eSports) league,” Delallana said. “There are a lot of similar things from the tool standpoint. We do have some functionality in Blitz that’s exclusive to us, which makes it easier to set tournaments up quickly.”
While the World of Tanks eSport has grown established teams over the years, there’s only a small percentage of crossover between the mobile game and its big brother, according to Delallana. “If you’re a primarily a mobile player you’ll stick with Blitz, so I think we’ll get some new folks coming into the competitive scene,” Delallana said. “Blitz is an interesting product in the Tanks line-up. We’re targeting a different consumer, although very much in our space. There is a way for us to expand that eSports audience.”
One key element Delallana said will help grow Blitz as an eSport is the ability to watch the competition from within the game. That’s something Activision has done with Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 and it’s on the roadmap for Blitz, although not necessarily for this year. “If you can fire up Blitz and watch eSports directly from within the game, folks would never have to leave the client,” Delallana said.
Just as Wargaming has built out the presentation around its Grand Finals event for World of Tanks, this first official eSports outing is a learning experience.
“The theatrics of the live event is something we’re going to figure out,” Delallana said. “This first iteration is to debut Blitz and say we’ve arrived as an eSport. As the mobile eSports following gets bigger, the theatricality of the event will evolve.”
Delallana is bullish on eSports, given the success Blizzard Entertainment has had with Hearthstone and Super Evil Megacorp has had with Vainglory. “A lot of people watch Twitch on mobile devices, so the audience is already there,” Delallana said. “Those gamers might want to start rooting for mobile eSports over time.”
This first tournament will offer in-game gold for participants, so there’s an incentive for players who are competitive. Moving forward, Delallana said real cash prizes will become part of Blitz eSports. Real money will also help establish an ecosystem, which has already evolved with Hearthstone and Vainglory in the mobile arena.
“Once you debut an eSport, there will be teams and individuals and rising stars,” Delallana said. “This will be our first opportunity to see these global players emerge, and we want to make sure we give them the opportunities to explore Blitz competitively as a career choice.”
Blitz also opens up new sponsorship opportunities for brands interested in reaching mobile gamers. Wargaming recently held a Rise of Continents asynchronous competition across all its World of Tanks Blitz servers and Sennheiser headphones were awarded to winners.
“So we’ve dabbled in sponsored competitive events outside of the eSports environment and we hope to expand that opportunity when we properly debut Blitz,” Delallana said.