China’s bid to revitalise the World Cyber Games

Many gamers will know that the World Cyber Games was one of the pioneering esports tournaments. Whilst the competition has not be run since 2013, it looks to make a big comeback in 2019 when the fifteenth World Cyber Games takes place in Xi’an in China.

From 18 to 21 July, gamers from all over the world will descend upon the historic central Chinese city in a bid to succeed at one of the most famous esports contests. The World Cyber Games was initially set up as a kind of Olympic games for esports. Whilst it ran into difficulties in 2013, it has benefited from a new Korean owner, and by making China the base for its relaunch, the tournament is expected to be one of the highlights of the esports calendar in the coming year.

What can we expect from the 2019 World Cyber Games?

Details are already trickling in about the forthcoming World Cyber Games, and the four-day event promises to be open for all amateur gamers. Although the official gaming titles have yet to be announced, each player will need to qualify in domestic preliminary matches for each country before they get a chance to compete in the World Cyber Games final.

World Cyber Games had previously stated that they would be carrying out invitation-only matches that would be followed by regional qualifiers. But as a result of pressure from esports officials and fans, the organisation has decided to open up the competition for non-professional gamers too.

This is part of World Cyber Games’ vision for the tournament to contribute to ‘making the world better by offering joy and helping settle conflicts’. Such promises are certainly a lot more ambitious than some other esports tournaments out there, and it’s interesting to see how the World Cyber Games will cope with the legislative pressure from the Chinese government.

Will China’s authorities influence the running of the World Cyber Games?

China’s government has had a famously strained relationship with esports. On the one hand, the authorities have invested a huge amount of resources in building special ‘esports town’ in places like Hangzhou, but recently we have seen counter-measures implemented that effectively banned some of the most popular esports.

In early December, the Chinese government reportedly banned titles like Fortnite, Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds as a result of the offensive nature of the gameplay. In addition to this, there were cautionary notes for popular titles like League of Legends and Overwatch for reasons ranging from supposedly indecent portrayals of female characters, to the lack of regulation in the games’ chat rooms.

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© WCG

As a result, there are big concerns about what games will be featured at the forthcoming World Cyber Games. Whilst the tournament was famous for establishing titles like Counter Strike and StarCraft: Broodwar on the competitive gaming scene, there are fears that the World Cyber Games could only feature games that pass the test of the notoriously strict Chinese censors.

Despite these reservations, it looks like officials in Xi’an are keen for the city to be a real esports hub. This means that a special esports cluster would be set up to develop the industry with training centres and a new arena helping to host top-level events like the World Cyber Games. So whilst the forthcoming World Cyber Games might look a little different from the standard esports tournament, it promises to be a very professionally run operation.

An exciting new start for the World Cyber Games

Many esports fans will be glad to have the World Cyber Games back on the scene. What began as one of the world’s premier esports tournaments in 2000 ran into troubles in 2014 when several partners stated that they had difficulties working with the CEO and organisation.

But with the announcement that the World Cyber Games would now be run by the Korean gaming firm, Smilegate, it’s hoped that the contest can start afresh. The decision to host the relaunched World Cyber Games in China could prove to be especially shrewd as the nation reportedly has well over 600 million gamers and is an increasingly important player on the global esports scene.

China previously held the tournament in cities such as Kunshan and Chengdu, and by hosting the relaunched gaming competition, it will hopefully make the nation more attractive to other esports tournaments. The World Cyber Games has made no attempt to hide its ambitions as being something of an Olympic Games for esports with medal systems and regional qualifying formats, and so the new tournament could be well-timed to help esports gain official recognition from traditional sporting bodies. But whatever happens behind the scenes, it’s hoped that the 2019 World Cyber Games could be a great new start for this iconic esports festival.

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