The future of the Race to World First and why Method is not working /w Red Bull
WHY METHOD IS NO LONGER WORKING WITH RED BULL
Method decided to stream the Race to World First (“RWF”) for the first time in Uldir. We reached out to Red Bull and brought them on to sponsor the event and provide a venue. The Uldir RWF event was a huge success, over 6 million unique devices tuned in and overall 10 million viewer hours were accumulated. In comparison, this is more than twice the viewer hours of the Overwatch League playoffs in 2018.
Red Bull saw the magnitude of the RWF and decided that they wanted to own and operate the event themselves. After Uldir, they started pushing us to have the next RWF streamed on Red Bull’s Twitch channel. We of course rejected that for many reasons, including:
- Most importantly, we see the long-term damage of handing off the 14-year-old community run RWF competition to a 3rd party corporation. Only the community and/or Blizzard themselves should have ownership over the RWF (more on that below).
- Method itself had no partnership nor received any direct compensation from Red Bull. The RWF live stream channel was the only way to interact with the viewers and to bring on sponsors. If we handed off the live stream to Red Bull then we wouldn’t be able to compensate the players that compete in the RWF.
The above was a key discussion point for months as we tried to find a solution (in hindsight we should have gone our separate ways at this point) however we were constantly given hope that a solution was coming and at the same time we did hold the Red Bull brand in high esteem and wanted to find a fair compromise. Finally, two weeks before the release of the Battle of Dazar’alor (“BoD”) raid dungeon Red Bull agreed to have the live stream remain on Method’s Twitch channel, furthermore Red Bull indicated that a long term partnership could happen after the completion of the BoD RWF. Unfortunately, the 2-week turnaround meant that we couldn’t take action on unlocking the event’s full potential such as Method’s plans to include other guilds and to generally develop the event into something even bigger. Despite this, the event was another huge success, even surpassing the viewership during Uldir.
Nothing materialized after BoD. Instead, Red Bull continued to pursue the route of trying to take ownership of the Race to World First events. It was very disappointing for us at Method as I think anyone who tuned into the last 2 RWF events at this point can appreciate how much value Red Bull has gained from their involvement, as The Esports Observer put it “The stream featured a constant presence from Red Bull, giving the brand access to millions of hours of viewership".
While dialogue remained open it was leaked to us that Red Bull reached out to Limit and Pieces to plan an event called “Red Bull’s World First” (https://i.imgur.com/6UahKQF.jpg). Red Bull had gone behind our back, and after seeing their presentation to Limit and Pieces it was apparent that they had taken a lot of our ideas and concepts for expanding the RWF.
Red Bull will therefore likely be putting on their own event for 8.2 The Eternal Palace with Limit and Pieces this time around, but Method will have no involvement with the event.
Method will host the RWF event at a new location and we are very excited to share all the details with you about this in an upcoming announcement.
THE FUTURE OF THE RACE TO WORLD FIRST
The Race to World First has existed for 14 years as a community run initiative without the direct involvement of Blizzard or 3rd party corporations. We reject the prospect of a 3rd party corporation taking this competition away from the community, now that the Race to World First live streams have shown that there is huge public interest and commercial viability.
The Race to World First is uniquely positioned in that it requires limited external involvement. The competition can be considered similar to the concept of ‘Games Done Quick (GDQ), it is a race through PvE content, effectively PvE esports. If we consider how differently a standard esports tournament is run (PvP esports), for example a CSGO tournament, it requires the tournament organizer to create and enforce a ruleset, create brackets, administer and referee each match and so on. The Race to World First is unique in that it requires none of that.
Allowing a 3rd party corporation to take ownership of the Race to World First is conflicting with the interests of the guilds who compete in the race. The goal of the 3rd party corporation is to promote their own brand as much as possible (less incentive to bring on other sponsors as it dilutes their brand exposure), run the event at the lowest cost possible, while also owning the run of show and all other aspects (branding, marketing, event sales etc) surrounding the show which severely limits the guilds oversight and return from the event. The guilds become powerless and restricted in terms of the event itself, the exposure they get, the revenue generated from the event, and other elements. All of this has a direct impact on how the long term raiding scene develops from here on out.
A notorious problem has been the sustainability of being a top raider. The majority of guilds that have achieved World Firsts are either disbanded or have stopped competing, including guilds such as Death and Taxes, Nihilum, Ensidia, Blood Legion and Paragon. Seeking to achieve a World First requires an immense amount of dedication but yields no tangible reward if you are successful. We live in a time of top esports competitions rewarding millions in prize money and six to seven figures annual pro player salaries. Most top raiders on the other end have to take vacation from their full time jobs to compete in the RWF.
The past 2 RWF events have achieved numbers similar to CSGO Major tournaments, or multiple weekends of the LCS, these events are massive and there value should be realised by the guilds involved.
Method is in the early stages of communicating with other top guilds on a collective agreement that will have the Race to World First remain in the hands of the community. An agreement that will prevent exploitation of the guilds. The agreement in broad strokes:
- The guilds elect a commissioner to act on their behalf. The commissioner will assume the role of executive director for RWF events.
- The commissioner and the guilds choose a production company and venue(s) which will be engaged on a contractor basis.
- The commissioner, on behalf of the guilds, will oversee the creation and execution of a Race to World First broadcast, to ensure the event reflects the competitive nature of the race and the passion of the raid guilds.
- Sponsorships for the RWF events will be brought in by the guilds and external agents. All revenue will be distributed in a fair manner which will be agreed upon between the guilds.
- Blizzard, as creator and IP owner of World of Warcraft, will hopefully continue to provide support to what has always made World of Warcraft special, its community. We would be keen to work directly with Blizzard with the above aforementioned points in mind.
This agreement ensures that; 1) The Race to World First will be the best it can be, because it is in the hands of the guilds and their raiders, who have passion and dedication to this competition. 2) The guilds and raiders are not taken advantage of by external for-profit companies which have no interest in the RWF other than its commercial exploitation. 3) The long term sustainability of the raiding scene is secured.
METHOD'S ROLE IN THE RWF
Method was created 14 years ago, in 2005, and since then we have always been a competitor in the Race to World First, some of you might remember some of our first significant boss kills such as Lady Vashj world 2nd (“world first legit”) and Kil’Jaeden world 2nd in The Burning Crusade. If we look back at the last few expansions in particular, going back to Mists of Pandaria in 2012, Method has been world first on 12 of the 16 significant end bosses. Over time Method has increased its efforts to develop the RWF beyond competing in it in the form of a 24/7 live report (https://www.method.gg/raidprogress) and a full raid history compilation (https://www.method.gg/raid-history) with the goal to preserve RWF achievements. However Method’s most impactful action was the live streaming of world first progression through Uldir in 2018 that brought back excitement to the RWF at a time where many were skeptical about the future of hardcore raiding. Given Method’s position in the raiding community, and our passion for the RWF, we want to ensure in anyway we can the long term sustainability of the RWF.