The WePlay Ultimate Fighting League’s inaugural season wrapped up just a few days ago with the last of the three fighting game weekends hosted by WePlay Esports together with professional cruiserweight boxing champion Oleksandr Usyk.
The series was staged offline at the WePlay Esports Arena Kyiv, Ukraine, and offered $150 000 in prize money. Each weekend belonged to a different fighting discipline, namely Mortal Kombat 11, SOULCALIBUR VI and the most recent one - Tekken 7.
Each event featured sixteen players from all around the globe, including some of the biggest names from the world of fighting games. The series drew an exceptionally great audience, so it might be worthwhile to take a closer look at the viewership statistics.
The series kicked off on March 25th with a Mortal Kombat competition, which ended up being by far the most-watched event of WePlay Ultimate Fighting League Season 1, thanks to the participation of several well-known North American players, representatives of CIS region and community broadcasts.
The tournament took place within 31 hours and recorded 391K hours watched. At its peak, over 24K concurrent viewers tuned in to spectate the match of Dominique “SonicFox” McLean vs. Hamid “AZERBAIJAN” Mustafayev. Evil Geniuses’ SonicFox ended up victorious not only in this match but in the whole tournament. On average, 12K viewers watched the Mortal Combat edition of WUFL.
The English-speaking viewers were prevalent among the audience (58.9%), followed by the Russian-speaking ones (39.4%).
While Mortal Kombat set the viewership standard pretty high, the following weekend’s event didn’t attract a very big audience. During 28 hours of air time, The SOULCALIBUR VI tournament reached 60K hours watched and was spectated by 2K average viewers.
The rest of the competition was broadcast in English. We spoke to Valentyn Shevchenko, Head of Business Development at WePlay Esports, and asked him about the possibility of broadcasts in other languages in the future.
«We are always looking for a high-quality adaptation of our content and in search for a perfect partner to make the event even better. There is a good chance the following seasons will be broadcast in Russian and other regional languages».
The last event of the first season of the WUFL series was dedicated to Tekken 7. Even though it was the shortest tournament of the series (21 hours air time), it reached the mark of 218K hours watched, attracting 10K viewers on average.
The highest number of spectators tuned in during the match of Arslan “Arslan Ash” Siddique against Kim “JDCR” Hyunjin — 18K peak viewers watched the battle for a spot in the grand finals. Arslan Ash, who is represented by Red Bull Gaming, became the winner of the WUFL Season 1 Tekken competition.
Mortal Kombat tournaments viewership comparison
The presented data imply that the Season 1 of WePlay Ultimate Fighting League was a success and that the new league has the potential for fast growth in the following seasons.
It performed excellently in terms of viewership numbers, especially the first Mortal Kombat event, which could be compared to the Final Kombat 2020, the final stage of MK11’s official esports circuit operated by WB Games. The event, which took place in March 2020, was the last major MK tournament before the global pandemic halted most of the offline competitions. With its all-star participation, it reached 459K Hours Watched, 60K Peak Viewers and 42K Average Viewers in 11 hours of air time.
Even though that’s significantly more people tuning in, the WUFL MK competition is still the closest to a major event than any other recent fighting-game tournament. For example, WePlay’s separate MK event WePlay Dragon Temple, which took place in December, attracted only 5K average viewers and 10K peak viewers, who spent in total 163K hours watching the tournament.
Aside from that, there is PS4 Open Series, a monthly fighting game competition held by PlayStation for European and North American regions; however, it doesn’t gather many viewers. Its recent editions MK11 March Finals NA PS4 and MK11 March Finals EU PS4 attracted only 1-2K average and peak viewers, reaching 5K and 7K HW, respectively.
The success of WePlay Ultimate Fighting League Season 1 is not a surprise, considering Oleksandr Usyk’s involvement in the series. Moreover, the participants themselves admired the tournament and the attitude of the organizers.
Apart from virtual battles, the spectators could also enjoy real fights between professional boxers from Ukraine, England, Hungary and Belarus battling it out at the WePlay Esports Arena. It seems as if the real-life fighters were trying to save the sexual scandal-damaged fighting game esports scene.
According to Valentyn Shevchenko, in the future the list of WUFL games will expand, it will include both popular titles and those that have great potential. We also asked if new players will have the opportunity to get into the league and under what conditions will the participants for the next season be selected:
"WePlay Esports is building an esports ecosystem that includes fighting games. The grand plan is to give players of all skill levels room to grow through regular competitive events. Successful participation in those events will lead to the WUFL — the premier-level tournament which everyone wants to participate in. There will also be qualifiers as a more direct way for those who don’t want to go through the long circuit.
This won’t all happen in one season, but we’re already forging the ecosystem with things like the WePlay Compete app. Our friends from DashFight are creating a great place for aspiring professional players to grow, and we plan to keep working together to reach our common goals.
The ecosystem will provide ample opportunities for both the players and potential partners on a regional and global scale"
Valentyn Shevchenko, Head of Business Development at WePlay Esports.
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