Warface might not be as well-known as other competitive shooters like CSGO or Call of Duty, but the free-to-play FPS has actually had an esports scene since 2013.
After Russian publisher Mail.ru acquired Warface from Crytek last year, it's been making a big effort to develop its esports infrastructure further. Now it has UK players in its sights, and is also running a caster competition to fill a full-time paid role.
Esports News UK interviews Ivan Voznyak, esports producer at Mail.Ru Group, to ask more about Warface's esports plans.
Esports News UK: What are your short-term and long-term esports plans for Warface?
Ivan Voznyak: Right now we are working on Warface Open Cup: Season 13. Open Cup is the main Warface esports tournament that gathers the most viewers and attracts the best Warface teams from around the globe.
The qualifiers for the EU region are currently taking place and fans are gearing up for finals that will take place in June. I can't reveal too many details but we are expecting some interesting novelties this season that players do not want to miss!
As for the long term planning - we have always believed that esports is a backbone of Warface and we are constantly working on the positive changes to the Warface esports infrastructure.
One of our focal points in this regards is the league system. Based on the market research we now feel the need to unify esports activities and to include some pro players outside the Warface community.
The key project that we are working on here is the new PVP league. This will become an interdisciplinary league that is designed to unite professional players and align major esports tournaments to maximise audience engagement. We believe that this will become a positive push towards the development of the industry. We are hoping that Warface could become the first discipline in the new league.
Why make a move into esports, and why the refocus now?
Esports has always been an integral part of Warfacelong term development plan since the first Warface LAN tournament - Open Cup in 2013. That first tournament took place at Igromir - the biggest Russian gaming and pop culture fair. Back then it was set up to be just another fun activity for the crowd.
However, we received very positive feedback from the players and the audience, and decided to continue developing this aspect of the game.
Since then Warface has seen a radical shift in an esports infrastructure. The tournaments are now planned and conducted on a much higher level and Open Cup prize fund has been raised tenfold. We have also worked on different formats like online or LAN compendium tournaments, both of which have been well received by players.
"We believe that Warface has a lot to offer to UK esports players. Warface is a relatively young discipline, where high skilled players would find less stiff competition."
In 2016 we had a Season 8 to 10 Open Cup tournaments and by the end of the year we had a fully formed league system, when Pro league (the highest skill league) emerged.
During the last compendium tournament (Absolute Power) teams played for a prize fund of around £130,000.
All this work has not been in vain - in just a five-year period we have come to a well-developed system, where we conduct around 20 large tournaments a year that over 60,000 players take part in. And still we see very good potential for our esports community to grow: we are working hard to make this happen.
What are your thoughts on UK esports? Are you targeting players/teams/talent from here in particular?
We believe that Warface has a lot to offer to the UK esports players. Warface is a relatively young discipline, where high skilled players would find less stiff competition.
We have fair rules, solid tournament system and regular LAN events. We would be happy to have UK teams join our family.
Please tell us about the Warface caster competition, the position you're looking to fill. What are the details and is this a paid position?
Warface is currently expanding and EU is a strategic priority in this regard. We plan to develop our presence in European markets and acquiring talent to increase our representation is a key priority.
We believe that more local and native casters will be a good step forward. We are looking for a combination of caster talent and game knowledge, hence the competition. It's a full-time occupation that we will reward properly.
What learnings have you taken from your previous efforts in esports?
One of the key learnings that we have taken so far is that the main asset of every esports project is its team. People that I am very fortunate to work with are true professionals and can manage anything - from making a 2,000-team tournament (about 10,000 participants) in a weekend to organizing three international LAN finals in five months - and still having time to manage and consult some of the best Warface teams in the world.
"We plan to develop our presence in European markets and acquiring [caster] talent to increase our representation is a key priority."
What are your general thoughts on the current state of FPS esports and how does Warface fit into that, and offer something different?
We do see development in each and every area of esports. More games are being played on a much higher level than ever before. We do not know the capacity of the market and how long this growth rate can keep at it, but we can definitely say that this trend is only gearing up.
As for Warface we see a lot of potential for it due to various facts - its own unique dynamic gameplay, the fact that it is so easily accessible (Warface is a free-to-play project that can be lauched on a wide range of hardware due to its quality optimisation), structured esports system and the future launch of the PVP league.