The World Cyber Games (WCG) was a profound international platform that brought together the best players from around the world in various competitive games.
It began operations in 2000 out of South Korea under the wings of the country’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism, as well as the Ministry of Information and Communications. It was also backed by Samsung Electronics and Microsoft as global sponsoring partners.
Since its inception, the World Cyber Games pursued the single goal of emulating a traditional sporting tournament. It continued to run an annual prestigious event for 14 straight years before ceasing operations on February 5, 2014.
During its lifetime, the WCG brand had representation in over 70 countries and had succeeded in its attempts to be considered as the Olympics of competitive video games. It died as the largest global esports presence in the world, leaving behind fond memories that can never be forgotten.
Today, it’s easy to pick out international tournaments for any of the most popular games on the market. However, back then it was only a handful of names that were working hard to make something of esports. Even then, no organizer could come close to the sheer global reach, scale, popularity, and recognition of the WCG brand.
For aspiring players in many countries around the world, the yearly arrival of a WCG event held great excitement. It was a period of socializing with comrades, besting one another, and using the opportunity to win national/regional qualifiers for a chance at representing their respective countries on an international platform.
The featured games would change every year, depending upon popularity and reception. However, highly competitive titles such as Counter-Strike 1.6, Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, StarCraft: Brood War, and FIFA were always guaranteed to make the final list. In its last years, the WCG also highlighted League of Legends, Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition, and Tekken 6 for its grand events.
In his last open letter to all WCG partners around the world, CEO Brad Lee cited “current global trends” and “changing business environments” as the sole reasons for the closure. However, it was revealed soon after that there were several other reasons for the failure of the WCG, and all of them revolved around how difficult it was for global partners to work with Lee.
According to reports, Lee had stopped looking at the WCG as an esports platform and more as a marketing tool.
In 2011, Lee increased the WCG national licensing fee by 300 percent without submitting any substantial reasoning. Several partners that had been loyal to the WCG for so many years took it as a sign to part ways.
Brittle and failed communications with publishers only forced them to forge their own world championships with other organizers. Rather than negotiate over a game’s retention, it would simply be replaced with another.
At the near end, Lee made the fatal error of removing Counter-Strike 1.6 from WCG 2012 and 2013. Sending a team of five players abroad is costly for many around the world. Hence, Lee reasoned that removing the game altogether would bring in more competition. World Cyber Games was already on its last breaths. The removal of the most popular competitive game in the world was the final nail in the coffin.
By this time, other brands like Major League Gaming, DreamHack, and Intel Extreme Masters had already gained significant following. If anything, the low quality of WCG events only helped in strengthening rival organizers.
It wasn’t just the top hierarchy that failed. Having separate WCG-licensed divisions in over 70 countries in the world meant that there was no check on how funds were being managed. In many countries, sponsorship never entirely reached deserving players. Regional partners like Samsung would only care enough to see its adverts and products displayed on-stage. As a result, WCG lost many players on a regional level.
The World Cyber Games platform was not perfect in any way, but it delivered a golden era that helped shape the esports world that is today.