Wargaming’s biggest event of the year takes place this weekend – so what goes into making it happen?
This is it, folks: this Saturday sees the start of the World of Tanks Grand Finals, the biggest tournament on the calendar for Wargaming’s hugely popular eSport. The top 12 teams drawn from every regional league across the globe are heading to Poland to do battle for the 2015 championship in front of thousands of spectators, and millions more watching online.
Who will walk away victorious is still up in the air, but what isn’t in doubt is the amount of effort required to organise one of the largest eSports tournaments in history. Are Wargaming up to a logistical challenge every bit as daunting as facing down a platoon of M4 Shermans without your team-mates to back you up? We caught up with Mohamed Fadl, Wargaming’s EU and North American eSports director and the man in charge of organising the Grand Finals, to find out.
Tell us what makes a good venue for a World of Tanks tournament like this. What does a crowd need to enjoy it as much as possible?
Fadl: We chose this venue as it fits all our needs to run the global Grand Finals 2015, it’s big enough so thousands of fans can fit and to host a big stage and even bigger streaming studio in the background. The 12 best teams from all around the world (over 100 of the best players) come to fight for the ultimate World of Tanks Championship and each team will need their own training and strategy room. We have over 150 staff working on the venue itself during the Grand Finals. But it doesn’t stop with a stage, streaming studios, camera teams, etc. We need to make sure that we have entertainment for the attendees and enough sources of beverages and snacks around the venue to please every possible need of the attending crowd.
With that in mind, why did you choose the venue in Warsaw?
We looked into many different options all around the world with our event partner ESL and decided in the end that the EXPO venue in Warsaw has everything we need – and last year’s Grand Finals in Warsaw were extremely successful so we decided to go once more to Poland’s capital with our event.
Tell us how many attendees you had last year, and what sort of crowd you’re hoping for this year.
Last year we had over 12,500 attendees and we are hoping to have even more attendees this year – let’s keep our fingers crossed that the people in Warsaw will come and cheer for the competing teams.
What’s changed in the last year that’s impacted how you organise the Grand Finals?
Last year we tried to centre a lot of the planning, operation and execution around one regional office. This year we started the Grand Finals project nine months before the actual event and we spread the project with hundreds of sub-projects on a global scale. We have several meetings per week per region and one video meeting on a global scale per week all around the Grand Finals. It’s simply too much to go into detail. The most important point is it’s thanks to the passion and love of every single member of this project that we got this far and every one of us is looking forward to see this year’s Grand Finals finally going live.
When does planning for the Grand Finals really begin?
It really began during the last Grand Finals in April 2014. We could see how many people attend and how many things we could have done better or different. For the key stakeholders of those events you can honestly say there is no break between each of the Grand Finals.
How long does set-up take before the big day? When do Wargaming staff first arrive in the city?
Our event partner ESL is working already weeks and months before the actual event happens on the production of the stage and the material around it. The actual build of the stage and the surrounding takes around two days. The Wargaming staff will arrive in Warsaw three days before the event starts to help build the Grand Finals Arena and take care of everything else.
What can attendees look forward to outside of the main attraction of the World of Tanks finals in Warsaw?
In addition to the exciting matches of the tournament, visitors will be able to test their own World of Tanks skills on our MGT-20 mobile truck, where our community team will be organising fun contests during the breaks. The MGT-20 will offer team competitions of up to 14 players across separate gaming stations; attendees can sign up on-site during the tournament and take advantage of the activities during breaks. Finally, we’ll be testing fans’ tank knowledge with World of Tanks quizzes.
All these activities can be found at the partners’ area during match intermissions. The event also features two real tanks, a T-34/85 and M4AI Sherman, courtesy of the Polish Military Museum in Warsaw. These legendary vehicles have been refreshed by Wargaming and guests can learn about their history.
Of course, it’s not all about fans in the stadium. You’ll be streaming to many more. How many tuned in online last year, and do you expect to top that?
A total of 4.3 million viewers tuned it to last year’s Grand Finals with a peak of 120,000 concurrent viewers. We’re expecting to top those numbers as we can see already a tremendous interest and engagement with our WoT community around this year’s Grand Finals.
Is it a challenge setting up the IT infrastructure to broadcast it all?
The infrastructure behind such an event is the most challenging task. Ten highly qualified IT managers, 28 on-air casters and around 50 additional TV staff will be doing their best in order to create an unforgettable viewer experience. A TV level production setup, 170 computers, a total of 1.3GB/s bandwidth and 16 cameras plus 14 player cameras enable us to provide the best technical surroundings to ensure a stable production environment.
Give us some more stats about the tournament…
The Venue is 3,600sq m and is located in the centre of Warsaw. More than 150 people will be working on the project to make it an unforgettable experience for the attendees and the viewers at home. We won’t be selling any merchandise at the venue, but rather will be giving out cool swag to our attendees. Next to T-shirts that are launched with a T-shirt-gun into the audience, fans have the chance to get their hands on one of our goodie bags, bonus codes, prizes from our partners on site and even more. For our hardcore fans we will have WGL clap sticks to cheer for their favourites. Pre-signed-up attendees will all receive a unique Wargaming.net League premium tank and access to our new title World of Warships – pretty cool stuff.
You’ve mentioned there will be actual tanks at the venue – where on earth do you get them from?
We will have a US Sherman M4AI tank and a Russian T-34-85 located at the venue for attendees to enjoy. Both vehicles are courtesy of the Polish Military Museum in Warsaw. Wargaming is a company very much into preserving history and therefore we work with military museums and venues all over the world – we’re very thankful to get such unique vehicles for our event.
When do teams arrive, and do you liaise with them or accommodate them?
In order to allow our players to focus completely on their preparation for the tournament we work together with our event partners from ESL to accommodate them the way stars would expect, with all expenses covered from their home airport to Warsaw and back. The players arrive in Warsaw on April 22, giving them enough time to acclimatise and prepare for the following days. The next two days before the Grand Finals start are media days giving us the opportunity to create valuable media content to support the players to promote themselves in the world of eSports.
Should we expect to see next year’s Grand Finals taking place in Europe?
This is a secret right now but we have several amazing locations which are in our hot top five for the next Grand Finals around the globe.
Say World of Tanks gets even bigger in the next year than it already is. You have to scale up even more – what does a next stage Grand Finals look like, and where is it?
Right now all our focus is on this year’s Grand Finals and you will see already that this year is a massive increase compared to last year. Last year we rented the biggest cinema in Europe. This year we have a massive expo hall for our Grand Finals and a big outside area for additional entertainment and activities. Let’s see what the future brings.
Lastly, what will you be doing on the weekend of the Grand Finals?
The team and myself for sure would like to sit down and watch the top teams fighting for the world championship but if the time schedule will allow this is a different question. We need to make sure the show is running and the teams can show their skills on the big stage. This is the highest priority!