Hello, please tell a bit about yourself.
Hi, I'm Yuriy Lazebnikov. I'm one of two managing partners of WePlay! Esport Newmedia Group. My partner, Oleg Krot, holds the position of Chief Executive Officer, and my position is Chief Bussiness Development Officer. We run the company together.
How does one come up with the idea of creating the company like WePlay?
We used to play a lot of games in our childhood. A lot of them. I remember when I was at school and university, I could play for days without any stops or breaks in Warcraft, Starcraft, Civilization, and other games.
Smoothly, this passion has transformed into a business that surrounds us now [WePlay Studio].
The are millions of games, but we don't see them starting their own companies. So I guess you were already involved in business prior to founding WePlay!.
We've made an IT integration business with my partner and earned some money this way. As I mentioned, we had a hobby in form of video games and esports. At some point, we decided to spend our money on our hobby. A lot of entrepreneurs invest money. Usually, it becomes a business.
In 2012, we got our first sponsorship from external partners for our Dota 2 esports league. For us, it was a proof of esports as a viable business. And now you can see how it is going.
You've grown a lot since 2012. Let's talk a bit more about the past. The organization is how old?
The company was established in 2012. However, we have been running non-pro tournaments since 2004. Later on, we moved to a semi-pro level in 2008. So in 2012, we started to run tournaments on a pro level.
Nowadays, we organize all types of tournaments, pro, non-pro, and semi-pro. We try to create a lot of tournaments for any player level.
After visiting the office a few times, talking to employees, and just enjoying the atmosphere, I get the impression that you're setting up a new standard for the industry, at least for CIS countries.
We're trying to reach the new heights of content and esports events. We really respect what our colleagues in the industry do, but I think our audience deserves an even higher level of quality content, streams, tournaments, and news related to esports.
When the esports scene was first established, the audience was in their teens, and now they are grown-ups. So the quality and type of content have to grow with our audience. We want to change the approach in the industry, and I guess we are on the right way.
The atmosphere in the studio, the way you do things, it is all amazing. I've interviewed casters, and they didn't expect the level of quality.
We are going to open two more studios next year. And it is going to be amazing!)
You've worked with Valve in the past, so I guess running the Artifact tournament was a natural transition for you.
Absolutely. Artifact is the product of one of the greatest companies in the industry. It is novel, and we have our eyes on the game. I love watching card games on Twitch. It is very comfortable to enjoy them with a drink or a snack. I believe that Artifact, and card games in general, have a great future as esports in form of alternative to much more popular games, like Dota, LOL, or CS:GO.
It is great to have the first major tournament for Artifact run by WePlay!.
Let's talk more about the tournament. The game is new. No one has conducted any tournaments yet, and out of the blue, you appear with a set of three tournaments. How did that happen?
We are open for experiments in the industry. Next year, we are going to try a few new disciplines. As a part of our strategy in 2019, we are going to try new games, attract new viewers, and create new content.
We are going to experiment again, again, and again. Artifact is only the beginning.
Sounds great! Can you hint on the upcoming games for 2019?
We are going to announce them early in 2019.
Not many people have their own companies. Could you highlight a bit what do you do as a founder?
Sure. I keep in mind the strategic direction of the company. On daily basis, I have to manage internal processes which are related to our Chiefs, Marketing Director, Designer Officer, and our General Producer.
We make a lot of decisions together. We don't have a monarchy in our company 🙂
We are very democratic inside our community, our company, and it takes a lot of time to manage the aforementioned. Of course, my main role in the company is to define the direction, like when and where do we establish new studios, which disciplines to choose, which market to target this month or next year.
How's Artifact for you?
I like visuals, design, and animation. It is something new and fresh after Hearthstone in terms of the gameplay approach and visual design; three lanes and the board are a fresh breath for me. Some gameplay elements and mechanics can relate to Magic the Gathering and classic card games.
I like Artifact. I like it very much.
It was great talking with you. Thank you for taking time to make this interview possible!
Thank you for the interview. Stay tuned with WePlay!. We are going to reveal something new next year!