Super Evil Megacorp, the developer of Vainglory, has announced it will partner Alisports, the sports branch of Alibaba Group. Alisports formed the World Electronic Sports Games (WESG) in 2016, revealing ambitions to build itself a global presence in the esports industry. Vainglory will join other titles - namely CS:GO, Dota 2, Hearthstone and StarCraft 2 - to become part of the WESG2018 lineup. WESG saw 63,256 participants from 125 countries compete for a share of $5.5million prize. Vainglory will be the first mobile esports title on WESG platform.
Alibaba is a major competitor to Tencent in terms of Internet industries, and the two are exploring one another's traditional domains in recent years as that competition heats. This is not the first time that Alibaba has dabbled with mobile esports: Back in 2016, the company invested $16 million in a partnership with Giant Interactive, establishing a series of chanpionships based on Ball Ball Fight. However, due to the title's weak suitability as a competitive experience and an audience of few hardcore players, said events failed to court much public attention. Such a short-lived game presented little opportunity for Alibaba to gain much traction in mobile esports.
The games portfolio of the WESG contains no titles from Tencent, which is especially notable given the extent of esports-related presence established by Tencent's Honor of Kings. Its complete ecosystem includes a diverse range of championship events and live-streaming platforms that help it achieve wide impact and acceptance. However, Alibaba may have a chance at differentiation if it attempts to build the esports equivalent of the Olympics.
Alibaba has no flagship title with which to bolster its esports standing, and its investment into live-streaming sites lags behind Tencent. But it does fall in line with government policy, and potentially takes advantage of Alibaba's experience with building out partnerships with third-parties, which now include esports companies. Moreover, Alibaba's entry into mobile esports gives the industry an alternative to Tencent that may be to the advantage of mid-tier publishers and developers, and helps the industry to grow in overall terms.