Complexity Gaming COO on the Unique Potential of the World of Warcraft Race to World First

Complexity Gaming has competed in a wide array of esports titles, from MOBAs to shooters to mobile games, but this week, the Texas-based esports organization is embarking on one of its most unique competitive ventures: the World of Warcraft Race to World First. A group of 21 elite players will spend the next week playing for 12 – 16 hours each day aiming to clear the game’s most difficult challenge, Castle Nathria, before anyone else in the world.

Complexity entered the Race to World First in 2019 through a partnership with North American guild Limit, which won the most recent RWF in February of 2020. The marathon event is unlike anything else in esports – particularly because not only is Complexity competing in the event, but it is live streaming its own coverage of the competition.

For the previous RWF, Complexity flew Limit’s entire raid team to its GameStop Performance Center, where the combined event staff and competitors totaled more than 40 people. This year, six of the players are still competing from the facility, but COVID-19 safety protocols have prevented the same number of on-site staff and players. 

Still, the organization has committed to a full-coverage plan and will support its 21 competitors throughout the race. As Complexity COO Kyle Bautista described it, “This is a not small event.” In addition to the main broadcast organized by Complexity, many of the competitors will be streaming on their own channels during the event.

For Complexity, the Race to World First is an interesting cross-section of traditional esports competition and content creation – both occurring at the same time. This is made possible due to Activision Blizzard’s rather hands-off approach to the race. While World of Warcraft has official esports programs, in which Complexity has participated, the publisher does not really place restrictions or guidelines around the race either from a competition or broadcast perspective beyond what is outlined in the game’s terms of service. As a result, Complexity has the opportunity to not only compete in the race, but create its own broadcast and sell sponsorships for that coverage.

Bautista said, “It’s not something in 2020 we see very often, a developer being so hands off with the way that their game is utilized in a very widely viewed event. But it does give us that unique canvas to do something really special with the community. There’s nothing out there in the industry like it.”

The industry seems to be responding well to this organically created, community-driven competition. According to Limit guild leader Max “Maximum” Smith, speaking on his Twitch stream, his personal viewership is already well ahead of the previous race, and at the time of writing no racing has actually taken place. Between the RWF, the release of WoW Classic, and the general cyclical excitement generated by the launch of a new expansion, World of Warcraft seems to be riding high 16 years after its launch – which works out just fine for Complexity in this venture.

“For the game to be going not only this strong, but to be having the kind of resurgence that it’s had in the past two years is truly special,” Bautista said. Notably, live streaming of the RWF began two years ago.

While the RWF is exciting both for its potential and unique niche within the esports space, the very nature of the event did represent something of a challenge for Complexity with regards to its own brand identity and company culture.

“We have built a narrative here at Complexity about player health and player wellness,” Bautista said. “Within World of Warcraft, and especially during the Race to World First, we’re talking about 16-hour broadcast days. We’re talking about players competing for well over 12 hours in a given day for multiple days in a row, and a lot of that does contradict with the narrative that we’ve created and that we do adhere to. It was very important for us when we began this partnership [with Limit] to install some things that were going to be able to help the overall health and wellness of the team during this time and make it, while not quite healthy I would say, the most healthy that it can be.”

During the previous race, Complexity leveraged all the features of its GameStop Performance Center for the guild, including providing healthy meals during the race. This year, with so many players unable to travel due to the pandemic, Complexity is somewhat more limited in its ability to manage player health. However, the team has found a few solutions. 

It teamed up with organization partner Herman Miller to provide ergonomic chairs for each competitor to help ensure proper posture during the marathon gaming sessions. Bautista also recalled a team-wide meeting that took place ahead of the race where the guild organized their sleep schedules to align with the timing of the race to ensure players could properly recover from each day of raiding.

“The Race to World First event is very taxing on the mind and body – it’s ultimately an endurance test, a marathon if you will,” Smith told TEO. “Once Mythic opens, we will raid for around 16 hours each day for probably 10 days straight. It’s one of the most mentally and physically challenging events in all of gaming – you have to be sharp all the time, or else you can cost your entire team a successful pull with one slip-up.

We are fortunate to have Complexity on our side, who gave us access to good and healthy nutrition in February, when we all gathered at the GameStop Performance Center, and they’ve tried to make it work even in these challenging times. Six of us will be playing from the GameStop Performance Center again, fully equipped with the latest gear and every meal prepared for us – while the rest of the guild received Herman Miller chairs to be fully comfortable and ready to enter Castle Nathria, endure those long hours, and bring home another World Championship to Limit, Complexity, and North America.”

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