Bandai Namco and NetherRealm Studios have pulled their support from WePlay and their Ultimate Fighting League. No party in the exchange have mentioned the specific reason for the change but it is widely believed to be a recent partnership between WePlay and 1xBet.
— Bandai Namco Esports (@BNEesports) April 30, 2021
— NetherRealm (@NetherRealm) April 30, 2021
The reason for the split
Many believe the reason behind the “differences in vision and professional standards” mentioned by Bandai Namco in their announcement on social media, their betting partnership. 1xBet have been partnered with many major sporting institutions, including the Premier League football club, Chelsea. But, after allegations made in a report by The Sunday Times, they shuttered their UK operations. it is worth noting that none of the announcements made specific reference to the betting operator, but it is widely believed to be the reason.
What will happen to the event?
Now that both Bandai Namco and NetherRealm Studios have pulled their support from WePlay Esports and the Ultimate Fighting League, their events will lose some of the biggest titles in the fight game ecosystem. Mortal Kombat, Tekken, Soulcaliber, Dragon Ball FighterZ, and Injustice are now all games that will not be available to play in any upcoming WePlay fighting game tournaments.
The response from WePlay
WePlay responded to the statements from Bandai Namco and NetherRealm Studios with one of their own:
“WePlay has always strived to raise the standards in every tournament we put together by delivering the highest quality events, using innovative production techniques, and providing the best conditions for players and talents alike.
“With WUFL Season 1, we put together one of the most memorable FGC tournaments to date, approved by both Bandai and NRS. Our goal was always and still is to provide the community with a world-class event that everyone can enjoy.
“The news received today caught us by surprise. Since WePlay Ultimate Fighting League began and after the event finished, we tried to discuss future seasons, go over feedback, and address the first season with both NRS and Bandai but have received no response.
“Our goal was always and still is to provide the community with a world-class event that everyone can enjoy. Our vision and dedication to the FGC have not changed, and we will continue to move forward by making amazing events and content that the community deserves.”
The future of fighting games at WePlay Esports
It looks like WePlay is still going forward with their Ultimate Fighting League. They had designed the first season around Mortal Kombat, Tekken, and Soulcaliber. Now that these games are no longer available to them, it looks like they will have to find other games to populate the event. Luckily for them, there are plenty of popular fighting games out there. What remains to be seen, however, is whether the developers and publishers of any other games are willing to work with WePlay now that they have become the pariahs of the fighting games world. If they want to continue to operate in the fighting game scene, they may have to drop 1xBet altogether. This will come with a serious drop in funding in the short term but it may be the only thing for them to do in order to maintain their support.