The Virtual Reality League is an ESL Gaming organization partnered with Oculus that oversees eSports tournaments for online VR multiplayer games including Echo Arena, The Unspoken, and Sprint Vector. While ESL cancelled the competition a few days ago, something that was done after competitors engaged in seven weeks of bracketed 1v1 battles, the company now says it’s reverting back to the original plan to send the top four players to compete at Oculus Connect 5 after all.
Update (July 7th, 2018): An ESL spokesperson took to Reddit, and announced the company has worked with Oculus to reinstate its plans to run ‘The Unspoken’ tournament finals at Oculus Connect 5. Here’s the relevant bits:
“While The Unspoken has seen a decline in signups, we were wrong to believe this warranted a lack of interest in the Grand Final. We’re thrilled to see the passionate community surrounding The Unspoken so eager to prove themselves in front of an audience at Oculus Connect 5—both Oculus and ESL are happy to oblige. After discussing with Oculus, we will keep the original plan: the top four players from The Unspoken will be invited to Oculus Connect 5, provided travel, and will compete for a share of the overall VR League prize pool.
We are still fine tuning the plans for Oculus Connect 5 and more information will be released in the coming weeks—stay tuned.”
The original article detailing the cancellation follows below:
Original article (July 5th, 2018): Starting back in May, VR League hopefuls began competing in The Unspoken tournaments with the promise of getting a chance to shine at OC5. For many, this represented not only the opportunity to win the bulk of a $220,000 prize pool for claiming victory at the tourney, but also get a chance to travel to San Jose, California for Oculus’ biggest event of the year, the Connect 5 developer conference.
The finals however have been cancelled mid-tournament, and won’t be appearing alongside Echo Arena’s league finals at the dev conference (see update above).
The official reasoning behind it, Community Manager Hung Lai (‘Gravity’) says in a the company’s Discord channel, is due to shrinking player numbers. The decision, he said yesterday, was decided “less than 48 hours ago,” and that The Unspoken is being entirely dropped from the VR League as a competitive eSport.
Players invited to Oculus Connect are offered comped travel, hotel, and no entry fee to the conference—a valuable prize in and of itself for many competitors looking to rub elbows with VR devs and enthusiasts from all over the world. With two months of battles behind them, participants are rightly dismayed to find out they’ve been wasting their time, and investing their hopes in something that just doesn’t exist anymore.
Only a day after the competition started, Insomniac Games Senior Community Developer Tim Salvitti had this to say on the game’s Discord channel:
“We are excited for VR League Season Two and can’t wait to check out the action online. However, at this point in time we have no new updates planned for the game. We have been listening since the last update and certainly know some of the wish lists everyone has. We would love to see as many of you as possible playing in VR League and hope we can push to make The Unspoken one of the games Oculus brings to OC5! As always, we will continue to watch and listen, and we thank each and every one of you for playing and helping make the game what it is.”
The company also previously stated on the competition’s website that from the onset, Unspoken league competitors could “earn points to qualify for the Wold Qualifier bracket for OC5.” That statement has since been removed from the league website.
Where a list of upcoming cups once was now stands a blank sheet.
Last year’s Unspoken finals winner ‘Charizard’ told us a little more about how he feels after having the rug pulled out from under him:
“I think that it’s important to understand that players who are passionate about this game are going to be upset about it being cancelled. That’s not the core of the issue though. ESL has held a 7 week tournament on the assumption that this prize was going to be paid out. Players have spent time and money preparing for this, and ESL has gained attention and marketing by holding this on the assumption of those prizes being followed through. So yes, none of the passionate players of this game want to see it go, but beyond that, they have been lied to in what they can expect by investing in this game on a competitive level. It’s beyond just disappointing, it’s downright criminal.”
While The Unspoken playerbase is dwarfed in comparison to other traditional eSports, at the end of the day what matters most is the players, many of whom invested countless hours in learning how to play the game at a professional level. With real prize money on the line, it’s clear ESL hasn’t done right by its community (see update above).
We’ve reached out to ESL for a statement, but haven’t received any word yet regarding a more detailed reason behind this. We’ll make sure to update as new information comes out.
A special thanks goes out to Shaun Lane for pointing us in the right direction.