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).

Image courtesy Insomniac Games

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.

Image captured by Road to VR

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.

Newsletter graphic

This article may contain affiliate links. If you click an affiliate link and buy a product we may receive a small commission which helps support the publication. More information.

Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 3,500 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • Gardener

    That’s why you don’t build a walled garden in an already small market.

    • JJ

      and thats straight from the Gardeners mouth!

    • SandmaN

      Exactly. If there was SteamVR and Rift cross play this would never have been an issue. Thanks, Oculus…

      • IanTH

        I mean, if we want to point at one game and use that as a measuring stick, then I could point to Echo Arena still being in the competition and a multiplayer game that is thriving which is also contained within the “walled garden”.

        I’m not saying it is or isn’t good, just that it seems silly to point to one example and claim that it wouldn’t have happened if things were different.

        • SandmaN

          I think you’re missing the overall point here. Oculus is damaging the overall VR community by having so many Oculus exclusive games this early in the early stages of high-end consumer and retail VR. This is in turn creating a much smaller player base for said games and this here is/was one of the end results. The Unspoken tournament is back on now, however that doesn’t fix the overall issue of making some fantastic games and then cutting the potential player base in half or by even 2/3 or more of what it could have been. The fact of the matter is that Oculus is hurting the overall VR community and themselves at the same time they’re innovating – two steps forward and one (or two) step(s) back. It just boggles the mind.

          • IanTH

            There are a lot of complexities to this issue. Do I think they should allow every HMD on the market to access the Oculus store? Absolutely. Do I think they would want to? I have to assume so. Why miss out on all those sales? We know they want to have their asynchronous technologies working and they want them to run natively through the Oculus SDK in order for other HMDs to access their store. Given the volume of extra sales they could get, I have to assume they have a good reason to want what they way. In the same way that Rift can run a bit janky through SteamVR, I assume Oculus doesn’t want that to be the experience for others using their service. We know ReVive works, but it isn’t perfect and clearly Oculus wants something specific. If they didn’t want anyone buying their games from the store, they’d lock ReVive out. They’ve done it before and rectified it. In terms of the native SDK access, Valve was asked and they were “looking into removing the restriction” 2 years ago. Nothing has changed to date, so I’m not sure what to think there. Both companies keep pointing to OpenXR for solutions, so I think there must be something to that.

            I also don’t think it is a stretch to assume that Valve has more to lose by letting people by more games on a competing platform than keeping them on Steam, so perhaps that is why they haven’t rushed to allow Oculus to run their SDK natively. And we know Oculus could lock out Rift from running on Steam since Steam is using a wrapper that uses Oculus software; but Oculus hasn’t.

            I just think there is more to consider here than just “Oculus is the bad guy”.

          • IanTH

            Well, I had a nice, well formulated response that apparently Road to VR felt the need to either remove or not approve or something. That’s a shame. Do they not want calm, well thought out discourse? That’s what we were having, so I don’t get it. The bottom line was I think it is more complex than Oculus being the only one to point a finger at, but I’ll just hope that RTVR decide to approve the missive I wrote and you can read that lol.

            Have a good one.

          • JJ

            Yeah i’ve had the same issue with them blocking/censoring stuff that wasn’t bad just against their agenda that they will just straight up delete repeatedly.

          • JJ

            You probably said something about a game that they’re getting sponsored to write about and they don’t want the readers comments to go into detail about its negatives.

            I kept trying to talk about how RTVR says there’s a wall between them and their advertising division, and there isn’t. rtvr puts links to products/games and gets paid when we click those links, resulting in RTVR posting/generating articles geared towards what they’re getting paid to talk about. And they don’t like me to talk about that.

          • JJ

            yeah the echo universe would be huuuuuuge if it were on vive as well. Depending on how much fb gave them to be exclusive they could have actually made the wrong choice by going exclusive

    • jj

      they reap what they sow, am I right Gardener??!

    • No Spam

      Um, I don’t think you can point to the user count of an 18-month old game (launch game for Touch) as evidence of the evils of Oculus’s exclusives policy.

      Take a look at the SteamDB stats for concurrent users on most VR games, even popular ones like Sariento or Climbey, or cross-platform ones like Sprint Vector – they’re in the 20-30 people range, max.

      It’s damned hard to maintain an online community for 18 months that’s large enough to sustain high-level play and a full tournament. Twice a small number is still a small number: even doubling the user base wouldn’t guarantee a big enough tournament in a high-profile ESL league.

      I’m not arguing for or against Oculus’s policy, just saying that pointing to it as the cause seems a little misguided.

  • Koolala

    Shame on Facebook! Give them tickets to the conference atleast! They earned it.

  • Raphael

    Early days for competitive VR sport. Will take years for a percentage to get over the shock of standing/moving around using their physical bodies.

  • Ombra Alberto

    $ 200,000 in prizes … at stake there is too much .. the players thank

  • Luke

    imho if you make it ftp it will increase a lot it’s population