To celebrate the release of World of Warcraft’s latest content patch “Rise of Azshara,” Red Bull will be hosting the next Race To World First event as the game’s best guilds work at conquering 8.2’s new Mythic raid, Azshara’s Eternal Palace. The Race to World First is part of a burgeoning new eSports (seasoned with some ever-popular elements of speed running) category, and Red Bull is aiming at popularizing a community event that has been less “corporate” over World of Warcraft’s long lifespan, now stretching past its first decade.

Polygon’s coverage of the event says that it’s only since the release of World of Warcraft’s latest expansion Battle for Azeroth that the game’s most progression-pushing guilds have been using platforms like Twitch to stream their strategies and attempts at bleeding edge content, turning testing time into a public event. For this Race to World First event, Red Bull will host on their channels. Previously, Red Bull paired with the guild Method, previous World First winners in this expansion’s previous Mythic raid content, who used their own channels to stream.

Red Bull will host complete, 24-hour coverage of the Race to World First event, starting on July 16th and ending whenever the first guild downs this Mythic raid tier’s Big Bad, Queen Azshara herself. Top North American guild Limit will be competing alongside high level European guild Pieces. Pieces holds the World First title for the mini-raid Crucible of Storms, and Limit gave Method a run for their money in the race for World First Uldir and Battle for Dazar’Alor raid completion. Other notable guilds participating include FatSharkYes, AFK-R, Honestly, Ji Tian Hong, Alpha, Averion, and Exorsus.

The addition of Red Bull to this community-centric event is not without controversy. Red Bull hosting the event was first leaked by Method co-founder and c-owner Scott “Sco” McMillan, who shared his thoughts on Twitter (using TwitLonger) about the guild’s experience with Red Bull’s sponsorship and why they declined to participate in the 8.2 Race to World First event. Method’s Uldir stream was a massive success, with McMillan claiming “6 million unique devices tuned in and over 10 million viewer hours […] more than twice the viewer hours of the Overwatch League playoffs in 2018.”

Red Bull saw the magnitude of the RWF and decided that they wanted to own and operate the event themselves.

McMillan says that after the Uldir push, Red Bull made their own push to get Method to hand off ownership and operational control to Red Bull directly. McMillan and Method decided to decline the proposal, stating that “long-term damage [would come from] handing off the 14-year-old community run [Race to World First] competition to a 3rd party corporation. Only the community and/or Blizzard themselves should have ownership over the RWF.”

McMillan added that “Method itself had no partnership nor received any direct compensation from Red Bull,” and added that “anyone who tuned into the last 2 RWF events at this point can appreciate how much value Red Bull has gained from their involvement, as The Esports Observer put it ‘The stream featured a constant presence from Red Bull, giving the brand access to millions of hours of viewership."”

Blizzard Entertainment themselves have not become directly involved with the Race to World First events, sticking to the sidelines and only making necessary fixes to discovered exploits. Blizzard does have an Arena World Championship for PvP competitors and a Mythic Dungeon International, and Blizzard offers a route for community eSports with their Community Tournament License with different restrictions and regulations for overall prize money and sponsorship.

Blizzard did formally acknowledge Method’s World First achievement on their World of Warcraft Twitter account, showing that they do see the importance and the popularity of these (previously) community-powered events. World of Warcraft’s Game Director Ian Hazzikostas also sent out a public congratulations.

Polygon speculates that the competitive dynamic between Red Bull’s Race to World First, which does feature the world’s top competitive guilds, and current top guild Method’s own content push may result in “elevated” viewership for the event overall, “creating an ecosystem with more stability for raiders.”

“The majority of guilds that have achieved World Firsts are either disbanded or have stopped competing, including guilds such as Death and Taxes, Nihilum, Ensidia, Blood Legion and Paragon,” writes McMillian.

Seeking to achieve a World First requires an immense amount of dedication but yields no tangible reward if you are successful.

“We live in a time of top eSports competitions rewarding millions in prize money and six to seven figures annual pro player salaries. Most top raiders on the other end have to take vacation from their full time jobs to compete in the RWF.”

McMillan claims that Method is in the “early stages of communicating with other top guilds on a collective agreement” that aims to “prevent [guild] exploitation.” Method is hosting its own event for World First on the 16th, live from in Germany and hosted on Method’s Twitch channel.

World of Warcraft’s content patch 8.2, “Rise of Azshara,” launches publicly on June 25th. In addition to the Eternal Palace raid tier, the update brings Benthic Gear, new zone and dungeon locations on Mechagon Island, a new PvP Battleground, mount equipment, and more.

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