WePlay Esports League Loses Mortal Kombat, SoulCalibur Dev Support After Sponsor Controversy

A partnership with a controversial online betting site has cost the esports organizer both of its major developer partners.

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WePlay Esports--fresh off of the first and potentially only season of its Ultimate Fighting League--has lost the support of both major developers featured in that first season.

Both Mortal Kombat 11 developer NetherRealm Studios and Tekken 7/SoulCalibur VI publisher Bandai Namco have announced they will no longer be working with WePlay, weeks after the first season of the WUFL featured all three of the games. Both developers cite "differences in vision" in their official tweets regarding the move.

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The controversy appears to stem from WePlay's recent partnership with Russian online betting firm 1XBet, which faced heavy criticism after a 2019 report by British publication The Times. The Times report revealed 1XBet's seedier deals, including the promotion of a "pornhub casino"--a casino that uses topless dealers to attract gamblers--as well as allowing "bets on children’s sports and advertising on illegal websites."

We've reached out to WePlay for comment on the story and will update this article when we receive a response. Meanwhile, WePlay has responded to NetherRealm and Bandai Namco's decision with a statement saying the decision caught the company "by surprise." It also claimed "since WUFL began and after the event finished, [it] tried to discuss the future seasons, go over feedback, and address the first season with NetherRealm and Bandai but have had no response." The full statement is below.

The WePlay Ultimate Fighting League's first season took place in Kyiv, Ukraine, with Dominique "SonicFox" McLean winning the Mortal Kombat 11 tournament, Jonathan "Woahzzz" Vo taking the SoulCalibur VI competition, and the Tekken 7 crown going to Arslan "Arslan Ash" Siddique.

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