Last week in e-sports: Bad, sad times

Last Updated June 6th, 2016

Usually we love to highlight big wins, awesome plays, and huge tournaments on Last Week in E-Sports. But this week has been a bit of a bummer. Team closures, disqualifications, and scandals were the buzz last week, showing once again that e-sports isn’t all fun and games. Let’s look at a few notable stories.

Team Archon Moves Away from E-Sports

A popular Hearthstone team may be shuttering its doors soon. Team Archon, notable for Hearthstone player Jason “Amaz” Chan, may be moving away from competition in order to focus on streaming and content creation. This decision comes after the sudden departure of several team members including Jon “Orange” Westberg, James “Firebat” Kostesich and Sebastian “Xixo” Bentert. Archon also recently parted ways with its co-owner Sebastian Park, and the entirety of its DOTA 2 team.

Hearthlytics Shuts Down

One of the major North American Hearthstone teams, Hearthlytics, is shutting down. The owners cited sponsorship problems as the main reasons for shutting its doors. Players and management had conflict over fulfilling sponsorship requirements, which cut into the time the players had for actual gameplay and practice.

“We created a scenario where professionals who were interested in being the best they can be at a craft were suddenly doing outside-game or uncompetitive related tasks too frequently for their liking,” team founder and manager RJ Epperson said in a statement. “The unfortunate truth is we should have consulted the team on what they’re open to doing prior to recruiting sponsors that want to actively work with us and our players.”

All of its players have been let go and are now free agents. The team itself will look into rebranding and forming teams for e-sports other than Hearthstone.

Major Heroes of the Storm Team May Shut Down Due to Stagnating Tournament Scene

The Heroes of the Storm competitive scene has been in trouble of late. Many teams have been dropping from competition due to lack of tournament support. The most recent team at risk of dropping is MVP Black, winner of two international HOS titles.

Coach Gwang Bok Kim criticized the support the game has received in an interview with Korea’s DailyEsports. He said that Heroes simply isn’t as flashy and exciting as DOTA 2 and other MOBAs of the like. The skills are weak and toned down, the rate of hero release is too slow, and outside of Blizzard sponsored tournaments, there is practically no tournament support making it hard for a competitor to earn a living. Adding to this problem are the small prize-pools for even Blizzard sponsored tournaments. An average Heroes team makes less than a single Starcraft II player does in any given tournament. 

Kim has said that he is unsure whether or not MVP Black’s players will continue playing Heroes past this year. MVP Black would not be the first team or franchise to exit the Heroes scene. EDward Gaming also disbanded their Heroes team recently. Meanwhile, franchises like SK Gaming, G2 Esports, and compLexity Gaming all exited the Heroes scene last year. The chance for new Heroes tournaments being formed is low, and Blizzard’s tournaments just won’t cut it.

Virtus.pro’s DOTA 2 Team Disqualified from The Summit 5

Virtus.pro’s DOTA2 team has been disqualified from The Summit 5 after disguising a stand-in as one of their players. While that sounds like something out of an Inspector Gadget episode, it’s actually easy to do in a mostly online sporting event.

Instead of having team member Ilya “ALOHADANCE” Korobkin play in the fourth game of the series, Vega Squadron’s Vladimir “No[o]ne” Minenko played using Korobkin’s account. While Korobkin rejoined the team in the fifth game of the series, securing a spot in the finals, a group of Redditors noticed differences in the playstyle of Korobkin’s account which synched up with Minenko’s style. After an investigation, Virtus.pro and Minenko have admitted to the wrongdoing and have apologized. Nonetheless, Virtus.pro has been disqualified from the tournament.

Apex Cancels Super Smash Bros. Brawl Tournament

Apex, a tournament which is known for its undying devotion to the Smash Bros. series, is canceling a Smash Bros. tournament for the first time. Tournament organizers have recently announced that the Smash Bros. Brawl singles and doubles tournaments will be taken off the schedule due to lack of interest and low sign-up rates. Brawl is easily the least popular Smash game, and its interest has fallen off since the release of Smash 4 and the closure of Project M.

Brawl is not the only game suffering at Apex. Headliners Mortal Kombat XL, Killer Instinct, and Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 have pre-registration numbers in the single-digits. However, despite the low turnouts, these more mainstream fighting games were kept on the schedule while Brawl was canceled. This didn’t sit well with the Smash community, who have come to know Apex as the one of the largest supporters of Smash Bros. competition.

Numbers are down across the board for Apex. Smash 4 entrants are currently down 75 percent and Melee entrants are down 90 percent! Most other games are down at least 50% or more. Apex has been facing several problems over the last year, including a last minute venue change from an unsafe location in 2015, sexual harassment allegations against their owner Johnathan “Alex Strife” Lugo, which lead to organizational team changes, and an unfortunate date that runs the same weekend as the DreamHack Smash Championship in Sweden. It’s also scheduled just a weekend before CEO, which will be running its own Smash 4 and Melee tournaments, which have reached entrant totals of 751 and 525 respectively.

DOTA 2 Tournament Organizer Chris Lombard Fails to Pay $9,000 in Tournament Winnings

DOTA 2 Stars Arena and the Solid DOTA 2 Challenge, two tournaments run by tournament organizer Chris Lombard, have failed to pay out any prize money to their winning teams. All four winners, ProDota Gaming, Flipsid3 Tactics, Power Rangers and Danish Bears, have confirmed that they have received no payment and that Lombard himself has gone silent after the conclusion of the Solid DOTA 2 Challenge.

The teams have reached out to tournament sponsor LootMarket who have confirmed that they gave Lombard the agreed upon sponsorship money, which was then to be used as a prize pool. Unfortunately, LootMarket says that the actual delivering of that money to the winners is not their responsibility and that they already fulfilled their end of the bargain. They have, however, mentioned that they will not cooperate with Lombard in the future.

Astralis Team Captain Denied Visa Waiver to U.S.

Finn “Karrigan” Andersen, captain of the CS: GO team Astralis, will not be able to compete in ELEAGUE due to an unfortunate turn of bureaucracy. Andersen was using ESTA, or the Electric System for Travel Authorization, to allow him to waive the U.S. visa process. It’s a service that allows citizens of certain countries easy travel to the U.S. Unfortunately, on January 21st the “Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015” went into effect. This act prevents anyone who has visited Iraq, Syria, Sudan, or Iran in the past five years from using the ESTA program, unless it was for humanitarian, security, or business-related purposes.

Karrigan now has to apply for a standard nonimmigrant visa, but the application process, even when rushed, will likely take long enough that he will be forced to sit out his ELEAGUE appearance. To rub salt in the wound, Karraigan was just in the U.S two months ago during the most recent Valve Major, as the new act hadn’t yet been enacted.

Astralis is not the only team affected by these new rules. Chinese team TyLoo were not able to secure their visas in time. ComLexity Gaming also had one of its Counter-Strike: Global Offensive team members get their visa waiver denied.

Capcom Bans Noel Brown from the Pro Tour

Capcom’s has recently instated its first ever player ban. Noel Brown will be barred from participating in all Capcom Pro Tour events. The ban comes from an accusation of sexual harassment. At the end of Combo Breaker, lead organizer Rick “TheHadou” Thiher asked the crowd to pose for a picture. After the picture was taken and everyone was returning to their seats, Noel Brown took this opportunity to pinch a female competitors butt. The incident was caught on video, allowing Capcom to take swift action on the issue. They released this statement:

Over the past weekend, we were notified that an unfortunate case of sexual harassment occurred at Combo Breaker 2016, a Capcom Pro Tour Ranking Event, where a female attendee received unwarranted and unwanted contact from a male attendee, who is confirmed to be Noel Brown. This incident was also captured on camera during the live stream before the Street Fighter V Losers Finals match.

We have worked closely with the tournament organizer of Combo Breaker to gather all details surrounding the incident. We have found that the victim, who wishes not to be named, has gone on record and confirmed this was an inappropriate act from Noel Brown and was not consensual.

As a result, we are banning Noel Brown from competing in the duration of the 2016 season of the Capcom Pro Tour as a first offense. A second offense will result in a lifetime ban from participating in all future Capcom Pro Tour events. We will use this as a baseline penalty if similar incidents occur in the future.

We do not condone any acts of harassment and we want all of our players and fans to know we will continue our work to ensure that all Capcom Pro Tour events provide safe, inviting environments where the focus is on healthy competition and exciting rivalries.

We support Combo Breaker’s decision to ban Noel Brown and support any tournament organizer who decides to ban anyone from their event who they feel is creating a hostile environment for other attendees.

Noel Brown has had a history of scandal in the FGC. In 2011 he was involved in a brawl during New Jersey’s weekly tournaments at 8 on the Break. In 2013 he was accused of assaulting his girlfriend. In addition to Capcom’s ban, Brown’s sponsorship by Ultra Arcade has been terminated. He has also been banned from competing in the Killer Instinct world Cup, and from attending EVO 2016.

CoD Player Alec “Tiptoe” Schmidt Commits Suicide

A former member of the Onslaught Clan, Call of Duty player Alec “Tiptoe” Schmidt has sadly committed suicide. Alec was considered a rising star in the COD scene, recently having strong performances in UMG Washington and MES Detroit. His cause of death has not yet been reported. Our condolences go out to all of Alec’s friends, family, and teammates.

In Happier Headlines

Here are some wins, trades, and upcoming events that aren’t as depressing as the rest of last week’s news.

  • Fighting game great Daigo Umehara has announced that he will be Twitch’s first global ambassador. His role will be promoting the streaming service around the world, starting in Japan. Daigo will be attending events to bolster the brand, outside of his normal fighting game circuit. He will not be giving up his professional gaming career and he hopes that this position will allow him to help the fighting game community to grow.
  • Mr. Wizard, the organizer for EVO, has recently polled fans as to whether or not they would like to see Ibuki, the latest DLC character from Street Fighter V, allowed in competition at EVO 2016. Ibuki has recently been delayed and is slated to come out in the last week of June, only a few weeks before EVO kicks off. Normally this would be far too little time to allow pros to get accustomed to her playstyle, and entire games have been kicked off the EVO schedule for similar reasons. However, the overwhelming fan response was in favor of Ibuki’s inclusion in the tournament, with 74% of fans being in favor. It is unclear whether or not Mr. Wizard will act on the poll’s results.
  • New shooter Overwatch is an incredible hit. Over 7 million players have joined the game after its launch, making it one of the quickest growing shooters of all time. Early Overwatch tournaments have been incredibly successful, featuring diverse team composition and player strategies. Analysts suggest that with a huge player base like this, along with Overwatch’s built in ranking system, will allow it to have a bright future as an e-sport, much like other Blizzard properties like StarCraft II and Hearthstone.
  • Speaking of Hearthstone, Counter-Strike event organizer FACEIT has expanded into the Blizzard card game. A few days ago, they held a 16-player Hearthstone invitational tournament in its London studios. The tournament was sponsored by Xfinity and offered a prize pool of $15,000. The winner was SuperJJ, taking it 3-0 over Amnesiac.
  • Team Naventic has signed Peter “Flash” Susini as its first Street Fighter V player. This marks Naventic’s first step into the fighting game community. Naventic is perhaps most well known for their position in the Heroes of the Storm scene, but with that scene slowly fading they have decided to branch out.
  • GGP|Kazunoko took first place at Tokyo Button Masher’s Street Fighter V tournament over Yukadon. Kazunoko was using Cammy, and was the only Cammy to make it to the top brackets.
  • Similarly, EG|K-Brad brought home first place in The Fight 2016’s SFV tournament. He, too, was the only Cammy in the upper brackets. I’m sensing a pattern here…
  • This weekend, the Moscow Fighting Arena will kick off in Moscow, Russia. It is yet another qualifying event on the Capcom Pro Tour.
  • Finally, the League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational continues this week, featuring many matches from EU competitors, as well as some NA matches later in the weekend.
  • UPDATE: We missed this one:

Here’s hoping that next week in e-sports will be a little happier.

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