Last Week in E-Sports: It’s all about the money

Last Updated January 23rd, 2022

Big prize pools, funding problems, massive deals with ESPN and even an underwear company; last week in e-sports was all about the money. Playing video games is serious Business with a capital B.

Alibaba Partners with IeSF to Invest in E-Sports

Prominent online retailer Alibaba has just partnered with the IeSF for a massive monetary investment in the future of e-sports. The new partnership is looking to host an event open to both amateur and professional e-sports competitors. In addition, it has long term goals such as to promote recognition of e-sports as a sport, to get e-sports into the Olympics, and to create a new unspecified “unique IP.”

“As the most authoritative international organization in e-sports industry, IeSF has been committed to promoting e-sports movement into the mainstream, including pushing it into the Olympic Games, which is consistent with our ideal,” said Zhang Dazhong, CEO of Alibaba Sports.

Alibaba has already invested approximately $150 million in the upcoming event. It will be called the World Electronic Sports Games and will feature more than $5.5 million in prizes. Alibaba also plans to build e-sports arenas throughout China and possibly other territories should this partnership become a success.

Brazilian Soccer Star Seeks Life of Fame and Fortune in E-Sports

Professional soccer player Wendell Lira is quitting soccer to pursue a career in professional gaming. What game will be playing? Well, it turns out he’s going to pursue a career in… soccer. The FIFA series in particular.

Don’t stretch yourself too hard there, Wendell.

Lira left his professional career due to repeated physical injury. However, he used his knowledge of soccer strategy to become a prominent FIFA player. In 2015 he defeated the world champion Abdulaziz Alshehri in an exhibition game. Here’s hoping that he can sign with one of the soccer clubs that have been signing e-sports competitors, so that he never has to be too far away from his old career.

He is also looking to start a YouTube channel and become a prominent streamer.

Immortals Partners With Underwear Company in Most Bizarre Sponsorship Yet

What’s the strangest sponsorship in e-sports? Mountain Dew? Arby’s? How about underwear?

Immortals has teamed up with MeUndies to create what might be the strangest thing to come out of e-sports yet – and I’m not even talking about the sponsorship deal itself. The team made a parody 80s dating video all about finding your true love… and underwear.

It’s hard to describe what a fantastic piece of parody and advertising this is. From love poems, to e-sports jokes, to watching the whole team fondle boxer shorts lovingly, you just have to see it for yourself.

Australia Seeks To Label Counter-Strike and DOTA 2 as Gambling

It seems as if e-sports competitors have been campaigning for ages to get their craft recognized as an actual sport. Well, now it appears as if two popular e-sports are going to be recognized as something no one necessarily wanted: gambling.

A new bill has been proposed in Australian parliament which would define Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2 as forms of gambling. While this might be somewhat accurate considering all the scandal surrounding skin betting recently, it also means bad things for both titles. Getting labeled as a gambling platform could see them banned from being sold in the country altogether.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon told the Sydney Morning Herald that he considers e-sports “the Wild West of online gambling that is actually targeting kids.” He argues that, even if skin-betting sites were shut down, the very mechanic of skins and in-game items boils down to gambling as long as they have a re-sale value. You put money in by buying a case or chest, and then you get a random monetary value in the items you receive. When you reduce everything to money in and money out, it looks a whole lot like a slot machine.

If the bill goes through, both games would have to be classified as R18+ to comply with the legal age of gambling. However, with no way to assure that minors can’t gain access to the game, we may see a blanket ban of sales across Australia. In addition, Valve might find itself in breach of Australian law, as only companies registered in Australia are allowed to offer gambling services.

PENTA Disqualified From Future StarSeries Tournaments Due to Misconduct

PENTA Sports has recently been disqualified from the StarLadder i-League StarSeries and some future StarSeries DOTA2 tournaments. The team forfeited a match after realizing that they could not advance to the playoff stage no matter what the result of the match was. This was considered misconduct by StarSeries, and while a ban is certain, the details of the ban have not yet been decided. It’s likely they will be banned for the next two or three events.

This has caused a bit of controversy in the e-sports community, however. Some say that a tournament’s structure should be designed such that a team has impetus to continue playing. If a team doesn’t stand to win in anything their match, you won’t get their best performance even if they don’t forfeit.

Is it up to tournament organizers to make certain that there is always something on the line, or is it the responsibility of teams to play their best even when they can’t win? Let us know what you think in the comments. 

EVO Tournament Director Apologizes for Performance of Non-Headlining Tournaments

Just because EVO is over doesn’t mean the drama has died down. Shortly after the event’s conclusion, players of less popular games became vocally upset, alleging that it seemed as if their games of choice weren’t run very well. Smash 4 was particularly poorly run, suffering from a condensed time slot, numerous delays, poor seeding, and a lack of effort in presenting the event to the public.

Tony Cannon, EVO tournament director, has apologized for this and other tournaments that didn’t make the big Sunday stadium portion of the event. This was the only portion that was being broadcast on ESPN2, so it’s clear that they needed to spend their greatest efforts in making sure it went off without a hitch, with other tournaments suffering as a result. According to Cannon, “We elected to focus on Sunday to make sure we did a good job there. In hindsight, that was a mistake.”

Interestingly, this is also causing EVO to finally switch from paper brackets to a fully digital system. EVO has been running on paper brackets since its creation, and have been notoriously stubborn when it comes to upgrading their bracket technology, despite now being the biggest fighting game event in the world. However, EVO is looking at pools of 5000+ people now, and that simply cannot be managed with pencil and paper. “We need to switch from paper brackets to a fully-online system to eliminate the delay in propagating players from one round to the next,” Cannon said. “We plan to do this for next year.”

Dream Team May Not Attend MLG Orlando

Top ranking Call of Duty team, Dream Team, may not participate in MLG Orlando this year. The team was recently sold, and as a result it is unlikely that the team members would be able to secure funding in order to make the trip and compete.

This information comes from Dream Team player Chino who has been repeatedly asked to spend travel money out of his own pocket. Here was his official response (via Reddit):

“I didn’t really want to say this but for everyone wondering why I don’t just buy my own flight, it’s because I help pay bills around my house so right now as of this moment I’ve helped with around $2000 in the last couple months. I have $1000 in the bank but I don’t know when I’m going to get paid for S2 (You have to wait a couple months for prize money). I would buy my flight but I don’t want to be broke in case I ever need to help out my parents. There is a lot more I want to say because honestly none of this should be a problem but I don’t want any bad juju, life goes on.”

Chino’s response highlights why sponsorship is so important in the e-sports world. Many star competitors are not wealthy and do not have the means to travel around the world competing without assistance.

DOTA 2 International 6 Posts Biggest Prizes Yet

Valve has just posted the prizes available to the winners of The International 6, and they are staggering. Currently, the winning team stands to take home over eight million dollars! In fact, every team in the top four will be bringing home over a million dollars in prizes.

While this is the largest prize pool The International has seen so far, there is also a bit of chicanery going on here. Last year, first place took home 36% of the available prize pool. This year, it will take home 44%. Cuts have been made from 3rd place down in order to buff up the championship prize. Last year, fifth and six place were also million dollar slots, while this year they are being awarded approximately $850,000. That being said, the prizes for 9th through 12th place are also being increased slightly.

One Million Dollar Gears of War Tournament Announced

Gears of War has never been a commonly played title in the e-sports community, but the team over at The Coalition is looking to change that. They have announced a new Gears international circuit with one million dollars in prizes up for grabs. The circuit will kick off when Gears 4 launches in October and will hold events every month or two.

The circuit will be divided into four different regions: Latin America, North America, Europe, and Oceania. The Coalition is planning on holding multiple tournaments in major venues across each region. Thus far they have announced Las Vegas, London, Columbus, Mexico City, and Paris as just a few cities they are looking at.

Competitors will earn Gears Pro Points for placing in these competitions. The top teams in each region will then be invited to an international competition for the big prizes. A weekly broadcast will be held to show the top teams squaring off against each other to keep the Gears fandom clued in to the circuit’s progress.

The big question will be, can Gears 4 thrive in serious competition? While multiplayer has always been a staple of the Gears franchise, the meta has traditionally become stale, centering on a few overpowered weapons. Gears 4 will have to present us with a variety of combat options in order to create a meta that can survive an entire season.

Counter Logic Gaming Becomes the Subject of a New VR Documentary

Ever wanted to step into the shoes of a pro e-sports team? Well now you can! A new mini-documentary was released today about the trials and tribulations of Counter Logic Gaming’s League of Legends team. The documentary follows their training and travel up to their matches at IEM Katowice in March.

The documentary, entitled CLG: Win Everythin’, is the first in a series that will focus on IEM tournaments. While designed for VR headsets, you can watch the video in a click and drag 360 degree view inside a browser. The VR footage suffers from some unfortunate skewing when rotating your head, but nonetheless still gives an interesting look into the life of an e-sports team.

You can watch it here.

Big Winners

  • The $225,000 Halo Pro League Playoffs and Relegation Tournament concluded last weekend at KCON 2016. Counter Logic Gaming took first place in the playoffs, triumphing over Cloud 9, Team EnVyUs, and Enigma 6. Meanwhile, Team Liquid took the winning spot in the Relegation tournament, securing their slot for next season.
  • Virtus Pro took the grand prize in the season one finale of ELEAGUE’s Counter-Strike: Global Offensive championship. They took home $390,000 in prize money after triumphing over Fnatic 7-1, bringing an end to a long and well fought ELEAGUE season.
  • Team North America has secured their spot at the upcoming Counter-Strike: Global Offensive World Championship after a 3-0 victory against Canada. The finals will take place in Belgrade, Serbia from Oct. 5 to 9 and will offer $150,000 in prizes.
  • Na’Vi took out Team Secret to earn the Star Series Season 2 title and a hefty chunk of the $300,000 prize pool.
  • Adrian “Lifecoach” Koy took the Seat Story Cup Hearthstone title. He was notable for running C’Thun warrior, which is considered lower tier than the currently favored Dragon warrior.
  • Team SoloMid took the top spot of the North American League of Legends LCS Playoffs. They will be joined by Immortals, Cloud9, Counter Logic Gaming, Team Liquid, and EnVyUs. Team SoloMid made waves on social media when toplaner Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell picked Teemo due to a joke challenge he received from CEO Andy “Reginald” Dinh. Good to know that even the pros have fun one in a while.

Trades and Acquisitions

  • OWKings has picked up Jānis “Clown” Zagrebins for the support slot on their Overwatch team. He will replace Michael “michr” Rosen who has recently stepped down. Rosen will continue on with the team as a content creator on the OWKings website.
  • Russian org PRIES Gaming have signed a new Dota 2 roster. It will consist of Jan “sehny” Sehnal on Support, Melchior “Seleri” Hillenkamp on Support, Stoyan “SlashStrike” Kralchev on Mid, Dmitry “Dale” Rudnev on Offlane, and Eskil “Eskillz” Sundblad on Carry. SlashStrike will be performing the duties of team captain. “I am happy to greet our new Dota 2 team and really excited to work with European roster again, which will now compete under our team name. We believe in long and successful cooperation. Cheer for PRIES!” said team CEO Alexander “pfrqa” Balahonov.
  • Luminosity Gaming has signed the former Brazilian Counter-Strike: Global Offensive team WinOut to their roster. They will replace Luminosity’s former roster, which has parted ways to join SK Gaming. The team includes Bruno “bit” Lima, Renato “nak” Nakano,  Raphael “cogu” Camargo, Lucas “destiny” Bullo, Gustavo “yeL” Knittel, and Vinicios “PKL” Coelho.