Bans, budgets, and Berlin took the news last week in eSports. Let’s take a look.
Riot Bans Three Major Teams from League of Legends Play
eSports is still very young, so there’s a bit of a Wild West “anything goes” feeling to it. While this means random unknowns can suddenly break out and become eSports superstars, it also means that there are few regulations for player treatment and payment. Luckily, the companies behind some major eSports titles are working toward ensuring better treatment for eAthletes, as is the case with Riot’s recent banning of Team Impulse, Team Dragon Knights, and The Renegades.
Team Impulse has been implicated in several scandals regarding player payment. Payments were routinely late, contracts were not valid, and on multiple occasions they failed to meet the depressingly low League-mandated Minimum Player Compensation of $12,500 per starting player.
Renegades and TDK, however, have supposedly misrepresented their relationship with each other. In addition to indirect collusion in the form of players being compensated/housed by one team after being traded to another and scandals involving failure to honor payment, contract provisions, and maintain a safe environment for team members, the teams were also implicated in doing business with Chris Badawi, who was previously suspended for attempting to sign a player under contract with another team. The owner of Renegades, Christopher Mykes, offered Badawi a 50% stake in his company once his suspension expired.
All three teams will be given until 1:59pm PST on May 18th to sell all rights and legal claims to their championship series positions.
Teams Come Together To Found the WESA
In an effort to improve conditions for players, organizers, and broadcasters alike, eight multi-gaming brands have come together to form the World eSports Association AKA the WESA. One of their first initiatives will be to create a Player Council, staffed by officials elected by the players themselves, who will “represent, strengthen and advocate on behalf of pro gamers on a number of important topics, such as league policies, rulesets, player transfers and more.”
The hope is that having a more concrete association overseeing tournament rules and player employment policies will create a standardized set of practices that eSports most desperately needs. Fnatic, Natus Vincere, EnVyUs, Virtus.pro, G2 Esports, FaZe, Mousesports, and Ninjas in Pyjamas are the eight founding teams, and Pietro Fringuelli, German attorney who has advised the Bundesliga, FIFA and UEFA soccer leagues and game publishers, has been chosen as the leagues commissioners.
The Berlin Pirate Party Pushes for Official eSports Recognition
Germany is facing its own eSports issues. Though it is the birthplace of the ESL, the oldest and largest league in eSports, it also has one of the poorest attitudes toward eAthletes. The government has officially labeled eSports as a “trend sport.” In short, this means the government has no obligation to assist eAthletes like they would any other athlete. This causes a number of problems. For example, players struggle to get visas for travel. German players and teams also end up having to jump through a million hoops when it comes to filing their taxes, while traditional sports get governmental tax relief.
The Berlin Pirate Party (yes that’s a real thing) is attempting to solve this problem by putting forth a motion to recognize eSports as an official sport. The party has been a longtime supporter of eSports and has tried several other approaches in getting eSports the government backing it needs. While the chances of this motion succeeding seem slim, as it only has a minority backing, it’s still good that someone is looking out for eSports competitors. If it succeeds, they will join other countries like France and Korea who have already recognized eSports as a valid sporting event worthy of government assistance.
You Can Be an EVO Judge
Interested in helping run the biggest fighting game tournament in the world? Well, now you can. EVO is looking for volunteer judges to help run the championship series this year. Judges will assist in running tournament brackets and managing players, and will be given free food for the days they work, and general admission access to the Mandalay Bay Events Center for Sunday’s top 8 competitions. However, judges will be required to provide their own transportation and housing. If this sounds like something you are interested in, you can sign up here.
Data Firm Predicts eSports Explosion
Data firm Newzoo has predicted that 2016 will be eSports biggest year yet. They estimate that over one billion people will know about eSports by the end of 2016, a 36 percent increase from last year. They also say that the number of hardcore eSports fans will increase form 131 million to 144 million. They project that these numbers will increase to 1.5 billion casuals and 200 million hardcore fans by 2019. Newzoo cites China and Korea as the two countries that are leading the eSports boom. China makes up 28 percent of all eSports awareness, and 64% of Korea’s entire population is aware of eSports as a phenomenon. It also says that interest from sports broadcasters such as ESPN and Turner Sports have given eSports a large legitimacy boost.
Daigo Signs On With Red Bull
Daigo “The Beast” Umehara has become one of the first eSports greats to have two sponsors at once. Recently he revealed that he signed into an official partnership with Red Bull while still keeping his current sponsorship with controller maker Mad Catz. This is important as many sponsors tend to ask for exclusivity contracts, although Red bull has co-sponsored several other players including League of Legends player Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg and Super Smash Bros. Melee star William “Leffen” Hjelte who are both part of Team SoloMid. Red Bull also sponsors well known fighting game names Takahashi “Bonchan” Masato, Olivier “Luffy” Hay, and Darryl “Snake Eyez” Lewis. Daigo is currently the only player still sponsored by Mad Catz after its sponsorships of Hayashi “Mago” Kenryo and Taniguchi “Tokido” Hajime expired in March.
Big Wins and Bigger Trades
Here’s a quick roundup of the victories and player trades that happened last week.
- MYinsanity claimed the second European spot in next month’s Heroes of the Storm Global Championship.
- Sk Telecom T1 beat Couneter Logic Gaming to win the Mid-Season Invitational in League of Legends. This is SKT’s third major League of Legends win.
- The Hearthstone Spring Preliminaries were held, and 8 players out of the 128 competitors will be advancing to the EU Spring Championship Tournament. Those players are: AKAWonder, Casie, Crane333, Georgec, Iner, Loyan, Thijs, and Turna.
- Team Royal Never Give Up has signed on League of Legends player Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao. Official figures have not been given, but his contract has been estimated to be worth 8 million dollars.
- Bora “Yellowstar” Kim is re-joining Fnatic after a short time with Team SoloMid. Yellowstar’s playstyle and Team SoloMid’s overall strategy clashed. Yellowstar requested to return to Europe and TSM honored his request to go home.
- William “Meteos” Hartman and Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong will join Cloud9’s League of Legends roster while founding member Lee “Rush” Yoon-jae and founding member An “BalIs” Van Le will be leaving the team’s main roster.
- Isaac “xPePii” Flores has been taking off Giants Gaming’s starting League of Legends roster. XPePii is currently in discussions with several league teams and may leave Giants Gaming in the near future.
- Team Echo Fox is expanding once again into new games since its founding last December. It has just picked up a Call of Duty team lead by Jordan “Proof” Cannon. Echo Fox recently expanded into fighting games with their acquisition of Street Fighter player Julio Fuentes and even picked up the first professionally recognized four player H1Z1 team in April.
- Turner Sports’ ELEAGUE has picked up some impressive advertising sponsorships including Arby’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, and Credit Karma. The deals are reportedly worth two million dollars each.
That was last week in eSports. Check back next week when we give you updates on the League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational and the Hearthstone North-American Spring Preliminaries.