The Australian Call of Duty community is enjoying one of its best years ever thanks to the introduction of Activision's Call of Duty World League and the massive amount of prizes on offer.
But 2016 has also brought new frustrations, with a Queensland-based tournament organisation owing money to players and teams from events running as far back as July.
The organisation is called Doesplay, a Queensland registered company that hosts free-to-play and paid gaming tournaments. As part of their services, they also offer a subscription service which expands the amount of tournaments players can participate in per day while also allowing access to premium events.
But prizes have been, to use Doesplay's own language in late December, extremely delayed. Issues with late payments were so severe that Doesplay even cancelled a live event in February, with the "funds of which are being used to alleviate" unpaid prizes.
The unpaid prizes, according to players who have gotten in touch with me, extend as far back as July and August.
This, as Doesplay director and owner Rob Lineker pointed out to me in a phone conversation, is part of the organisation's terms and conditions. The first two bullet points in the T&Cs go directly to payments, with the second specifying that Doesplay can "withhold payments for longer than advertised above".
Doesplay told players that they were aiming to clear all outstanding payments by the end of January or, in some instances, as soon as possible. But their self-imposed deadline has passed, and those affected are furious.
"I have been owed since August of 2015," one affected player, who is owed $867.50 from multiple Doesplay premium events, said. He'd been contacting Doesplay and Lineker directly, with the Doesplay owner apologising on December 21 for not having paid prizes yet.
Another player, who wished to remain anonymous, is owed hundreds of dollars from nearly nine events spanning across July to November. He's contacted Doesplay and Lineker for a resolution; Lineker apologised shortly after the deadline lapsed for a lack of communication. The Doesplay director also declined to give an ETA on when prizes might be paid in the future, but stressed to me on the phone that players were still being paid and all outstanding prizes would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
"There’s been people owed different amounts of money from different events and we’re just working through those players, whether or not they want a refund from an event or to still be paid prizes out in which case we’re offering those simultaneously at the moment," Lineker said. "And we’re still paying players as of two days ago, paying out certain players."
I spoke to Lineker on Friday, February 5. Then, he claimed that communication has improved and that all open tickets and messages that required replying to had been answered. "I 100% believe communication was lacking and that was solely my fault, we’ve replied to every internal ticket, we’ve replied to every Twitter DM that needs to be replied to, we’ve replied to," he said.
"Yeah, so communication, we dropped the ball pretty hard on that on. But everything else we’re doing in the player’s interests as best as we can."
None of the players that have reached out to me, however, have any further received updates, assurances or deadlines from Lineker or other Doesplay staffers as to when their tickets will be resolved. Some say they haven't received a reply via Twitter or Doesplay's support system since last year, contradicting what Lineker told me on the phone.
An equally concerning situation was the lack of clarity as to how the deadline was missed in the first place. I asked the Doesplay director how it was possible that Doesplay couldn't have informed players and teams that payments would be delayed into February, or longer, but was told that the organisation didn't know.
Kotaku: If you knew you were going to reach your January deadline and you weren’t going to be able to pay your prizes, why was there not a public communication informing people you were going to miss your deadline, as opposed to the deadline coming up, being missed and then players discovering with no information whatsoever? Lineker: I mean we communicated that on February 2nd, but tha- Kotaku: But you would have known beforehand [that you were going to miss the deadline]. You would have known at least a week before. Lineker: But that’s, we didn’t know that. We still had certain things to line up and get sorted. Kotaku: So how tight was your budget that you could be days within your deadline and not know, still be on the fence as to whether you’d be able to pay out your prizes or not? Lineker: I don’t want to talk about that, that’s internal stuff. Basically players, some players have paid to us play in our competitions. That has stopped now, we don’t charge people to play on our server unless they want to play more than one event, which more often than not is a free event, which they wouldn’t have to pay for or wouldn’t win any prizes anyway. All the players have that requested [inaudible] refunds, and they are in constant communication as to when they would receive their prizes. And in our terms we are able to delay prizes when we see fit. Players sign up to our events knowing that.
Lineker followed up with me in an email afterwards that he understands the players' frustration, and specific dates as to when players might be paid can't be provided. It's a curious stance given that Doesplay set a January deadline for themselves, as Lineker confirmed to me over the phone.
"I understand the players frustration," the Doesplay director wrote. "We’ve done everything for this community and put in tens of thousands of dollars in to players pockets. We will continue to work hard for the competitive gaming community."
Unfortunately, while previous good deeds buy you time it's unlikely to quell the anger of players left in the dark. Lineker told me that Doesplay is aiming to run a live event later this year, potentially in August.