Delays, passport snafus, police involvement, illness, and more turned Gaming Paradise into the eSports event from hell.
Gaming Paradise was supposed to be a landmark DOTA 2 and Counter-Strike event, a partially crowdfunded (via ticket sales) high-level eSports event in Slovenia -- an occasion of unmatched magnitude in the region. Organised by The Gaming Resorts and Gaming.rs, the weekend tournament portion of the week-long event included a $US50,000 prize pool for DOTA 2 players, drawing top-ranked teams like Team Secret, Virtus.Pro, and compLexity into the fray. High profile Counter-Strike players also lined up for their own shot at a separate $US50,000 prize pool, with teams like Titan, Na'Vi, and Kinguin making the trip out.
Trouble started with tournament PCs -- or, more specifically, a total lack of them. For reasons that still aren't entirely apparent, the person who was supposed to deliver PCs didn't show up, delaying the tournament's Sunday kick-off for hours. When PCs finally arrived, it came to light that they were lacking graphics cards, leading to more delays. By the time it was all said and done, the tournament kicked off more than ten hours late. An inauspicious beginning, but one that didn't even begin to herald things to come.
Technical issues continued to plague broadcasts into Monday, and people on all sides -- fans, players, casters -- began to express their dissatisfaction.
So basically its a cointoss about wich side you will use on the stage. Navi side got the good comps and our side have the bad comps, GG:)
— OfficialMaikelele (@KingMaikelele) September 7, 2015
pretty glad we got an invite for dubai, so we skipped gaming paradise.. Feel sorry for the teams there..
— Xyp9x (@TSMXyp9x) September 7, 2015
Gaming Paradise is the most poorly run tournament I've ever seen. There are rumors that they can't even afford the prize money. Rip players
— Chaos (@ThatGuyChaos) September 8, 2015
Realising they'd bitten off more than they could chew, The Gaming Resorts decided to cancel the DOTA 2 portion of Gaming Paradise altogether. They explained in a statement:
We envisaged Gaming Paradise 2015 as a great, first-of-a-kind event that would combine e-sports and tourism. We invested a lot of effort into it, but as with every pioneer project, we met a lot of problems along the way, some of which came up unexpectedly right before the event. We tried hard to work things out, but after a great deal of consideration, we realised we had to cancel the Dota 2 tournament to ensure that we can go through with the rest of the event. We apologise to all the teams and their fans who made plans to come to the festival. All tickets for 9, 10, 11 and 12 September will naturally be refunded as soon as possible.
The show would, however, go on for Counter-Strike.
Then things got worse. Way worse. Three players from top Counter-Strike team Titan fell ill. On top of that, according to reports from multiple players and casters (and collected by HLTV), Gaming Paradise organisers failed to pay hotel, venue, and production equipment expenses. This resulted in, among other things, some equipment being confiscated and, most damningly, player passports being held by local police because, as they saw it, the players owed tons of money for lodgings and food. The worst part? Many players were slated to compete in this week's ESL ESEA Pro League Invitational in Dubai. No passport, no trip, no tournament. Disaster.
Thankfully, Gaming.rs -- the company responsible for Gaming Paradise's stream, production, and players (but not the hotel, venue, prize pool, equipment, etc) -- cleared up the hotel kerfuffle, informing authorities that The Gaming Resorts, not tournament players, were responsible for expenses. "We called the embassies and the police, and after that everything was solved," Gaming.rs CEO Petar Markovic said in a statement to HLTV. "The players have their passports back."
But that wasn't the end of the trouble tornado volcano. Markovic continued:
We got information from the production crew that the venue was going to be locked and that we would not be allowed to leave the venue or the hotel until everything was paid. The CEO of The Gaming Resorts talked to the players and the final decision was that the tournament will continue and the players will sign a contract with The Gaming Resorts. Teams will fly to Dubai, and all the costs that were not covered by the Gaming Resorts will be covered by Gaming.rs. We have purchased a few plane tickets for the casters, for Mikail 'Maikelele' Bill and for our second host. We are giving our best just to make sure everyone is satisfied. We do not care about money.
According to a report from Aftonbladet Esport, The Gaming Resorts might be looking at some major internal restructuring. Apparently CEO Saša Bulić is considering stepping down from his current position in order to "find someone that can do it better." I reached out to both The Gaming Resorts and Gaming.rs for more information, but as of publish time they'd yet to reply to my inquiries.
Right now Gaming Paradise's Counter-Strike tournament is still going. As for what will happen after it concludes, no one can say for sure just yet. Hopefully players will get their prize money, and the stomach-twisting rollercoaster ride will have been worth it. We'll see.