With numbers often comes power. That's at least the logic behind the creation of the latest union featuring several of Europe's most prominent and recognisable (but not all) professional gaming teams. But in a letter sent to eSports organisers, and since released to the public, the union has outlined some demands that seem a little detached from reality.
The union features the following teams: EnVyUs, Titan, Ninjas in Pyjamas, Fnatic, Team SoloMid, Virtus.pro, Cloud9, CLG, Team Liquid and Natus Vincere (of which Cloud9 and Virtus.pro's Counter-Strike: Global Offensive teams will be attending the $55,555 invitational tournament in Melbourne's Crown Casino this weekend).
There are a few notable absences on the list — no Evil Genuises, for instance, and the lack of any major Chinese teams or organisations, which vastly weakens the union's bargaining power if any great worldwide change is to be made in Dota 2 (given their size, international standing and influence in the wider Asian area).
But it's still a collection of teams worth keeping an eye on, especially since the team owners — keep in mind this is a union for the teams, not the players themselves — want to increase the "professional connection" between leagues, organisers and themselves.
"All things listed in this e-mail applied from 1st of January 2016. This e-mail includes representatives of ESL, Dreamhack, Starladder, Faceit, PGL, MLG, CEVO, Joindota, Dotacinema, One Game Agency (DotaPit & CounterPit), ESEA, ESWC, Dreamz Media, BTS, Fragbite, Gfinity," the letter, written by Na'Vi chief executive Alexander Kokhanovskyy and reprinted on e-Frag, reads.
Now this is all well and good; it's perfectly normal for those with aligning interests to band together to maximise their influence or standing. And even the principle of refusing to attend tournaments does hold some merit — although what follows may be a little much.
"We will decline all Dota 2 and CS:GO pure online events (without LAN Finals) invitations," the letter, which outlines the union's attendance policy for 2016, states. "The one and only exception will be US teams in CS:GO due to lack of LAN events. But they will set a minimum amount of prize money around 30.000$ USD for 1-2 months League and 10.000$ for 3-4 days event."
Online tournaments are defined as showmatches — although sponsor events, for obvious reasons, are an exception — or online events run over 1 or 2 days with a small handful of teams playing. The union also plans to boycott online leagues running over 2 to 3 months, and names events like the XMG Captains Draft, GOCL and Dotapit.
Up to that point, the demands seem kind of reasonable. eSports, after all, has grown to the point where those attending should get some guarantees on the conditions they are competing in. But what follows is a little, shall we say, ahead of its time.
"The minimum amount of prize money for CS:GO will be 75.000$ excluding travel support; the minimum amount of prize money for Dota2 will be 100.000$ including in-game tickets, but excluding travel support."
Travel support is what you'd expect — paid transfers, airfares and accommodation. But there are a few stipulations as well:
Travel support should be completely separated from prize money
Tournaments should provide a full travel support for Dota2 and CS:GO players + manager/coach, 6 in total.
Tournaments should provide a full travel support for Hearthstone players
Tournaments should provide a partly-covered travel support for Heroes of the storm players + manager/coach, 6 in total
Tournaments will have such options:
Option A: Paying for tickets (economy or higher with convenient connections and layover time) and hotels (4 stars or higher) prior to the event
Option B: Sending a travel support payment 7 days after event ends. Payment depends on the team origin region:
EU/CIS - US should be 12000$ or 2000$ per player in HS, 6000$ per HotS team EU - EU should be 4000$ or 650$ per player in HS, 2000$ per HotS team CIS - CIS should be 3000$ or 500$ per player in HS, 1500$ per HotS team US - US should be 6000$ or 1000$ per player in HS, 3000$ per HotS team EU - CIS should be 6000$ or 1000$ per player in HS, 3000$ per HotS team
Option C: Combination of both
To grease the wheels, the union's members are prepared to offer their time and services to produce media reports and promotional activities after each event. I'm pretty sure teams are required to take part in promotional activities anyway; it's usually part of the terms and conditions. But here's the list of what the teams involved would provide:
Media reports by teams
To increase overall value of events as well as media reach we are glad to do promo activities and provide media reports after each event. Each report will include:
- Website news about event (link, screenshot, news views or/and daily unique visitors during news date) - Social media posts (matches, updates, info, etc.) in FB, VK, Twitter with hash-tag #teamonevent, i.e. #naviondhs15 (link, screenshot, posts views, likes, shares and comments) - Embedding tournament live broadcasting on website and social media (link, screenshot, website major stats during those days, social media posts views, likes, shares and comments) - Event promo video, i.e. highlights from online stages (if any - link, views, likes) - Event coverage on website (optional)
As the famous infomercial goes, however, there's more. The union would also like a full media report that comes with event visitors, broadcasting languages and studio, broadcasting stats and geo-stats. Transfers from the airport should be covered at events, teams shouldn't have to play more than one best-of-three and one best-of-five a day, and separate lounge and bathroom areas should be provided for the players to separate them from the crowd when they want.
It's ideally the kind of thing you would expect as minimum for sporting events. And for major tournaments like The International, the League of Legends world championships, Dreamhack events sponsored by Valve or final events for third-party organisers like ESL One Cologne, most of this comes as part of the package.
But it's beyond the financial means of a lot of other tournaments to throw up minimum prize pools of that size along with all the other trimmings. eSports has certainly come a long way, but it hasn't come that far, not by any stretch of the imagination.
Online cups — smaller weekly tournaments, ones that help fill in the void between major tournaments — can't afford to hold LAN tournaments if they're only throwing up a prize pool of one or two thousand dollars. But they're absolutely critical in sustaining the activity of the community and they also provide useful practice for players.
The demands are a tad lopsided as well. Na'Vi's Dota 2 team hasn't been enjoying the best run of form since their heydays at previous International tournaments, but their CS:GO squad is still a respectable force internationally.
In the context of CS:GO, the demands make sense. In the context of Na'Vi's Dota 2 team, the demands are far less logical. It's a thinly veiled attempt to cut the team's expenses by pushing costs onto the organisers, costs that not every third-party organiser will be able to meet.
Richard Lewis tweeted that some of the players were entirely unaware that the team owners were using them as leverage, with clauses about the chairs and tables to be used at tournaments. It's also worth questioning whether players actually benefit by not being permitted to compete in smaller online events.
It'll be interesting to see how much traction the union actually gets in the coming year. I have a sneaking suspicion that they might have to concede, particularly when it comes to Dota 2, on some of their demands. And I wouldn't be surprised if the players pushed their owners to be a little more lenient on the online events they play in — especially after most of this was arranged without, it seems, their knowledge or backing.