Last Week in E-Sports: Integrity in e-sports

It’s been a bit of a dark week in e-sports. Amid fines for prominent Madden players, massive League of Legends bans, sketchy chargebacks for the EVO charity drive, and more stories of unfortunate consequences of the U.S. travel ban, all the negative news has made it hard to celebrate the massive victories in the LCS and the Hearthstone Winter Playoffs.

Fortunately we also have the launch of ESIC, the E-Sports Integrity Coalition, and the massive monetary investment in smaller e-sports that occurred this week to give us a silver lining to the cloud of negative news.

The Esports Integrity Coalition Officially Launches

The Esports Integrity Coalition, or ESIC, is a non-profit organization that aims to clean up e-sports ethically and legally. It was founded in 2016, and as of a few days ago is now fully operational. Its new disciplinary panel aims to investigate cases of match fixing, cheating, gambling fraud, and doping, as well as other ethical violations in the e-sports world. They will use their legal power to prosecute these cases to the fullest extent of the law, in the hopes of generally making the e-sports community a more ethically sound environment.

The chair of the ESIC panel is Kevin Carpenter, a legal expert in the e-sports field. The panel will operate completely independently of ESIC in order to make sure all cases are prosecuted fairly. “It was very important to me that the panel was independent of ESIC and me and that I could not influence their appointments or their conduct once operational,” ESIC commissioner Smith said. “This means participants who appear before them can be confident of a fair hearing without conflicts of interest or bias towards the prosecutor.”

EA Fines Madden Bowl Winner for Toxic and Racist Comments

Chris “Dubby” McFarland recently won the biggest Madden tournament of all time, the Madden Bowl 2017. He took home $75,000 of the tournament’s $250,000 prize pool.

But things aren’t all sunshine and rainbows for Dubby. He was recently hit with a significant fine and rankings penalty due to inappropriate behavior. During his championship run, viewers began to look into Dubby’s Twitter account and found that he was quite fond of spouting racial slurs, especially toward black people. This, however, did not affect EA’s decision to fine the player, as he could and should not be held accountable for past deeds. Rather, EA pointed toward tweets made “during and directly after” the Madden Bowl.

EA apparently met with Dubby to tell him his behavior was unacceptable, but when he posted additional messages they deducted $3,000 from his winnings and erased 100 Madden NFL Championship Series Points from his record.

Riot Games Issues Bans Against 16 Oceanic Challenger Series Players

Riot Games takes their code of conduct very seriously. Case in point, they recently issued bans against 40 percent of the players in the Oceanic Challenger Series league. Sixteen players will be receiving bans for offenses ranging from toxic behavior to boosting to outright cheating.

Seven professional players will be banned for the first split of 2017, while three will be banned for a full year. Riot is not disqualifying any of the teams that these banned players will be on and will be working hard to ensure they will be able to compete while their players serve their bans. This stands as the largest disciplinary action in LoL e-sports history.

Chargebacks Mar EVO Charity Competition

Now that Ultimate Marvel VS. Capcom 3 has won EVO’s charity donation drive, raising $71,000 for the Make-A-Wish foundation in order to secure the final slot in the EVO 2017 lineup, that charity is seeing money ripped from its hands from fans that did not have the best intentions in mind.

Thus far, over $4,000 in chargebacks have been made. While it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the $152,000 raised by the drive altogether, it is an unfortunate side effect of people who were willing to donate only to see their favorite game get in.

Read our piece from last September for more on the unfortunate reality of chargebacks

DOTA 2's International Could Leave America Due to Travel Ban

DOTA 2’s headlining event, The International, has been held in Valve’s home city of Seattle ever since it was first conceived, but this year that may not be the case. With Visa issues affecting international players, Valve may be looking to move the event outside of U.S. borders. Erik Johnson and Gabe Newel recently discussed these problems in an interview with PC Gamer.

“We're gonna run the event no matter what," Johnson said. "Ideally we'd run it here because it has a bunch of advantages being close to our office. But the event's going to happen. So yes, if it became too difficult, we'd find a way.”

Newell went on to say the ban has also affected Valve employees who now cannot travel outside the U.S. out of fear of not being let back in. However, it is important to note that President Trump’s current travel ban has been successfully challenged at both state and federal levels and is currently on hold. But with the president claiming that he will continue to fight for the ban to be reinstated, the international e-sports scene is still filled with doubts. Even if the travel ban gets overturned, Valve still has lingering doubts about how America issues visas to e-sports athletes, with many major players missing tournaments in past seasons due to visa issues.

Cloud 9 Drops Out of IEM Katowice

In other news regarding the U.S. travel ban, Cloud 9 has dropped out of IEM Katowice. While the tournament is being held in Poland, Cloud 9 has said that traveling to Poland is too risky for any of its players to risk being denied entry back into the U.S. A replacement team will be chosen in the coming week.

William Hill Will Take Bets on DreamHack Masters Las Vegas

Huge steps forward are being taken in the realm of legitimate e-sports gambling. William Hill is now accepting bets on an e-sports competition for the second time, opening the books on the DreamHack Masters CS:GO tournament. Their previous foray into e-sports betting with IEM Oakland’s League of Legends tournament was met with great success. Their current odds favor Astralis at 3/1.

Psyonix Investing Heavily in Rocket League

Rocket League is one of the most fun e-sports to watch, but unfortunately hasn’t been very lucrative financially. Developer Psyonix is looking to change that. They have announced that they will put in more than $2.5 million dollars into Rocket League e-sports this year. Over one million of that total will be dedicated to prize pools alone, including increasing the Rocket League Championship Series prize pool to $300,000 dollars. We can also expect major prize pools at events and conventions such as PAX and SXSW.

NBA Investing in E-Sports to Create NBA 2k League

The NBA is teaming up with NBA 2K developer Take-Two Interactive in order to form a new franchised e-sports league. The league would launch in 2018 and would feature e-sports teams attached to the already existing teams of the NBA. Players will be salaried and will be expected to treat the league as a full time job during the planned five month season. Matchups will follow existing rules for the NBA, just converted into a digital format.

EFRAG Announces Enter The Arena: Overwatch

EFRAG and Twitch have announced a new Overwatch tournament. The tournament will have sixteen invited teams, but will allow up to 128 teams to participate including open sign-ups. The sixteen invited teams, however, will have a one round advantage. Matches will be played to a best of three, except for the finals which will be best of five.

Unfortunately, that is all we know about this new tournament so far. Prize support as well as the location of the tournament is unclear. We know it will take place in the NA region, however international teams will be invited. The tournament will take place February 18-20. If you or your team is interested, head to the official sign-up page here.

Big Wins

  • Pavel “Pavel” Belutkov’s won the Hearthstone EU Winter Playoffs last weekend. While the meta appeared stale, with every player bringing Aggro/Midrange Shaman, Pirate Warrior, Reno Mage, and either Renolock or Miracle Rogue, players tried their best to include interesting tech cards in order to take home the gold. But it was Pavel’s standard deck-lists that ended up winning the day, showing that we have, in fact, figured out this meta and that a Standard rotation cannot come soon enough. 
  • The final four teams have emerged from MLG’s Call of Duty World League Atlanta Open Bracket. They are Destroy X, Epsilon eSports, Chiefs, and Gosu Crew Blue.
  • Echo Fox has taken an upset victory over TSM in the NA LCS last weekend.  TSM was largely favored in the competition this year, but when Echo Fox ended up taking game one in their match TSM simply could not find the momentum it needed to come back.
  • G2 Esports defeated Origen in the EU LCS last weekend in order to maintain their perfect winning streak. They took the game decisively, 2-0, over Origen, scoring 20 kills without a single death in game one. This makes them the highest team in their group and the highest ranked team in the EU LCS.
  • You might think that FC Schalke 04 and Paris St Germain, two of Europe’s biggest soccer clubs, might only face each other on the pitch, but having both invested in e-sports they just saw their first big match in League of Legends in the European Challenger Series. Schalke ended up taking the game after taking a heavy lead early in the match. This puts PSG at the bottom of the Challenger series table.

The Roster Shuffle

  • Former Renegades tank Ricky "manOFsnow" Felty is creating a new Overwatch team, the teamOfsnow. Amateur players interested in trying out can fill out an official Google form in order to apply for one of the following positions:

    • Main tank
    • Off-Tank/Flex
    • DPS Hitscan
    • DPS Projectile
    • Main Support
    • Flex Support
  • Former Fnatic DPS player André "IDDQD" Dahlström will be joining NRG’s Overwatch roster. “I am very excited to be back on the field playing professionally again,” IDDQD said, “especially representing NRG and its colors. Dummy, numlocked and Seagull all share the same vision, to be the very best. I am dedicated to making that vision a reality.”
  • Splice has picked up the remaining players of Kungarna including Luis "iRemiix" Figueroa, Andrej "babybay" Francisty, Michael "mykL" Padilla, and Mohammed "MOETORIOUS" Abuzahria. "We're extremely excited to join the Splyce family," former Kungarna team captain mykL said in a statement. "Splyce provides us with opportunities perfect for our needs. We will work with our new home to become the biggest powerhouse in Overwatch and we'll settle for nothing less."
  • Chris "chrisJ" de Jong will be rejoining mousesports' starting CS:GO roster after DreamHack Masters Las Vegas. He was benched at the end of January once Tomáš "oskar" Šťastný joined the team, but now that Nikola "NiKo" Kovač' is leaving the team for FaZe he will be rejoining the roster with a focus on rifles.
  • Adil "ScreaM" Benrlitom will be joining EnVyUs’s CS:GO side. He will be replacing David "devoduvek" Dobrosavljevic, who dropped his position specifically for ScreaM’s entrance.
  • Philip "aizy" Aistrup will be leaving FaZe for another team, though his destination has not yet been announced. Joakim "jkaem" Myrbostad will be temporarily taking his place until the swap is completed.
  • Spencer "Hiko" Martin has officially left Team Liquid's Counter-Strike: Global Offensive roster. He will be replaced with Canadian Peter "Stanislaw" Jarguz from OpTic Gaming. Hiko will, similarly, be replacing Stanislaw on the OpTic side.

Vitality’s LoL team has benched its newest support, Ha "Hachani" Seung-chan. No replacement has been announced so far and the spot is currently up for grabs.