Last Week in E-Sports: Kicking off the new year with cancellations

After a much deserved break, the world of e-sports is picking up once more. Aside from numerous roster changes, branding deals, and new tournament announcements, we also saw a somewhat rocky resolution to the PEA scandal that rocked the end of 2016.

The PEA Cancels Its Counter-Strike: Global Offensive League

After a massive year-end scandal, the PEA has finally realized that it simply cannot compete with the pre-existing ESL Pro League. When the PEA attempted to force their teams to choose only one league to play in, six out of the seven rosters voted to compete in the ESL rather than the PEA. As a result, the PEA – which claimed it would be a revolutionary step forward for player’s rights and team management – has shut its doors.

“It has become clear to the PEA organization that there isn’t sufficient financial support in the ecosystem, either from broadcast/streaming partners, sponsors or others, to profitably operate a third prominent online league, due to the over saturation of the marketplace and the recent upward spiral in operating costs,” an official statement read.

The ESL has offered all of the PEA teams extra compensation on the condition that they will appear in the ESL Pro League for the next two years. Additionally, the PEA will not be allowed to organize a league for the same period of time.

When the PEA was first formed, it promised players that there would be no league exclusivity, making their move at the end of the year an unexpected one. In the end, the players won this fight, and the fallout will make it very hard for the PEA, or any organization, to organize a North American CS:GO league in the future.

The PEA has said that it will devote its resources to other game titles where saturation is less of a problem, but no plans have been officially announced. It will be hard for the PEA to find a game that doesn’t have at least one established league already running, and if they ask for player exclusivity again, they might just run into the same problem.

As a side effect of the fallout, the WESA was accused of asking for player exclusivity starting in 2018. This would prevent the major teams involved from competing in events such as ELEAGUE or the ECS.

This information comes from reporter Richard Lewis, but the WESA has released a contradictory statement. “On the days of their pro league matches," the statement reads, "WESA teams are not going to play any other matches in 2017. WESA has not required any of its teams to drop any other leagues either in 2017 or any subsequent years. While no decisions have been made regarding league participation beyond 2017, any decision will be a joint one by all WESA members, including the players. We strongly distance ourselves from any suggestions saying otherwise.”

This is a good move by the WESA, as for now it appears that any league asking for exclusivity will experience a major pushback by players.

MSI’s Masters Gaming Arena Overwatch Championship Has Been Cancelled

Anyone who remembers the first attempt at holding the MSI Masters Gaming Arena Championship last December knows it was one of the worst executions of a major e-sports tournament the community has ever seen. Only one match was played, the broadcast was replaced with a “coming soon” overlay for much of the tournament, and supposedly technical issues plagued even the setups at the event itself. While the tournament was originally going to be rescheduled, a recent announcement has revealed that it is now outright cancelled.

"Due to the unfortunate and unprecedented internet connection issues that impacted the Overwatch MGA 2016 Championship, a number of scheduled matches were not played," the statement read. "As a result, it was impossible to complete the tournament in its prescribed format in the available time, and the Overwatch MGA 2016 Championship Grand Final event unfortunately had to be cancelled."

This has led to quite a bit of frustration for the players and teams involved. While flights and lodging were paid for by tournament organizers, players are more interested in being compensated for their time, and no details about further compensation have been given. "We apologize for any inconvenience caused and are committed to ensuring that—like previous MGA tournaments—our future events are completed professionally," the statement added. "We sincerely apologize for the unpleasant experience and for the resulting cancellation of this event."

ESL Pro League Will Be Streamed Exclusively On YouTube

According to a report by Slingshot Esports, the upcoming ESL Pro League will be streamed exclusively on YouTube due to a newly signed partnership agreement between YouTube and the WESA. The league has been traditionally streamed on Twitch, and this would be one of the few times a major event sold its broadcasting rights to a single streaming service.

The Hearthstone Championship Tour Might Kick Off In The Bahamas

Looking to get out of the snow? Maybe you should start climbing those Hearthstone ranks. According to a possible leak from Blizzard Taiwan, the Hearthstone Winter Championship (the first official HCT event of the year) will take place in the Bahamas this year. The event will supposedly be held at the Melia resort hotel at Nassau Beach over the weekend of March 23-26. The event will see the top 4 players in every region competing for their share of a $250,000 prize pool. The top four players will also qualify for the one million dollar World Championship event held at Blizzcon each year.

CSGO Lounge Looking To Refund Its Customers

Now that skin betting site CSGO Lounge has shut down, it’s looking to compensate any players that weren’t able to withdraw their skins from the service. Essentially, any player with unclaimed winnings had their skins stuck in a now unusable bot account. Parent company ESForce Holdings is currently “looking into the technical side and legal aspects of the issue” and plans to roll out refunds starting in March.

Genvid Showcases New Streaming Software at CES

Most e-sports tournaments are currently watched on a single stream on Twitch, but Genvid Technologies is looking to change all of that. They showcased brand new streaming software at this year’s CES, which streams data instead of video to the user. Essentially, their software runs as an independent “spectator” and that spectator’s feed is then fed to the player. This allows players to control camera angels, switch between different players and teams, turn on overlays that show stats, mini-maps, player info, and scores, and even create their own instant replays. Chat is also fully integrated with the platform.

The big question is, will this provide enough new features to pull people away from Twitch? Watching an e-sport match tends to be a passive experience, like watching a football game. Most people are content to just load up a Twitch stream on their TV and watch it from their couch. Right now, it’s unclear if the primary e-sports market is looking for a more interactive way to watch streams. Would you prefer Genvid’s new platform to Twitch? Let us know in the comments.

Detroit Renegades Signs Overwatch Team, Brands It Heavily

The Detroit Renegades have signed a sponsorship deal, selling the naming rights for their recently signed Overwatch squad. The sponsorship is with 5-Hour Energy, which has turned the former Kingdom E-sports official name into the long, clunky monstrosity that is “The Detroit Renegades 5-hour Energy Overwatch Team.” Most of us will just call them The Renegades.

Picking up 5-Hour Energy as a sponsor has been seen by some as preparation for Blizzard’s new Overwatch League, which has promised city-based teams. 5-Hour Energy is a Michigan-based company, allowing the Renegades to keep all their sponsors local.

Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Wesley Edens Announced FlyQuest E-Sports Brand

After purchasing the Cloud9 Challenger group last December, Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Wesley Edens has decided to rebrand the team as “FlyQuest.” While the former Challenger squad will make up FlyQuest’s League roster, the brand will be looking into other e-sports as well, though specific plans have not yet been announced.

The Roster Shuffle

  • Stefan "ONIGOD" Fiskerstrand and Sergi "Winghaven" Torras were released from REUNITED’s Overwatch team recently. The team has announced that they have already signed replacements, but have not confirmed who those replacements are.
  • Vitality has announced it’s new LoL roster. It consists of Charly "Djoko" Guillard as starting jungler, mid-laner and jungle substitute Chang-suk "GBM" Lee, top-laner Lucas "Cabochard" Simon-Meslet, Erlend "Nukeduck" Våtevik Holm in the mid-lane, AD carry Pierre "Steelback" Medjaldi, and support player Ha "Hachani" Seung-chan.
  • Austin "Link" Shin has joined Liquid's LoL squad as a mid-laner. He will be joining jungler Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin, top-laner Samson “Lourlo” Jackson, mid-laner Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer, and support Matt “Matt” Elento on the 2017 roster.
  • Evil Geniuses has absolutely gutted both their Starcraft and FGC divisions. All fighting game players except for Ricki Ortiz and Kenneth "K-Brad" Bradley have left the team, including long time flag bearer Justin Wong. In addition, they are completely abandoning their Starcraft division, letting all their players go. To rebuild their fighting game side, EG will be signing UMVC3 player Chris "NYChrisG" Gonzalez in advance of the Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite season, along with Smash player Kevin "PPMD" Nanney.
  • Echo Fox has signed some of the best fighting game players in the business. After his departure from EG, Justin Wong will be joining the Echo Fox brand, along with Taniguchi "Tokido" Hajime, one of the best Street Fighter players of all time, Dominique "SonicFox" McLean, three time ESL Pro League Champion and two-time EVO winner in both Mortal Kombat and Skullgirls, Brad "Scar" Vaughn, Momochi Yusuke, Momochi "ChocoBlanka" Yuko, and Leonardo "MKLeo" Lopez Perez. The number of titles won by that line-up is staggering, making it one of the most accomplished fighting game lineups of all time.
  • Finnish soccer club SJK Seinäjoki will be joining the e-sports world, opening a FIFA division and looking into the possibility of fielding an Overwatch team.
  • Former NRG E-sports players Faith "gob b" Dayik, Johannes "tabseN" Wodarz, and Nikola "legija" Ninic have launched BIG, a new CS:GO team. They will be joined by Johannes "nex" Maget and Kevin "keev" Bartholomäus.
  • Denmark’s largest soccer club has unveiled a new e-sports brand called North. They have signed the entirety of the Team Dignitas 2016 CS:GO roster as their first acquisition.
  • subtLe player Warren "hades" Rettich will not be competing in the WESA CS:GO competition in China after failing to secure a Visa. Some of his teammates have accused him of “LAN-dodging”, i.e. specifically failing to get a Visa so he wouldn’t have to go up against major teams like Virtus Pro and EnVyUs.
  • Counter Logic Gaming parted ways with founding member James "Hazed" Cobb at the end of last year. This has left Hazed uncertain if he will continue in e-sports. "The future at the moment is unclear for me," Hazed said. "I'm going to really push myself to see if I can improve. If I can't improve my own personal skills and my value as an aspiring IGL isn't in demand, I will move on.”
  • Jimmy "DeMoN" Ho has formed a new DOTA2 team called Team Onyx. The team will include former Team Liquid off-laner Kanishka "BuLba" Sosale, previous Evil Geniuses carry Mason "mason" Venne and Korean support player Kim "DuBu" Doo-young. The team’s fifth member has not yet been announced.
  • Panathinaikos Athletic Club launched a dedicated e-sports division, though it has not announced what games it will be participating in nor what players it will be signing.

Two Big Wins

  • NRG E-sports won the Smite World Championship. This is the second year in a row that they took home the title. They will be taking home $500,000 for their win.
  • After winning the Capcom Cup last year, NuckleDu took home the first Street Fighter V tournament of the year at U-League 3 in Shanghai, China.