Photo courtesy of BeyondtheSummit's Twitter.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of Rivalry.
The Dota 2 scene looks like it is bursting with money. We had a $30 million prize pool, custom wardrobes at a mountain ski resort, and players starting their own organizations rather than collecting salaries from pre-existing ones. It seems like a shock that payment issues could still be a problem. It's 2020 and we really haven't handled this?
If we peel away the gilded layer of a wealthy Dota scene, the dingy metal it's hiding isn't quite so healthy. That $30 million in prize money hides how little prize money there is for the tier 2 scene, both for players and talent. Weplay!'s (theoretically) well funded ski resort Minor hides how much some TOs struggle to even break even on a LAN event. Nigma and Secret and OG's huge prize pool cuts and independent 'player run' organizations that aren't going bankrupt hides how much other players rely on being paid their salaries and prize cuts on time. There's nothing wrong with Secret being financially stable - they win a lot. There's nothing wrong with WePlay! spending more than other TO's, their Minor was incredible. There is something horribly wrong with talent and teams remaining unpaid, especially from DPC events.
If an event is officially chosen as a DPC event, that status gives teams and talent some faith that they've been vetted and are to be trusted. Unfortunately for those involved in the GESC series of tournaments, that wasn't the case. In an open letter to Valve and the community, Team Secret director CyborgMatt clearly lays out the $750,000+ in unpaid prize pool and fees from GESC events. While work has, I'm sure, continued behind the scenes on this issue, I personally find it unacceptable that Valve provided prize pool vanished and teams like Infamous, The Final Tribe, SG, and ALPHA Red are left without a prize pool that could represent a significant upgrade in their training and quality of life. Valve was responsible for half of that prize pool, so where did that half go? Why have teams not at least received half of what they are owed by GESC? And why are people not talking about this? Every. Single. Day.
Imagine what $10,000 can do for a team that may not be able to afford to bootcamp, or need new PCs, or don't have a coach. Imagine how much better you could focus on competitive Dota if you don't have to worry about relying on streaming for income or how exactly you were going to pay your bills? (And even worse, imagine being American and not having healthcare - if you aren't getting paid, every person who sneezes near you can be stressful). These are stresses that come with unreliable freelance jobs - which is basically what playing can be like. These aren't NADCL pubstars that can't make it out of opens qualifiers though. These are players and teams that are competing against Secret and LGD and Evil Geniuses. These are players (and talent) who have made it to what should be elite events. These are entire regions (like South America for example) that lack funding and experience that could see massive competitive improvement with added financial stability and training opportunities. We talk about how we need leagues and more Tier 2 support and a better system for finding new blood and developing playing talent, but we also need to keep talking about these payment issues. If you don't know if your salary will be paid or is prize pool will ever be rewarded, how can you feel secure in committing everything to playing full time?
I'm not naive enough to think that a public stir will magically cause payment issues to vanish, but I do think that more could be done. Noxville's tracking sheet is a great start, but I would bet that very few people even realize or remember that he made it. GESC, WESG, WCA, China Top, Vega Squadron, Galaxy Battles (hah), and plenty more orgs, online cups, and tournaments still owe money. It's time to hold them accountable. If you are owed money, TELL NOXVILLE. If you are a reddit and/or social media user, don't let payment issues be forgotten.
People have asked me for my 2020 resolutions and wishes - and this is one. I want a debt tracker pinned onto the Dota 2 subreddit. I want Valve to at least pay their half of the GESC prize money. (Yes this could leave them vulnerable to other TOs defaulting on payment - so Valve, just handle your half yourself always in the future if you haven't switched to that already). I want the tier 2 players and talent to have a chance at financial security. And I want any incoming team organizations and tournament organizers to know that we will hold them accountable and their failure to pay will be public.