At the beginning of the year, Telkom announced that they would be dropping R1million in prize money for eSports in 2016. Understandably, the local gaming community lost their minds. Us included. Since then there hasn’t really been any solid info on what’s happening with the money or how it can be won. But fear not, Good Luck Have Fun has got your back. And some answers.
Recently we spoke to Rob ‘iNFy’ Hart, the Telkom Digital Gaming League Director, about Telkom’s plans for this year. We’ve got the scoop, that’s some journalism jargon to show you how professional we’ve become, on what to expect from Telkom for the rest of the year, what their plans are for the future, and, the answer to the question on everyone’s minds, what’s the plan for the R1million.
If you’re anything like us, you’ve probably already worked out how easily a million rand can be spent in a year, with very little of it actually being available for people to win. Now we don’t mean spending it on frivolous things like champagne towers and slip ‘n slides. We mean spending it on things like flying players to tournaments, putting them up in hotels, paying for sweet-ass booths for players to play in. The sort of things you need to run a legit LAN event.
But if you’re anything like us, you couldn’t be more wrong about Telkom’s plans for the money. And we’ve never been so happy about being wrong.
“The R1 million investment in the Telkom DGL will be paid out as prize money for the CS:GO and Dota 2 Finals to be contested at the rAge expo from 7-9 October 2016 and excludes all the associated costs to run the event. It also excludes the prizes teams will win at our Masters CS:GO and Dota 2 events, such as the one held in Cape Town, which Bravado Gaming won.”
If you just had a complete and utter nerdgasm, or whatever the gamer equivalent is, we totally understand. Take a moment to pull yourself together.
Not only is Telkom not using the money to run their LANs, but they’re giving it all away at their DGL finals at rAge. All R1million! That means that the other tournaments Telkom host during the year, like the R100k LAN at rAge in Cape Town, are additional. Now you might be asking yourself how we got so lucky. Fear not, we asked Rob.
“Telkom has for the best part of 10 years supported eSports players through the DGL. It creates a competitive environment for growth and development. Regular competition allows teams to experiment with new strategies, line-ups and attitudes, similar to physical sports. Teams use their results as a measure of success, build on their strengths, mend their weakness and even develop their very own following.
Telkom has held by far the largest eSports events each year in South Africa, so in terms of investment, Telkom has always been there. In 2016 Telkom felt the time was finally right to take it a step further and introduce the Masters, where players could compete for something really worthwhile and spectators could get their fix of top quality action.”
The Masters. The dream all local gamers are chasing. The pot of gold, that’s actually just an empty pot at the moment but hopefully one day will be full of gold at the end of the rainbow nation.
But we’ll get to that shortly, the Masters stuff, not the pot of gold stuff, first let’s talk a bit about what Rob thought of Telkom’s first tournament of 2016, rAge in Cape Town.
We were very excited about Telkom’s setup there, as most people were. But we were also disappointed by the lack of space provided for fans to enjoy the CS:GO on show. It’s something Rob and his team are aware of and feel needed to happen to prove there is an appetite for it out there.
“We had known for some time that there was a big desire to watch Telkom DGL events live, however there was always a risk that the viewers might decide to stay home and watch the stream instead. Seeing the huge crowd was reassuring.
I believe what we did in Cape Town was a great proof of concept. We’ve shown that there is a huge demand for eSports as a form of live entertainment. Going forward we will definitely cater for larger crowds.
I can’t speak on behalf of Telkom, but our team at the DGL is made up of very open minded and progressive people. If ticket sales give us the ability to provide a better quality experience for our viewers and if our viewers can afford it, then I believe it’s a step worth taking.”
Naturally we got very excited and way ahead of ourselves hearing these things and asked Rob if he thought we would be seeing local eSports events in arenas anytime soon, like we see overseas.
“I believe we still have a way to go before anyone will risk it. Right now we need to gradually increase the seated capacity of our events. If they sell out at smaller venues, then we will begin moving into larger venues. If those too sell out, then an arena will be in order.”
Okay, we’ll just cool our jets over hear while Rob tells you what’s next on the cards for Telkom in terms of events and making gamers rich.
“Our next event is the Telkom DGL Masters Dota 2 Tournament. The date is unannounced, however you can expect to see it before the Masters Grand Finale, which is going to be held at rAge JHB from 7-9 October.”
Both Anthony ‘scant’ Hodgson and Luca ‘RoBoHoBo’ Tucconi have told us that the eSports powers that be in South Africa are making a concerted effort to share the spotlight between CS:GO and Dota 2 this year. And that definitely seems to be the case with Telkom. MGOs need to have both a Dota 2 and CS:GO team to be eligible for the Masters and both titles are rewarded equally in terms of prize money.
So let’s talk about the Masters.
At first it seemed like a bit of an unnecessary addition to the DGL, an elite league that excluded other teams just because they weren’t part of an MGO. But if you think about it for a bit you soon realise that locally, and internationally for that matter, the eSports industry is in dire need of structure and guidance. The Masters provides that to the local scene by making ‘having your shit together’ a requirement to be eligible for the league.
“Our vision is to provide the industry with a professional structure that lowers the risk of investment. In the past we’ve seen teams sponsored and the teams then breaking up a few months later. With the Masters program we want to create a professional platform where teams, players and sponsors feel comfortable with the investment they make into eSports.
We are reaching a new level of professionalism from bottom to top, which for players will open up opportunity in the industry and hopefully soon make it possible to become a full-time professional gamer who earns a monthly salary.”
Ah, that old chestnut. Hopefully Telkom’s influence on the local gaming scene can help bring us closer to making that dream a reality. Teams certainly have a better chance of getting enough money from sponsors and investors to pay their players a salary if they are part of the Masters setup.
So how exactly did Telkom choose which teams would get the honour of playing in their inaugural Masters League?
“Our selection process provided us with a short list. We primarily looked at the management teams each MGO had, as well as the skill of the teams they managed. We knew that if the management team was strong enough, then the skill would follow. A well-managed MGO would, over time, recruit the more talented players because they can offer those players more than a non-Masters MGO could.”
By not just taking the most talented teams into the Masters, Telkom is forcing some order onto a notoriously chaotic environment with their aforementioned ‘having your shit together’ policy. They’re clearly in it for the long haul, which is something all local gamers can be thankful for.
Hopefully as time goes on we’ll see our local teams and MGOs not just improving their skills, but also building their brands, and by extension the local scene. That’s something they need to do for themselves, but what does the Masters League do for MGOs? You know, besides giving them the chance to win a share of a million rand.
“To start, we’ve provided the eight MGO’s with security in knowing that they will compete at a minimum of three major LAN events in the year. They can now offer a definite value to their sponsors.
In Cape Town, Telkom provided accommodation and transportation for those living outside of the city. That meant that the cost to compete was extremely low compared to other tournaments on the calendar. In addition to that, Telkom covered the cost of the players’ kit. All the players and MGO’s had to worry about was their performance in the tournament.
We have other programs that are geared at professionalising the MGO’s involved, such as training their players on how to better deal with the media. More information on these will be released at a later stage.”
Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to us. One that we’re sure more teams will want a piece of. We’ve already spoken to a couple of teams and MGOs this year who have their sights set on becoming a Masters team. We asked Rob if this would be a possibility next year, or in the coming years.
“Up and coming MGO’s who have strong CS:GO and Dota 2 teams will be considered after this year’s DGL Championship. There are numerous factors that will be looked at. While we will primarily look at the MGO’s final placement at the Championships, we also look at their management and quality of their website, social media and their overall professionalism.”
Again an emphasis on not just team skills, but also their management. Telkom is clearly very determined to ensure that our local level of skill grows hand-in-hand with our professionalism. Which, to put it totally unprofessionally, is flippin’ awesome.
In the past we’ve talked a lot about what gamers need to be doing to improve the local scene, and their own profiles. If our reasons, Luca Tucconi’s reasons and Miles Regenass’ reasons weren’t enough for gamers and teams to get more active on social media and start trying to build their brands, then hopefully the fact that it’s a requirement for entry into the Masters will.
We think Telkom’s putting local eSports on the right track and we can’t wait to see the Masters teams battling for the R1million at rAge. It’s going to be exciting. It’s going to be emotional. And it’s going to be bloody well managed.