South Africans getting paid to play video games. What a time to be alive. Goliath Gaming, led by Ashton ‘Golz’ Muller and Michele ‘Stickalish’ Brondani, are the multi gaming organisation (MGO) doing the paying and, it’s safe to say, we were pretty damn excited to find out more.
We’ve dreamt about this day since we were old enough to realise that playing games is way more fun than work. We were very young, because that is not a hard thing to work out. What is a hard thing to work out is how to tell your parents your career is going to be playing video games. Well, that conversation just got a little bit easier in South Africa. Million rand tournaments are the fireworks that grab the public’s, and the parents’, attention, but players getting salaries are what is going to really turn esports into a viable career.
Interesting to note, Sinister 5 have actually been paying their players since December last year, they just didn’t tell anyone about it. You can check out Christopher ‘Sargon’ House’s article about it over on Zombiegamer.
Side note: Surely Sargon should change his nickname to ‘InDa’. Christopher ‘InDa’ House. Right? We’ll start a petition.
Back to the matter at hand: Golz telling us more about Goliath Gaming. Would you believe that just over a month ago the idea of Goliath Gaming hadn’t even been thought about by Golz, Stickalish and friends.
“One day while discussing just how professional the overseas scene has become, we wondered how the local scene would react if a similar approach was adopted with a team here.
After chatting through the logistics (of creating a team and managing it), hypothetically, we realised that it wasn’t an impossible task.
One month later we signed contracts with players – and here we are.”
Once you’ve got yourself a hypothetical team, you need a hypothetical name. That was probably the easiest thing to solve for the Goliath guys.
“Most people don’t know this, but ‘Golz’ is actually a shortened nickname that evolved out of ‘Goliath’ over time. We just thought that it was the perfect fit.”
It does have a nice ring to it. And you can shorten it to GG, which is just a win as an esports team. Really the only problem they’ll have with it is when someone starts a team called David, then they’re in trouble.
When they launched, Goliath mentioned the incredible amount of off-screen skills the team would have behind it: A lawyer, a PR team, financial services experience and proven entrepreneurs. We wanted to know from Golz what sort of edge he thought all of this would give to the MGOs various teams.
“There are two main factors that were considered when we discussed ‘going pro’ and creating this MGO. Firstly, the players need to be remunerated, and their contracts need to be fair. Secondly, we felt that the interaction and dealings between MGOs and sponsors/brands needed to be more business-focused/professional.
We honestly believe that with the diverse range of skills that our management team brings to the table, we have the ability to attract big business and support from corporates and brands to the team (and to the industry), and more so, offer them an attractive ROI for them getting involved.
Whether that involvement is through them sponsoring individual players, entire teams, competitions or broadcasters; we believe that companies and brands out there are really desperate to get involved with esports – but not wanting to burn their fingers in the process. They might just be more convinced to get involved when presented with a solid and professional business proposal, backed by an experienced management team.
Take our PR manager, for example, she formally got into the esports scene this year; so while she does have a love for it, her expertise is not esports (and she won’t pretend that it is). But the value she brings to the table – her understanding of the broad media landscape in SA, how to profile people and brands, and her ability to build relationships and partnerships with people and brands, for the long term – that’s invaluable.
Where she lacks in esports know-how (although she’s learning very fast) there are people in our team who more than supplement that, and that to us is totally cool because we all play to our strengths.”
You know a player has started taking their esportsing seriously when they start throwing out acronyms like ROI. That’s return on investment if you weren’t sure. We promise we didn’t have to look that up.
On a serious note though, the support these players are going to be getting from the MGO sounds incredible. As Golz has and will mention throughout this article, the key word is professional. It’s going to be very exciting to see how this effects a team of players, not just their performance in game, but also their professionalism outside of playing.
We were hoping to be able to tell you some funny stories about the players when they heard they would be earning salaries, like Massacre falling off his chair and messing up his hair, but alas, we haven’t been able to dig any up yet. We’ll have to do a follow up with those bits in.
So the next thing we wanted to know about the players being paid was the how. We heard the term salaries, but does that mean they get paid a fixed sum monthly? Are there bonuses? What happens with tournament winnings? Okay, clearly this is the interesting part. Unless that Massacre falling off his chair story turns out to be true.
“The players are hired employees of Goliath Gaming. They are remunerated by way of salaries, bonuses, and other fringe benefits. While their basic salaries are fixed, their performance would be rewarded just like any salaried employee in any industry. As we grow, so will the players, in terms of their profiles and their rewards.
The players will definitely be entitled to tournament winnings. A large portion of it, actually.
The industry definitely seems focused on the team salaries and it has got a lot of people talking and debating the issue – which is great, because it’s a necessary conversation we all should be having.
What we’re looking for is to have the topic of salaries ignited (which it seemingly has), which will hopefully have more MGO’s starting that conversation with their players and finding a way to remunerate them in some way (however small or large), because it really is an important next step to professionalising our industry.”
We didn’t ask how much, we’re polite like that. But this is what Golz offered us for free. (GLHF: Money joke!)
“We’re quite sure that many people will be speculating about the salary amounts for the next few weeks.”
“And while we won’t reveal numbers (because it does seem unfair to share what employees are earning – it’s a pretty personal question, in all honesty, right?) what we will say is that we aren’t setting a high bar – rather, our intention is to allow the conversation and development of salaries within esports to grow to a new level, so as to solidify professionalism of the sport within South Africa.
Given time, the other MGOs and sponsors will adapt, and I’m sure players will continue to benefit from this. There is no doubt that professionalism in this industry is in its infancy, but small steps like this is what will spur on growth. This is good for sponsors, partners, MGOs, and most importantly, the players.”
Quickly before we move on to talking about the players – sorry, we realise this is a long one – where is the money coming from? Did one of the GG owners win the lottery? Or marry someone rich as we suggested was a good way to fund an esports team in one of our earlier articles?
“We’re fortunate to have found people and brands who share in our vision to want to take things in the esports space up a notch, which enables us to pay salaries – which they (the people and brands), and we, felt an important first step.
The players are ultimately the assets of our business. We want each of the players to have the best chance of reaching their goals. Profits and bottom lines are not our number one focus – particularly in these early stages – our players, and empowering and enabling them to pursue their passion, is.
It goes along with the reasoning of: Don’t try and find ways of avoiding paying players salaries to try and cut costs/minimise expenses; but rather, find a way to invest in them (in whatever way you can – however big or small – just start) and empower them and enable their growth so that in the long run it makes business sense (and business cents).”
Excellent pun work.
“The fact is that the overseas professional scene is boasting massive figures in terms of this career and the earning potential and, at the end of the day, time is money.
So regardless of how small, or how big, the fact is that if we are ever going to catch up to the international scene, excluding the geographical constraints in terms of latency and ping as well as being a ‘developing’ scene, at the very least we need to spend the same amount of time, if not more, to compete at that level.
And if we can contribute to allowing that (paying players some amount for their time) to happen at the very least, then it is a step forward in breaking into that international echelon of esports.”
We’re almost done. Before we go we just have one last thing to talk about. The players and their contracts. No doubt every pro South African esports player is interested in playing for GG. Who doesn’t want to earn cash for what they’re good at right? Well, you might have to wait a while.
“Our contracts with the players are for an indefinite period, and have been drawn up by an attorney to be mutually beneficial for both the players and the MGO. We’re all too familiar with players hopping from one MGO to the next, quicker than you can say ‘pass the brandy’. How can we hope to plan for the long term when we don’t know which players will be with us for that amount of time?
To build upon a solid foundation, to build and increase players’ profiles, and to build sustainability and professionalism takes time. It takes time for players to get into a groove with one another and get familiar with each others’ play styles and tactics.
With proper employment contracts, our players know that we, and they, are committed to this for the long run, while at the same time knowing that they have to meet certain expectations and performance standards to be retained for that long term. These contracts also ensure that proper processes are followed, as per legal requirements, should a player not be meeting their requirements as an employee.
For example, a player can’t just be kicked out of the team if the other players wake up one day and decide they want to replace said player; proper processes need to be followed in order to remedy a situation, or the team needs to put in time and effort to sort an issue out, before a player can just be dropped.
Again, it all goes back to professional conduct. Before they’ll invest in the industry, sponsors and brands need to see professionalism and to see that we’re serious about building relationships and are in it for the long run – with them, with the industry, and most importantly, with our players. It all starts with the players.”
Is anyone else getting weak in the knees listening to all this? We’re a few words away from swooning here. So we’ll stop there before anything embarrassing happens.
Thanks for bearing with us, although hopefully you found the story of Goliath Gaming as interesting and inspiring as we did. We’re very excited to see what their future holds and also what their example, and Sinister 5’s, does for the local esports scene.
Goliath Gaming, we take our hats off to you. Not just figuratively, we literally have hats that we will take off to you.
P.S. If you don’t play CS:GO or Dota, but still want to make money playing video games for Goliath Gaming, don’t despair, we asked Golz about that. He said, “Watch this space” and gave us a winky face. Oooooh.