The World Esports Association has denied allegations that the organization will demand that WESA teams only play in WESA-sanctioned events in 2018.
In a public statement, WESA's executive chairman and commissioner Ken Hershman said that WESA team's players will not be permitted to play in any other leagues on any day they have to play in the ESL Pro League, but have made no decisions regarding league exclusivity beyond 2017.
"On the days of their pro league matches, WESA teams are not going to play any other matches in 2017," Hershman said. "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.”
On Thursday, independent journalist Richard Lewis published a video in which he cited anonymous sources telling him that WESA was looking to make WESA teams exclusive to WESA-sanctioned events beginning in 2018, among several other allegations related to WESA exclusivity.
Among the allegations, Lewis claimed that ESL told popular CS:GO caster Alex "Machine" Richardson that if he accepted a job with the PEA league, ESL would "strongly consider" not hiring him again for an ESL event. WESA did not respond to theScore esports' requests for clarification regarding this allegation.
WESA was formed in in May as a partnership between ESL and eight European CS:GO teams, and aimed to "create an open and inclusive organisation to oversee standardized tournament regulations, player representation as well as revenue sharing for teams." Shortly after forming, FaZe Clan left WESA, leaving the organization with seven teams.
WESA is currently made up of Fnatic, Ninjas in Pyjamas, Team EnVyUs, Virtus.pro, Natus Vincere, G2 Esports and mousesports. If WESA were to demand exclusivity from those teams, they would be unable to play in the Esports Championship Series and ELEAGUE among other events, should they not be sanctioned by WESA at a later date.
Discussions of exclusivity in the CS:GO scene have been rampant of late due to a dispute between the Professional eSports Association and the players that make up its member teams' rosters. The PEA planned to run a North American CS:GO league in which its teams would participate, but which would conflict with ESL Pro League, claiming that the players' contracts allowed the teams to choose which events the rosters attended. The PEA eventually permitted the players to choose between PEA's own league and the ESL Pro League, citing a lack of consistent communication on the part of PEA about their league plans. Earlier this week, players voted to stay in the EPL and PEA suspended their plans to run a CS:GO league earlier today.
While CS:GO has seen exponential growth in the past year with ELEAGUE and the Esports Championship Series entering the scene, it's proven harder and harder for teams to keep up with every new competition.
For instance, GODSENT dropped out of the WESG 2016 Grand Finals, a playoff bracket with a $1.5 million prize pool, to give their players a rest before the ELEAGUE Major.
"To put it into perspective, last year we did 18 LANs, while this year we’ve done 17 and we’re only in July; it’s been a lot," caster Matthew "Sadokist" Trivett told theScore esports at the Cologne Major. "I think it makes you jaded, more than overwhelmed. You’re on a plane every week, you’re travelling somewhere every week, you’re eating fast food every week, seeing the same people every week and not really getting much free time."
With the scene poised to grow even further this year, a number of teams and players have already committed to attending less events in 2017 than last year.
"We played too many events for sure," North's Mathias "MSL" Lauridsen said. "It's something we take very seriously this year and we have already declined more events this year, than we did whole 2016. We will play the big tournaments with prestige and good prize money and make more room to practice, so we will stay on a good level."
However, according to NRG's Damian "daps" Steele, turning down minor events doesn't solve the issue of the major leagues, such as ESL Pro League and ELEAGUE, holding overlapping matches and qualifiers, which are imperative for teams to attend.
"I think what needs to happen is the four big leagues need to work together to create a schedule where I don’t have to schedule online matches in between attending LAN events. When things start overlapping like that, it is very stressful and hard to give it your all," he said in July while with OpTic Gaming.
"We had a moment where we were at the Minor and we had to play three ECS Bo3s and then playoffs for ECS, and I wasn’t even at home when I played half those matches. And we ended up not qualifying, probably because of that, because we were not prepared to play all of these online matches when we’re at events."
Of course, attending LANs and competing in online leagues are a small part of the Counter-Strike top tier teams actually play: they also have bootcamps, scrims and hundreds of hours of practice to attend to. According to Finn "karrigan" Andersen, it's that weight that actually leads to burnout.
"When you have so many tournaments in a row, I don't think you get 'overplayed,' it's more when you are boot camping and playing 12 hours a day, that is dangerous," he said in June.
However, even with the risk of over-playing resulting in potentially career-ending injuries or conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome, it's hard for players to justify taking a break and potentially losing their edge.
"There are many, many leagues and tournaments, and we didn’t have a break for months, which might be a little problem in esports," mousesports' Timo "Spiidi" Richter told theScore esports in June. "But when you take breaks, you lose practice, and then your opponents get stronger and stronger, and then you have problems. You need to practice all the time."
Beyond the risk of physical injury, over-saturation can also hurt pros' personal lives. After all, it's hard to spend time with loved ones and keep up with friends while constantly travelling and practicing.
For instance, Astralis coach Danny "zonic" Sørensen told theScore esports at the Cologne Major about how difficult it was balancing all the travel when he has a young child at home.
"Every morning I'm FaceTiming with my son and my wife. And obviously, it's a bit tough," zonic said. "With the whole decision with the team going to attend less events in the future, it's both going to benefit the team and it's going to benefit my wife and my son and the girlfriends of the team, since we pretty much all have girlfriends and stuff. I think it's going to benefit us because we would rather win one event rather than be in the semifinals of three or four events."
While many have expressed concern about over-saturation, others insist the issue isn't as severe as its been painted.
"I think this 'problem' isn’t one. Teams are free to play in whichever tournament they want to! The biggest problem was the amount of online leagues, and the length of some tournaments. It can easily mess with your schedule and the online results for the important matches," G2 Esports' Nathan "NBK" Schmitt said.
"For us, we will attend as many as possible especially early year. We need to get as much experience together as possible, and we’re avid competitors. We want to play as many tournaments as possible and place as good as possible!"
Others say that an unexpected solution to the situation might be existing leagues entrenching themselves further and possibly inducing indirect league exclusivity.
"In 2017 all the events are trying to stake their claim and some teams are going to have to choose what events to play. In reality it really is 'exclusivity' as a lot of events overlap and you cannot be in two places at one time," Renegades' Yaman "yam" Ergenekon speculated. "We will just evaluate each event as it comes and I’m sure some events we will have to take a pass on."
Concerns over league exclusivity have circulated for several months. For instance, in January, WESA denied a report from independent esports journalist Richard Lewis stating that they would seek to enforce league exclusivity in 2018. Similarly, PEA suspended their plans for another Major online league following players from the association's teams voting to remain in ESL Pro League's NA Division rather than participate in the new league.
While to date, players have fiercely defended their right to play in whatever competition they wish, whether it will be physically or legally possible for teams to continue to take part in every league in the future remains to be seen.
However, for FlipSid3 Tactics' Yegor "markeloff" Markelov, despite the fatigue, despite the over-saturation, despite the risk of injury, there's no choice but to compete.
"It's really exhausting to go to any tournament. You need to rest for at least a week but we don't have this time, with this tight schedule," he admitted in July. "But it's our job, you don't need to cry about it, you just need to do it."
Dennis "Tarmanydyn" Gonzales is a news editor for theScore esports who enjoys whiskey, D&D and first-picking AbaddonSlardarClinkzMedusaOraclea P90my Souvenir NegevDiscipline PriestPharah.You can follow him on Twitter.
Sasha Erfanian is a news editor for theScore esports. Follow him on Twitter, it'll be great for his self-esteem.
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