The past few weeks have been turbulent to say the least in the North American CS:GO scene, with prominent community figure Scott “SirScoots” Smith exposing plans for exclusivity by the Professional eSports Association (PEA). The plan entailed forcing organisations to drop out of the ESL Pro League in favour of the PEA league which provide a larger prize pot, as part of an exclusive league deal.
On December 21st, SirScoots released an open letter to the PEA expressing player concerns regarding the issue of exclusivity and the players felt to be blatant disregard for players’ rights. The letter detailed that the PEA was initially fulfilling its designed purpose, but had recently become less transparent with the players, overruling them in any decision-making processes by giving the players a minority vote on the committee: 3 votes to 4.
The letter was received by the Counter Strike community as a cause for concern, with many considering the subsequent reply from Immortal’s CEO Noah Winston to be inadequate, largely due to the back-pedalling of the principles upon which the PEA was founded.
In the aftermath of the open letter, Sean “seang@res” Gares was removed from Team SoloMid by the owner himself, Andy “Reginald” Dinh, who cited a “brand damaging” connection to the players’ rights letter as his cause for dismissal.
— Sean Gares (@seangares) December 23, 2016
Although the PEA cannot be classed as directly infringing on players rights or for forcing absolute exclusivity, the move by TSM to remove seang@res over his association to the letter makes the whole deal look far more sinister. After the tweet, which announced his removal and leaked chat logs with Reginald, the TSM owner released a Twitlonger in response to the situation, which accused Sean of manipulating his team mates into signing a letter they had not previously read and understood.
SirScoots quickly replied with a tweet which laid the accusations to rest, assuring that all players had understood the contents of the letter before it was published. Skyler “Relyks” Weaver also affirmed SirScoots’ assurance with a Twitlonger stating that the players had not been manipulated by Sean, or mistreated by the organisation.
With regards to the proposed exclusivity in the North American region, the offer on the table certainly appears lucrative for both the PEA and for team owners. The outlined league would be an on-going online league, designed to replace the North American division of the ESL Pro League.
Although the promises are good, it seems as though the PEA’s intentions are not as straightforward as simply providing another league for the Counter-Strike scene. This is where the problems lie, as it would force North American teams to forfeit their spot in the EPL, also sacrificing any opportunity to compete in the LAN finals due to the failed negotiations between PEA and WESA discussed by Noah Whinston in his response letter to SirScoots.
While the league itself proposed by PEA looks as it it could be a great competitor to the ESL Pro League, an exclusive deal would undermine the open circuit of the current CS:GO eSports scene. Many feel it would be in the best interests of the players, teams and communities alike to continue to allow competition between organisers.
Although it would strengthen the North American scene if these two leagues were able to coexist, it looks unlikely that the two could ever co-exist in harmony.
The negotiations between PEA and WESA, regarding the closure of the North American Pro League, appear to have reached a dead end. In the denial of this deal, the PEA’s response through Noah Whinston portrayed that the PEA would not be interested in a co-existence, due to the watered down potential for profits. Additionally, the PEA cited over-saturation as a motivation for the outright replacement of the North American division of the EPL.
Moving into 2017, the future of the North American Counter-Strike scene will continue to unfold, with major stakeholders fracturing into opposing camps. The likely result is that one of the two competing leagues may ultimately withdraw entirely from the region, depending on the caliber of the teams residing on each side of the fence.