David vs. Goliath, are player salaries worth it?
This off-season has seen much change within the Esports community. In the last couple months, there has been a lot of hype surrounding League of Legends specifically. Rick Fox’s purchase of Gravity Gaming’s LCS slot, along with Marc Cuban’s participation in an ARAM with Intel CEO, Brian Krzanich at IEM San Jose have generated a lot of interest in this game. As the off-season continues, the more spots are bought out by potential leaders in a growing competitive scene. A thing that has come with this massive investment in the League of Legends scene has been the argument over whether teams should make the salaries of their players public to the world. To the average sports fan this may seem like a good idea since this is how all pro sports teams run their organizations but this could actually ruin the pro scene in League of Legends.
In a market that is seeing more and more large investors enter the scene, making salaries known to the public could potentially be the end of the small organizations we see come up through the Challenger Series every year at the end of every season. In a world where LCS spots are just sold to the highest bidder, we will no longer see teams like NME esports or Team Coast (now NRG) rise through the ranks to try to prove to the world that they belong with the pros. We will begin to see an impure community where passion and love for the game isn’t the tool that drives organizations to do their best every season, but instead players working to cash that paycheck for millions of dollars.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it would be great to see a world where Esports pros are able to earn millions of dollars from playing a game they love, but we as a community have to work to get there. League of Legends, despite being a few years old now, is still in its infancy stage as a sport. Pouring this much money into a market in it’s infancy stage can cause a bubble to pop before it reaches its maturity, ending in a massive breakdown of the entire system. In other words, League of Legends and possibly Esports as a whole would see a shut down in operations due to the small return to the investors. CLG’s CEO, Devin “Mylixia” Nash, weighed in on the situation by releasing a TwitLonger on Sunday afternoon also rebuking the need to release player salaries to the public. At one point in his post Mylixia notes that the potential bubble burst in the future would be very real because “people see the return isn’t there and run to get money out of the failing system.” Due to this, he says “we experience an e-sports EMP and player salaries are back to $1000/month.” Is this a world we want to live in? This entry by Venture Capitalists will do nothing but destroy a game we all love to watch and experience. In the future there may be room for investors with millions of dollars to invest, but at the moment all it does is slit the throat of a community that is just taking its first steps.
This massive explosion wouldn’t happen because there is no return to gain from Esports, but because the massive return just isn’t there yet. The industry is just gaining steam. No team has really begun to figure out how to monetize this sport and maybe this is where the Venture Capitalists come in. Afterall, they are good at making money right? We have seen one team give in to the urge to release their player’s salaries and that is the new North American team, Ember. A team that seems to offer a different methodology in how they are run all together. Their key belief? Believing that better humans become better athletes. Not to say that all athletes are bad people, but this is a new idea that no Esports athlete has began to explore. Most gamers sell their souls to the organizations they pledge to; playing endless hours of their game each day. They wake up thinking about the game and go to bed thinking about the game, there is no end. As you can imagine this
can create massive depression within these young players and can take a massive toll on their performance. What Ember suggests for their players is a lifestyle that is outside of this. They want their players to experience deep relationships and love. They believe this will help their team perform on a constant basis. There is basis to this claim. Look at traditional sports stars like Stephen Curry. Curry is arguably one of the best basketball players of our generation and has started a family. He also makes his faith in Christianity well-known, which by many it is believed religion helps one lead a happier life. Maybe Ember is on to something? Ember has a lot to prove this season because of these new ideas they hold and their release of their player’s salaries.
Overall, I believe it is a good idea to release player salaries, but not yet. The Esports world has more to prove before this is something to worry about. The community is gaining ground as Twitter just announced last week that Esports athletes now have verified Twitter accounts but there is still more ahead. All members of this amazing group of supporters can do is hope that these new investors help the game rather than destroy something we have created.