A New Zealand League of Legends esports tournament with a prize pool of $100,000 has disconnected itself from its teams and tournament admins, who have been left in the dark over the future of the tournament, and their prize money.
League of Legends is a team-based strategy video game where two teams of five champions face off to destroy the other’s base.
The New Zealand Champions tournament was announced last year with one of the largest prize pools seen locally for an esports tournament, however after its first knockout round concluded in December, doubts are now being raised by its participants as to whether any teams will see a portion of that money.
The prize pool was broken down with the champions set to receive $20,000 for their team. The second place team would receive $10,000, third and fourth would receive $5000 per team, ninth to 24th would receive $1000 per team and 25th to 96th would receive $400 per team.
Teams did not have to pay a registration fee.
There was also prize money for the top six players with excellent academic performance valued at NZ$1000 per player, while the most valuable player would receive $2000.
Since December 19 2019, there was no communication sent to participating teams until a Facebook post on the New Zealand Champions page on May 7, alerting players that the tournament had been paused due to Covid-19, three months after Covid-19 entered New Zealand.
A member of one of the participating teams, Hamiltonian Paris Reid who plays for Native Esports Amethyst said the tournament operators have left everyone in the dark since Christmas.
“We haven’t heard anything from them since the conclusion of the first round before Christmas even though their Discord server, an online voice and chat application, has had several people post asking about the future of the tournaments and the payouts,” Ms Reid said.
She said she was disappointed at how the communication between the teams and the tournament was being handled after being hyped up as a big event for New Zealand esports.
Ms Reid said if the tournament falls flat it would not look good for the growing esports scene in New Zealand.
“I’m very disappointed, especially since this is such a new thing to New Zealand. They tried to set the bar too high I think and it didn’t go their way. You can’t predict a major pandemic to mix up things but to have no communications at all and for the money not to be paid, it all looks a bit dodgy now.”
Ms Reid’s comments echo that of the tournament’s official online chat forum where players have been asking when and if they will be getting paid, and if the tournament will continue. There has been no official comment from the tournament’s operators on there.
The tournament also features players from the League of Legends Oceanic Pro League such as Legacy Esports Quin Korebrits.
The company that operates the tournament is registered as Esports League NZ Limited, it was registered on July 22 2019 to an Auckland address.
It’s only director and member is Qiren Gao who also is also a director of other companies including Hawkes Bay Water Limited and Tiem Technology Limited.
On the New Zealand Companies Office, the last piece of activity filed by company was a change of address on April 12 2020.
The semi-finals and finals of the tournament was expected to be played in a live studio somewhere in Auckland, with flights and accommodation paid for by the company.
A official rule book was also made available as part of the registration which includes similar rules as to how Riot, the creator of League of Legends, operate their professional leagues.
Head adminstrator for the tournament, Australian-based Katherine Qin said she too has had little communications with the organisation since New Years.
“In March my main contact advised me that they were no longer working with the project and gave me another contact who has never responded to me,” Ms Qin said.
Ms Qin said she had no involvement in the tournament payout but said she, along with her other admins, have been paid for their work so far.
“It’s quite rare in esports for payments to be as quick as they were especially for contract work.”
“The main complaints I’ve heard are to do with payments and lack of communication from the organisers.”
“I was told there was an investor that wanted to bring a big event like ones from North America and China.”
She said the tournament had almost 200 teams and over 1000 players registered
Esports continues to pick up traction in New Zealand with The New Zealand Esports Federation (NZESF) announcing earlier this year it had been confirmed as a National Sporting Organisation in the country.
Hamilton News has contacted both the tournament operators and Riot Gaming, the owners of League of Legends, for comment on the future of the tournament and whether participants can expect to be paid their share of the prize money.