New Zealand’s esports community breathed a collective sigh of relief, as almost $30,000 in prize pool money has been paid out to tournament finalists of New Zealand’s largest event to date following months of uncertainty.
More than 1000 Kiwi esports players across 192 teams competed in the first stage of the 2020 League of Legends New Zealand Champions tournament this year, with the top 96 teams accruing winning prize money from the hefty $100,000 prize pot.
Players were enthusiastic about the chance to compete in a top-flight esports tournament on home soil, and earn a buck along the way.
Enthusiasm for the tournament quickly turned to open hostility, when teams found themselves owed more than $28,400 collectively by the organisation, with no way of knowing if they would ever see it.
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Teams placing 24th to 96th won $400 per team, while those higher up the finishing order will keep playing on for higher prizes.
For almost five months, enquiries about when teams would see their share of the money were met with silence by the tournament organisers.
Phone calls went to voicemail, and emails and facebook messages were unanswered, leaving fans with no way of knowing if or when the tournament would be moving forward.
With no way of getting through to the organisation and uncertainty about the future of the tournament, dejected players quickly began to think the worst.
Rumours persisted through until last Friday, when a late-night update from the organisers confirmed players would be receiving their share of the prize pool within a week.
Despite this being the first contact the community has had with the tournament since February, manager and organiser of the event Nic Wang said fans never needed to worry.
“The original plan was giving out the prize payout after the final. We know how hard people are being affected by Covid-19, so we’ve now decided to pay out the prizemoney to all the teams before the end of the month.”
Players from various teams have confirmed they’ve received the money, leaving the community to wonder about the future of the event, especially with Covid-19 casting doubts on the operation of live esports tournaments.
Wang said fans could expect to be informed of a decision on the future of the tournament by the end of May, but offered no apology for the lack of communication during the last six months.
He said while they intended the playoffs to be played in a studio in front of a live audience, that was unlikely to happen now.
“[Playing online] is one of the big options. We haven’t got a good idea at the moment to be honest, but playing online is Plan A.”
“We’ll get started back online before next month, so not for another couple of weeks. We’re going to try and see for a Plan B, otherwise we’ll go with Plan A.”
But fans are demanding better communication as the tournament progresses.
“It would have been nice to get this info a long time ago. It’s been months and months – well before Covid-19 that you stopped communicating with the teams involved. Do better plz [sic], because the NZ esports community is watching.” Said one fan.
Wang said they hoped for an arena final, and suggested they would hire a venue like Spark Arena.
“In New Zealand, we have never experienced an offline tournament in a place like Spark Arena. We would really like to give New Zealand a big show, and the feeling of world champions.”
The tournament is the largest in New Zealand esports history, and the largest in the Oceania region for esports title League of Legends.