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Valve sues GESC for over $750,000 in unpaid prizes and wages

Valve’s VP of marketing, Doug Lombardi unveiled this Saturday that Valve Corporation have filed a lawsuit against Global Electronic Sports Championship for failing to recompense teams and players from two Dota 2 Minor events, held in March and May 2018.

Valve reportedly filed a lawsuit against Singapore-based tournament organizer Global Electronic Sports Championship (GESC) at the High Court of the Republic of Singapore for over US $750,000 which the esports event organizer owes teams and players, who participated at the GESC: Thailand and GESC: Indonesia Minors earlier in 2018.

The issue of unpaid wages and prize winnings, however, is not anything new, as it was already talked about shortly after the two tournaments came to a close. In late October 2018, a public letter was released addressing the issue which, to date has not been resolved.

In the said letter, it was unveiled the ongoing issue revolves around the non-payment of over $750,000 which pertained both GESC: Indonesia and GESC: Thailand as well as individual and group consultancy services which were provided since 2017. At the time of the release of the letter, GESC revealed players and teams have not yet received their payments, despite GESC's agreement with Valve to adhere to the 90 day limit on the prize money pay-out.

One of the two events in question - GESC: Indonesia, was the first Valve-sponsored Dota 2 tournament in Indonesia and served as a huge stepping stone for the Dota 2 esports in the region. The said tournament featured some of the biggest teams in the Dota 2 competitive scene including TI8 semi-finalists Evil Geniuses, Fnatic and Natus Vincere.

GESC: Indonesia was also the biggest tournament in the region to date with $300,000 in the prize pool as well as 300 qualifying points for the International 2018. Suffice to say, the event contributed a lot to the Dota 2 professional scene in the region, yet the organizers failed to deliver with their obligations.

When talking about the issue, Lombardi also revealed that due to the ongoing problems Valve has discontinued its partnership with GESC.

Our agreements with tournament operators require timely payment to participants. We feel this is vital to the success of these events long term," said Valve's VP of marketing.

“When operators fail to meet those requirements, we follow up.”

While a highly controversial incident, GESC is not the only tournament organizer who failed to deliver on their promise. Earlier this year, new news surfaced about the Ukrainian-based tournament organizer - StarLadder, which is still under fire for not paying its CS:GO and Dota 2 talent for their Valve-sponsored events.

Richard Lewis, a respected British esports journalist spoke about the StarLadder organizers earlier this month in a podcast ran by Duncan "Thorin" Shields, where he went on to call out StarLadder for their debts toward players, casters and other individual and companies involved in their events. In his words, StarLadder are the “biggest offenders” for delayed payments.

Further exposing StarLadder for their shady business practice was a respected esports commentator Henry "HenryG" Greer, who earlier this month received an Esports Award for the caster of the year. He had the following to say:

“From the outside, you would assume that everything is just peachy within the esports ecosystem and it's smiles all round. Sadly, if you take a look under the hood it reveals a grim outlook for everyone involved who isn't directly on the payroll of the tournament organizers."

“If you're a freelancer, and I can only comment on broadcast talent regarding this, working with Starladder means, unfortunately, you will have to pull out all the stops, commit to their events, deliver a world-class show only to be paid when they feel like it, which is usually about 3-4 months after the show at best."

He went on to confirm Richard Lewis' statement that StarLadder are the worst offenders when it comes to not paying their employees and people involved in their events. Henry Greer gave his statement on December 3, 2019, at which time he still hasn't received the payment for his work during Berlin StarLadder Major, which took place earlier in September.

As it seems GESC are not the only, and supposedly not the biggest offenders when it comes to not paying their debts for their tournaments and events. This does, however, raise a question of whether more such incidents are happening hidden from the public eye. Getting to the bottom of this might prove to be an impossible task as there are many cases where individuals refuse to reveal the delayed payments from tournament organizers as there is worry that in doing so they will be guaranteed to never work with the company again. That problem becomes that much bigger when a massive esports event organizer such as StarLadder is involved.

What exactly is happening in the inner workings of the esports industry might never be fully revealed to the public, but seeing more questionable incidents surfacing every now and again, it’s safe to assume things might be much grimmer than what we were led to believe.

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