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South Africa's first R1 million eSports tournament announced

Telkm DGL 2016 eSports.jpg

Telkom has been teasing a “DGL Masters” since October 2015 and yesterday evening they announced the launch of the 2016 Telkom Digital Gaming League (DGL) including the Masters programme with "prize money totalling R1 million in cash."

Here is a look at what went down at announcement event and what some of the participants have to say about the Masters programme.

The New DGL Structure

The event was broadcast live on the eNCA’s YouTube channel. The event was supposed to start at 18.30; however, due to technical delays it only went live at around 19.40.

Paul “ReDeYe” Chaloner who hosted the prestigious 2015 Dota 2 The International V, acted as the Master of Ceremonies (MC), warming up the crowd at Studio Blu in Johannesburg. Mr. Chaloner did an amazing job at explaining the growth of eSports from his years of experience in the business, talking in length about international viewership numbers, prize pools and more.

The new DGL will consist of three tiers:

  1. Casual gaming competitions, including schools and corporate casual leagues, with the open division open to all.
  2. The DGL league is for the best gamers in the country which people can qualify for through the open division, with promotion and relegation through different divisions from April to October.
  3. The DGL Masters programme, where South Africa’s top eight MGOs are invited to compete online from April to October and in two regional LAN competitions. The final is planned for October 2016.

Eight teams, R1 million prize pool

Now the big one here for professional eSports in South Africa is the Masters programme. The Masters programme will feature eight of the top Multi Gaming Organisations (MGOs) to compete for a total prize pool of R1 million in cash. The MGO’s will be competing in two eSports titles:

  1. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO)
  2. Dota 2

You might think R1 million isn't that big of a deal, seeing as the DGC at rAge 2015 had a total prize pool (cash and hardware) of R980,000. However, the prizes where split up between seven different eSports titles and the bulk of the prize pool was in hardware. The cash prize of R1 million for the Masters programme is therefore still a big step up for the teams competing. 

Comparatively, the entire cash prize segment for Dota 2 at last year's rAge was R50,000. With the Masters programme, each and every MGO competing will receive a cash prize, which is excellent news for MGOs who need funding to build their brand. 

The eight MGOs competing in the 2016 Telkom DGL Masters are:

Check out the announcement event below, starting at 30 minutes into the video due to some delays last night:


Telkom’s Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), Enzo Scarcella states:

“The Masters programme will become the pinnacle of eSports in South Africa where eight MGOs will compete for R1 million in cash, the largest prize pool in South African eSports history. At the same time, the DGL will develop the local eSports to bring in new gamers through casual gaming competitions, improved spectator access and increased awareness.”

Further, Mr. Scarcella comments on mainstream media coverage: “So the Masters series will be broadcast live on the internet and probably on SuperSport.”

The DGL states in a press release:

“The DGL is the largest online league in South Africa with the largest player base and over 80 percent market share for eSports, having hosted over 35 000 online matches since its inception in 2008. Around 6 000 gamers take part in the DGL. Locally, the gaming industry is estimated at over R2 billion, making it a larger sector than both movies and music. The new league software will enable more gamers to participate in the year-long league, said Telkom, as it aims to increase the league numbers from 6,000 gamers to 100,000.”

Johann Von Backström from the DGL Management Company comments:

“Gaming has seen phenomenal growth over the past few years as players become ever more engaged. We already have more than four million gamers in South Africa. By professionalising the sport and developing new players, we can look forward to seeing more local talent compete on the same footing as international teams”.


Paul “ReDeYe” Chaloner doing his thing

Further, Telkom notes that it will build the brands of the teams playing in the Masters programme. It all sounds like an excellent move by Telkom to further the growth of South African eSports and helping MGOs build their brand is imperative to their growth and success. Let’s have a look at what some participants in the Masters programme and an onlooker has to say about the announcement.

Participant and onlooker comments

Warwick 'Candle' Parrs, the Chief Information Officer (CIO) and one of the three owners of Veneration E-Sports states:

"We are very impressed with the amount of effort that has gone into the launch and hope to see the same effort put into the league as the year goes on. I expect a lot of growth to occur in SA eSports in the coming months/years. The main drawback for eSports has always been a lack of knowledge and the announcement shared some much needed insight into eSports scene as a whole.

Hopefully South Africans can get behind the eSports movement in this country and help push it forward. As far as the Masters league itself. It is very exciting to be included in such a large undertaking. A prize pool of this size will surely bring out the best among all 8 organizations and we here at Veneration welcome the challenge."  

Dimitri 'Detrony' Hadjipascali, the team captain of Bravado Gaming’s CS: GO Squad comments:

“Attending the DGL Masters launch last night was quite something. It felt like a big step is finally being taken forwardly and positively.  I can say personally that I feel like gaming is taking some direction locally, with Telkom stepping up and putting up a great launch to what we call the DGL Masters taking place this year, prize pools 10 steps ahead of what it ever was for a single event which is super exciting! At least for my CS squad and I, we are extremely stoked and we're even more motivated to stay on top of our game to maintain that top spot.”

Local gaming girl Julia 'BiSH' Robson who attended DreamHack Winter 2015 and stars in a SteelSeries commercial watched the event on the stream and comments on her experience of the event and the Masters programme:

“I was watching the Masters with some friends on TeamSpeak, that happen to be in one of the chosen teams, APG. We were all extremely hyped by the announcements Telkom was going to make, since we all knew Redeye was hosting! I'm not sure if it was due to the problems South Africa was facing with the net, but the first impression of the stream was average to say the least. I even asked what people thought on Facebook and a comment on my page described that exactly (see attachment) We expected it to be better run, in aspects of being on time and camera quality, considering so many public eyes on such a big announcement.

I must say, the team did a great job explaining eSports and any gamer should be proud of today's events - it's not every day South African eSports gets such exposure. From the player's perspective, I know everyone is extremely happy to hear about the prize pool and knowing that SuperSport will be involved this year! It definitely felt like a breakthrough as a South African PC Gamer. Specifically, in CSGO, I am obviously sad that Energy eSports and Ventus Gaming won't be a part of the masters, because I feel like both teams would bring a good level of competitiveness to The Masters.  Congratulations to everyone that is affiliated with DGL Masters and hopefully we will see an international standard of eSports at rAge 2016.”

One very important point brought up by Julia Robson that we at MWEB are also thinking about is why Energy E-Sports nor Ventus Gaming is part of the Masters programme. They are, after all, definitely in the top MGOs in South Africa. Further, what exactly the contracts the participating MGOs entail and if they can still compete in other local events is not known at present. Stay tuned as we will have a closer look at the Masters programme soon.

What do you think about the Masters programme? Let us know in the comment section below.  

Cover image photo credit: Bravado Gaming

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