Opinion PC

The DGL Masters - A closer look at the pros and cons

Telkom DGL Masters.jpg

On Thursday night, South African eSports stopped to await the much-anticipated announcement from Telkom’s Digital Gaming League (DGL). The biggest news from Telkom was that the new DGL Masters will offer a massive R1 million prize pool – the first of its kind in South Africa.

But does participating in the exclusive Masters hold any drawbacks for the eight invited teams; as Energy’s absence implied? Let’s take a closer look at the  fine print of Telkom’s DGL Masters series.

Telkom DGL Masters Teams:

  1. Aperture Gaming
  2. Bravado Gaming
  3. CarboN eSports
  4. Damage Control
  5. In-Finity Gaming
  6. Veneration E-sports
  7. White Rabbit Gaming
  8. Xperts@Total.Chaos

DGL Masters - The pros

The DGL Masters can be considered to be the first pro-league for the South African competitive scene as all the players taking part will be paid, regardless of placement. The cash prizes of the two DGL Masters titles (CS:GO and DOTA 2) vary between R200,000 for first place and R50,000 for the team that comes in last, for each respective title. The opportunity for players to rely on guaranteed income is a huge relief and will surely drive the players, to put even more time into honing their skills. 

Stephen Fowler De Wit, one of the clan leaders of xTc had the following to say regarding the general standard of eSports in South Africa and what his thoughts are going into the DGL Masters: 

"All gamers in South Africa have been waiting for some kind of spark in the growth of the sport in our country, we are miles behind the rest of the world when it comes to E-sports, but luckily we have a very passionate community. Telkom going ahead with the Masters is a really great initiative and is definitely pointing us all in the right direction."

For the eight participating Multi-Gaming Organizations (MGOs), the DGL Masters is an opportunity to get their respective brands in the spotlight locally, especially for the lesser known teams. The DGL Masters has already seen its fair share of exposure with appearances on eNCA and Cliff Central

One of the most established MGO's in South Africa, Bravado Gaming will be participating in the DGL Masters. Here's what the man in charge, Andreas Cent Hadjipaschali, had to say.:

"After being invited to compete in the Masters program, we came to the conclusion that based on the past success the DGL has had in South Africa (from a growth and a players perspective) we knew that this was the pitch that would finally get Telkom to invest on another level. More than that, based on the launch event, I'm sure we'll be seeing some huge corporates coming to the party. 

We're looking forward to simultaneously competing, growing and supporting the DGL in the Masters program in order to take E-Sports (Bravado Gaming, its players and the general competitive gaming scene in South Africa) to much bigger heights!" 

DGL Masters - The cons

One of the questions Energy's absence and subsequent explanation raised has to do with the policies Telkom is enforcing on the eight teams that signed on the dotted line. As a tournament organizer myself, I wondered if the DGL Master MGO's would be allowed to participate in any other competition that falls outside of the Digital Gaming League calendar. To help clarify some of the questions regarding the policies and regulations, I spoke to the CEO of Aperture Gaming, Theuns Louw.

Now that Aperture Gaming is a part of the DGL Masters, will your team be allowed to enter any non-DGL Master affiliated tournaments? 

Based on the contracts we signed with DGL, they hold first right of refusal. This basically means that DGL and it's Masters Series will hold priority over any other tournament that falls within the same period and we (the MGO's) will be obligated to participate in the masters.

Could you see this becoming a problem for local eSports growth? 

Theoretically, no. From my experience, for any tournament to be successful there needs to be ample time for marketing and promotion before any actual tournament takes place. Meaning there will be calendar dates set for the tournament and press around it. Organisations will just have to work closely with one another to discuss their schedules and work out slots in which tournaments need to be hosted in to avoid them overlapping. Our end goal here should be to encourage the growth of eSports in SA, which to me means increasing the number of premium tournaments for our players to attend as we need all the exposure and experience we can get at this point. 

For the Masters to be successful, they need to be confirmed teams and line-ups when approaching sponsors for their tournaments. I can understand how this requires a motion for first right of refusal from their side. DGL can't logically make promises to sponsors regarding team attendance, and when the tournament day comes, half the teams have decided to take part in another tournament because of whatever reason. 

With all this being said, I do try and see this from all sides, as I can fully understand that some tournament organisers might be upset after hearing about the first right of refusal, but I think it's important to keep in mind that DGL is constantly communicating with us (the MGO's) to reach a middle ground on any concerns that we have with regards to the way the Masters is being run and how that affects competing tournament organisers that all have the same goal in mind, to further eSports in SA.

What were some of your concerns regarding joining the DGL Masters? 

I would say my biggest concern right now is the number of tournaments/sponsors that the Masters can secure throughout the year. So far DGL has put one Million Rand on the table as a commitment with one tournament confirmed, and I believe that was a great start. What will really bring this home for me are multiple confirmed tournaments going forward into the year, as that is what eSports in SA truly needs and we (the MGO's) will all be working towards.

Where is Energy eSports? 

To those that know the local eSports scene, you would know that Energy eSports is one of the biggest MGOs in South Africa. The team, however, were not included in the event Thus, when the final teams were announced, the live stream chat burst into a frenzy with everyone wanting to know why Energy eSports didn't attend.

The well known MGO put out a statement on Friday, regarding their absence from the DGL Masters, via their official Facebook fan page.

"The Telkom Digital Gaming League Masters Contract presented a number of conflicts to our existing partners and players to whom we are obligated to protect.

Energy eSports sought legal advice in order to help resolve these and propose amendments that would find a mutual resolution. Due to the time of year and time afforded to us we were unable to commit in time. We would have loved to compete and contribute to a tournament at this level and will certainly pursue avenues to enter should a qualification system present itself in the future. We feel a tournament of this magnitude can only grow and benefit eSports in South Africa. We are committed to keeping the highest level of competition both locally and internationally as we aim to remain one of the top teams in South Africa. 

We thank you for your continued support and look forward to a great year of South African eSports"

What does it all mean for the broader SA eSports scene?

The Masters is undoubtedly a big push for South African eSports development. The prize pool alone stands head and shoulders over any other eSports competition in South Africa and is enough to warrant the eight competing teams to sign the contract - if they can participate in other events.

However, the fine print is a concern for sponsors and other SA eSports providers. The teams that have signed the contract for the DGL Masters calendar have potentially locked themselves out of other events and even potential sponsorships. But let's be positive and hope things will work out for the best - for everyone. We are all doing what we can to grow eSports for local gamers.

Energy eSports pointed out the fact that there is a conflict of interest between the teams existing sponsors and DGL Masters policies. You may have noticed during the opening ceremony that the teams on stage were wearing brand new kits with no logos or sponsors on the shirts. The kits displayed the emblem of the teams and the new DGL logo and none of the individual sponsors of the teams. 

Does this mean that teams are not allowed to wear their sponsors logos on their kit? Or that teams can't have sponsors that conflict with the current partners of the event? At this point, it is unclear but could be viewed as a problem if it is the case. On the other hand, it could just mean that the shirts weren't printed in time to put the sponsors on, which seems unlikely.

Response from DGL:  "The kits for the event were a once off kit and will not be reflective of kit going forward."

The next question for me is: What if an event with a big prize pool or a huge opportunity, such as an international qualifier, comes along? Will they be allowed to participate if there's a clash of dates? At least, DGL stated they will be as accommodating as possible. The DGL Masters holds the first right of refusal of entry, so they have all the power. Should the date conflict with the DGL Masters, it could result in the best teams not representing locally or internationally, which could spell problems for the growth of eSports locally.  

We asked Luca Tucconi, the Director at Orena, about the possibility of conflicting local tournaments.

"Not really phased at all, considering the Masters, is only eight teams. The only people missing out would be the players. Then again, we will do our absolute best to liaise with local tournament hosts to make sure we can stay away from hosting tournaments on conflicting dates."

In closing, I want to state again, we're all working with one goal in mind - growing local eSports. Keeping that in mind, event organisers should be able to work together for the good of eSports SA.

We've contacted the DGL management to reply to our most pressing questions, so hopefully we'll have more details soon.

Do you think eSports in South Africa is going in the right direction? Let us know by commenting below or hitting us up on Facebook or Twitter. 

Video credits: eNCA via Telkom Gaming

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    "DGL is constantly communicating with us (the MGO's) to reach a middle ground"

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