A week ago the Electonic Sports Association has opened it’s doors and went into public beta. ESAGamer.com is what you can call a fundraiser website with a prize distribution promise for eSports tournaments, not just for pros, but for everyone. All you need to do is put in £5 to get everything going.
Of course when a new site like this has been launched people have a lot questions. We had the chance to sit together with the director of ESA over a Skype call and ask him some questions, so we dove straight in with questions about the prize distribution.
Holysh1t.net: All prize money will be distributed over skill tiers per game community, how many skill tiers will this money be distributed over?
ESA Director Didge: There are currently 3 tiers of skill… High, Medium and Low
HS.net: Why are there only 3 skill tiers and not 2 or 4?
Didge: Three tiers appeared to balance everything better in terms of value and quality. Launching with four tiers dilutes the prize pool too much to make it worthwhile, especially for smaller communities and only 2 tiers impacts the chances of participants placing in a prized position because of the increased level of competition.
HS.net: Using the 1000 subscribers’ example, meaning the prize pool will result in £5000, what is the prize pool distribution over the skill tiers on a weekly basis?
Didge: The combined prize pool is firstly split into 4 – 25% for each skill level and then 25% for a monthly final. We can then further divide the share between how many Sundays (or Mondays in Quake’s particular case) there are in that calendar month assuming the value remains credible.
HS.net: Your website says teams can compete with members who are not subscribed, can you clarify that?
Didge: We suspect that not everybody will want to (or be able to) subscribe to the service for whatever reason, so instead of restricting access and making tournaments exclusive we engineered a way to include everybody in a way that’s fair for everybody. If your team is only partly subscribed, your team will receive the reward that reflects your teams’ collective commitment to the cause.
HS.net: So if a team consists of 4 members, of whom 3 are subscribers, what happens to the 25% of their prize money?
Didge: The remainder is recycled back into the following set of tournaments to further develop and increase the offerings for the following set of tournaments, kind of like a lottery rollover lol.
HS.net: Why do you share the total subscriptions equally across three tiers, instead of providing higher prizes for higher tier and lower prizes for the lower tier?
Didge: I think that’s the fairest way to be honest, especially considering the vast majority of the community are in fact not high skill.
HS.net: Players can intentionally play bad to drop a tier to be amongst the prizes again, how do you eliminate that from happening?
Didge: It’s counter-productive really, as you need to win games to win tournaments to win money, if you’re losing games to intentionally drop, then turn up the effort to win money, you will need to keep doing that in a cycle, when you should really just concentrate on winning. Nobody is stupid and everybody is suspicious, so when you’re caught, we will either manually override the rank or suspend/ban the account of the perpetrator. We obviously keep an eye out for such things too 😛
HS.net: Someone who has climbed from tier 2 to tier 1 might have a really hard time to reach the winning spots for tier 1, is there a way to motivate them?
Didge: The natural desire of progression and improvement is generally a motivation for most gamers, people and aspiring professionals alike. However, ESA doesn’t just award prizes to people who finish 1st or 2nd – the prize pool can and does split credibly to more participants, so people will rarely be far away from a cash prize.
HS.net: You say you’re recycling every penny of every subscription into tournaments, how is that sustainable or is that a temporary measure to promote the site early on?
Didge: Well as we’re not yet vat registered that doesn’t come into it and our only direct cost to each sale is the merchant fee, which is around 5% – and we can absorb 5% all day long. Obviously when we become VAT registered and the government gets their hands on some of it, it’ll need to change.
HS.net: I read that for every 2000 subscribers another £2000 extra are being added to the prize pool however you already stated that every penny from subscribers is already being added, how does that work?
Didge: We’ve got some money in the bank that we want to give away as prizes. We are a little sketchy about just blowing it all on tournaments straight away, so everyone can use, abuse and never return, so this is a way we can ensure our longevity, reward the community for supporting us and put even more prize money into the mix. The community will just have to take our word for that though.
HS.net: Pay to play tournaments are said to be operated at 0% commission, can you explain how that works and how that is sustainable?
Didge: I think it would be unreasonable to continually charge people for playing in tournaments, with credit that is essentially bouncing between internal ESA accounts, especially considering we’ve recycled the majority of that credit in the first place.
HS.net: I notice that the payment options are limited to ClickandBuy, why do you only use them and how come the obvious option of PayPal is not available?
Didge: ClickandBuy is one of the few providers in the world which allows users to pay and get paid with minimum fuss. For those who don’t have it, do get it. They’re a world leader in payment processing and you all want to get paid efficiently, don’t you 😛
I know PayPal seems like the obvious choice, it’s who we approached first but unfortunately, as a new company with an element of gambling involved, we need track record to satisfy the requirements of their acceptable use policy.
HS.net: Quake Live has a fairly small community, why was it added to the initial list of games instead of a game like League of Legends, that has millions of players?
Didge: Quake is an historic, niche and somewhat overlooked game by most providers and esports generally owes quite a lot to Quake. It was in fact, the first PC game I had played and it’s only right the godfather of all games gets a place in a system, which has the potential to really help the Quake community, if people decide to give it a try.
Furthermore it still has a following in its thousands and this system, even if only 500 people said, I’m going to give ESA a try, there will be a £2500 prize pool each month, that might encourage others who were once good, or with free time to start playing again. Who knows? Money can and does change things, but of course, it’s up to the Quake community to embrace services which are trying to help it.
HS.net: What other games will ESA support in the future? (perhaps answer the core question and then add smth about criteria for a game to be added)
Didge: We’re looking in the direction of some other games to add to our library but nothing is confirmed yet, however, we might add the occasional FIFA tournament for our existing members if they were interested. Our focus is primarily getting established and scaled with the 4 games we have launched with at this moment of time.
HS.net: Will games get cut from the site if they stop meeting certain criteria?
Didge: There are no criteria really, if a game dies or generates absolutely 0 interest then yeah, maybe but I don’t have a minimum requirement or anything like that.
HS.net: Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, we wish you good luck with your website
Didge: No problem, thank you for the interview.
I hope this interview has made things a bit more clear, I have seen that Didge is replying directly to questions and suggestions in the site’s feedback and suggestions forum so don’t hesitate to ask more straight on ESA.