Transparency. This is the word that defines the lack of hidden agenda and conditions, accompanied by the availability of full information required for collaboration, cooperation, and collective decision making. It was also the word used by former Ember CEO, Jonathan Pan, when describing the core values of his North American Challenger team, Ember, who recently disbanded after a devastating 1-3 lost to TDK in North Challenger Series Semi-Finals. Although Ember fell short of their goals, there was one thing they did that took the Esports scene by surprise. They were the first team to publish their players salaries. This was an ambitious move, but this was the first step to creating a fair player market place, and Ember wanted to set an example and lead the charge, or as Jonathan Pan states, “we made a dent — a small dent but a dent nonetheless” when speaking about his former team. There was a lot of controversy surrounding this bold move, But I believe this is admirable and here is why.
League of Legends professionals invest a lot of time and hard work into this game. It’s not abnormal for them to clock in fourteen hours of practice a day. This also doesn’t include League related events like fan meets, promotional events and etc., these players eat, sleep, and dream League of Legends, but too many of these players are simply not being paid enough. These players are not working your average nine to five job and yet you will find plenty of underpaid players. This is where releasing their salaries to the public come to play.
Let us first look at your average League of Legends professional team. A professional team’s primary source of income is generated by endorsement deals from major endemic brands such as HyperX, Razor, Logitech, etc. The team also receives a stipend from Riot Games, which is also a good portion of their income. With the growth of Esports in the past few years, several non-endemic brands have entered the scene such as Redbull, HTC, Nissan, Draft Kings, just to name a few. The teams who are fortunate enough to secure these sponsors were of course the more successful teams in the scene, and they are ones with significantly larger marketing budgets.
These teams use that extra income to branch out into different games, such as CS:GO, Heroes of the Storm, etc. Now, as a team owner I can see the reason to branch out to other games, it creates a brand and sets up the team to scale, however, you must be mindful to compensate your players fairly since there are the reasons for your success in the first place.
Now, if we want to make Esports a legitimate career path we must set the right tone for salaries in order to create a sustainable model. The salaries that Ember released were quite ridiculous, and unsustainable for new a challenger team. The player salaries were heavily inflated when compared to other player salaries. Let’s take a team like North America’s very own Team Solo Mid. TSM has a successful track record in many games other than League of Legends. They also have a large fan base if you haven’t noticed the “TSM TSM TSM” chants when they are on stage. They are a premier team and love them or hate them, no one can doubt their success. This team can afford to compensate there players fairly and manage to maintain their large fan base to make a return on their investment.
You see, publishing player salaries isn’t for us, the fans, it’s for the players. By publishing salaries this would create competition amongst the players due to the fact that there will be much more benefits becoming one of the top players in the scene, which can then push players to perform at a higher level. This is common in traditional professional sports where your salary is a good indicator on your value comparative to your skill and experience. I think Ember had the right idea and sets the tone for Esports as a whole, but the way they executed their actions are questionable and may affect how publishing salaries for players in the future. Overall, I think it’s a good idea to publish salaries in order for professional gamers to be compensated fairly, in such a short lived career.
Featured Image provided by LoL Esports
Written by Eddie Salce
Edited by Williaf