Keeping Things Competitive
We’re back from the incredible StarLadder Berlin Major. While the teams were busy with record-breaking 60-round matches, the community was busy as well: tournament items for this major will pay out over $11 million for participating teams and players!
During the Major, we followed conversations in the community about leagues, media rights, and the future of CS:GO events. And while we typically don’t weigh in on these conversations, there are a few issues we want to clarify to make sure everyone is on the same page.
We make it free to get a license to operate a CSGO tournament because we want to get out of the way of third parties creating value for our customers. Often that value comes from experimentation–tournament operators experiment with presentation, technology, formats, locations, etc. We support experiments that are scoped large enough to identify new and interesting opportunities, but not so large that if they fail it would be hard for the ecosystem to recover. With that in mind, CS:GO leagues present two concerns for us:
Recently there have been steps toward a broad form of exclusivity where teams who compete in a particular event are restricted from attending another operator’s events. This form of team exclusivity is an experiment that could cause long-term damage. In addition to preventing other operators from competing, exclusivity prevents other events from keeping the CSGO ecosystem functioning if an individual event fails. At this time we are not interested in providing licenses for events that restrict participating teams from attending other events.
A few years ago, we started talking to tournament operators, teams, and players about the importance of avoiding conflicts of interest in CS:GO Majors. We consider a conflict of interest to be any case where a tournament, team, or player has a financial relationship with any other participating team or its players. This includes multi-team ownership, leagues with shared ownership by multiple teams, or essentially any financial reason to prefer that one team win over another. In open events, like the Majors, teams with these business arrangements may have (real or percieved) financial interest in the success of teams that they are competing with. In order to participate in Majors, we require that players, teams, and tournament operators confirm that they have no existing conflicts of interest, or if they do, disclose them and work to resolve them. This requirement isn’t new, but we felt it was worth reiterating given the conversations we’re hearing. If you are interested, the exact terms we require are below.
Another conversation we saw during the Major was about the ability for members of the community to broadcast the Major. Throughout the year, tournament operators use their events to build relationships with sponsors and media partners. When it’s time for the Majors, we think it’s important that they don’t disrupt those existing relationships. For this reason, the Major tournament operator has always been the only party that has had a license to broadcast the Major.
However, we do expect our Major partners to be as inclusive as possible. Major tournament operators are expected to work with streamers in order to provide viewers with access to valuable alternative content and underserved languages, whether through official streams or otherwise. Anyone that wants to offer a unique perspective and co-stream the Major should reach out to the Major tournament operator ahead of time in order to ensure a good experience for everyone involved.
More Detail on Conflict of Interest
Here are the terms we’ve required that players and teams accept when they register for a Major:
Teams and players should not have any financial interest in the success of any team that they are competing against. To participate in this Tournament, players and teams are required to affirm that they have no business entanglement (including, but not limited to, shared management, shared ownership of entities, licensing, and loans) with any other participating team or its players. If you have an agreement or business arrangement that you think may be of concern, then please reach out to the CS:GO development team for further discussion.
“I am not currently aware of any conflict of interest that I might have with another participating team or any player on another participating team. If I currently have a conflict of interest, or become aware of one over the course of the event, I will immediately provide detail to the CS:GO development team explaining the nature of my relationship with the other player or players, and a plan for resolving the issue in the future. I understand that failure to report my conflict of interest may result in my disqualification from the event and/or forfeiture of proceeds.”
In addition to players, the tournament operator accepts the following clause in the Major tournament agreement:
Licensee and Tournament event staff may not have any business entanglement (including, but not limited to, shared management, shared ownership of entities, licensing, and loans) with any participating team or players. If Licensee has any business entanglement with any player or teams then Licensee will disclose them in writing (including a description of the nature of the conflict) to Valve as of the Effective Date and at any point thereafter during the Term when such entanglement may arise. Within its sole discretion, Valve reserves the right to a) require that Licensee address and remove the business entanglement or b) terminate the Agreement without cost or penalty.
We think that avoiding conflict of interest is an important part of ensuring fair and honest competition, and so we do not have any plans to change these requirements for participation in a Major.