If you’ve been keeping in touch with more exotic TF2 news recently (or e-sports news in general), you might have heard of the recent settlement of a case brought by the New Jersey attorney general against E-Sports Entertainment Association, or ESEA for short, a gaming league with major divisions in Counter-Strike: Global Offense and Team Fortress 2.
Obviously, if you’re involved in competitive, you’re probably monitoring the situation and seeing what comes of it. If you aren’t, and are wondering why this is such a huge story, consider this analogy: say the owner of a very well-known price guide for TF2 items was accused of price manipulation and then agreed to give up hundreds of buds without admitting whether they did it or not? That event would certainly lead to a major switch to another pricing guide which the community would place its trust in and primarily use. In both cases, the community is at a critical juncture, where a major decision affecting the entire future of the community lies in the balance. In the trading case, the community successfully rallied behind the new community-based alternative, although not without some regrets being voiced with its current state today.
The competitive community is at a similar situation, after feeling even more and more slighted by the ESEA league, complaining about its poor service and many problems while appearing to receive the barest of sympathy from the people in charge. The malware appears to have been the last straw, and now calls are being made for the community to switch to a new league.
These calls are not uniform, though, and there is certainly much disagreement as to what action must be taken. Several notable players have come out in defense of ESEA, arguing that its offerings (most significantly its position of already being established and experienced in the TF2 community, and the fact that it is the only league to offer an end-of-season LAN to its top players) cannot be matched by any other league, and that a switch to another league would be fraught with disaster and splits within the community. Others, led by disenchanted top players and community sponsors, have led a call to move to another league – with the wide majority advocating CEVO, a league which previously was the major league for TF2 before ESEA supplanted it and it reformed. The community is fiercely debating this, primarily on the TeamFortress.TV forums, and only one thing appears certain: no matter what happens, the community will never have the same relationship with ESEA as it did before.
Some will wonder what all the hoopla is, since ESEA is a pay-to-play league for 6v6, and then primarily for the North American community (with a European division only being established recently). Of course, the implications are clear for those with knowledge about the competitive community – the competitive community is growing rapidly, and 6v6 is its most evolved format. For a while now, the pinnacle of 6v6 in North America has been the Invite division of ESEA, with names such as b4nny, Platinum, Ruwin, and PYYYOUR normally seen competing in it, and the community has raised money to send the top teams of Invite to Europe to compete with the top European teams. Most other leagues are not even considered competitors, and even UGC Platinum is not considered remotely close to anything in ESEA except maybe Open, the lowest division.
Thus, the implications are clear: make one important misstep, and the entire high-level competitive scene in North America could come crashing down and get even closer to dying, similar to a situation that the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive community found itself in (and even then with much more support from Valve). Competitive TF2 is even more delicate than competitive CS:GO, and if not treated properly, could bleed out into a slow, painful death, and sink even lower into the footnotes of e-sports history.
Enough waxing poetic, though. The point is that the scene may be at its greatest crisis in its life up to this point. All I could pretty much ask for is that people respect the community and its efforts (if they’re not informed enough) and that people voice their options (if they are sufficiently informed). That’s pretty much all.