PEA Breakdown

What is Professional Esports Association (PEA)?

The Professional eSports Association launched on the 8th of September 2016 by Jason Katz and team owners as a means to enter a new business model to esports. This association caters to the needs of the organizations through profit-sharing and was formed by the top organisations in North America. PEA has stated that they are dedicated to professional eSports, and are focused on bringing increased financial benefits to pro players.

The founding members for PEA are

  1. Team Solo Mid
  2. Cloud9
  3. Complexity
  4. Immortals
  5. NRG eSports
  6. CLG
  7. Team Liquid

The league was created after detailed discussions which lasted approximately six months in length with teams and players. The goal of PEA is to provide for an adequate monetary compensation to NA teams, while also achieving exclusivity for PEA itself. It aims to reduce the saturation that the players had been facing in 2015 and 2016. Saturation of players and player burnout are points of discussion among the professional community, with several top players suffering wrist injuries. This leads to them stepping down from the professional scene for long periods of time, and sometimes not coming back with the same skill again.

Currently, the esports model is not operating in the way that traditional sports leagues operate, and up until this point it has been very successful. It begs the question if there is a need to change what is already working in order to expand even further. At the moment, there is no league that is also operated by owners and players.

PEA, on paper, was heralded as the end to the wild-west of eSports. Players were supposed to have a say in deciding the working of PEA, which is fantastic. This provides leverage to players and a sense of security to all. However, once the final contracts were drafted, it had players with a voting power of 2/6, meaning that they could get outvoted in any circumstance. PEA is the first league in CSGO to implement revenue and profit-sharing with participating teams and players. It was a model that was heralded and backed by the team owners ferociously.

The league matches for PEA are scheduled to be held in January 2017. However there has been no further information about the proposed league yet after 6 teams have confirmed to be withdrawn from the league.

In December 2016, Sean Gares, a player from Team Solo Mid along with 24 other players from various teams wrote a public letter to PEA. They are represented by eSports personality Sir Scoots. In this letter, they explain the situation to the community and bring up some very troubling points.

PEA asks players not to play in ESL Pro Leagues

It was first reported on SlingShoteSports that PEA will be outlawing it’s players from participating in ESL Pro League. PEA’s real intention is to shut down the competition and take over the lucrative North American market for itself.

According to sources, PEA approached ESL with their desire to work together. However the proposal intended for ESL to move out of North America and focus on their European operations only. PEA would manage the NA operations and run its own independent league in NA. This proposal is obviously not feasible for a company that has invested millions into the eSports scene in North America. Most of these investments were over the course of the last two to three years, and profits are just starting to show now due to the fact that the esports audience is expanding.

The two leagues, ESL in EU and PEA in NA would then meet for a Global Finals with the best talent from each region competing against each other.

Why is the community opposed to an exclusive league?

On paper, this sounds as a business model that would benefit the league, the team owners and the players. It provides CSGO with a structured environment along with higher payouts to players, league and team owners. However from a spectator perspective it is a deterioration in the quality of matches. This is because it is widely perceived that the skill level in North American Counter Strike is lower than that of their European counterparts.

Let us assume for a moment that the skill level between the North American CS players and the European CS players is the same. Would these talks of an exclusive league be such a big deal? Probably not.

Such a scenario would actually help the scene grow and provide us the best quality matches. Sports is not only about maintaining the quality of the matches. It is also about providing entertainment and making fans feel emotions. It is the loyalty of the fans that makes leagues and tournaments successful. However, when one region has an extended history of better performances, it isn’t far fetched to see that the level of competition wouldn’t be as high.

Counter Strike is game that strives on money. Prize pools and player salaries have only been increasing. Player Rosters leave organisations for want of better revenue sharing and facilities. PEA not only promises a better revenue sharing, but also provides a structure to the game that was unforeseen till now.

Is this something exclusive to eSports?

Let’s take a look at the big four Sports Leagues in the world now. NBA, NHL, MLB, NFL have around 30 teams in each league. However despite having such large number of teams, the league is totally dependent on the teams.

All of the top four major leagues grant territorial exclusivity to their owners, precluding the addition of another team in the same area under the current team’s owners consent. This is generally obtained in exchange for compensation, residual rights, or both. The team’s do in fact take part in the decision making aspect of the league and share revenues as well. The details of the revenue sharing are decided by associations such as Revenue Sharing Oversight Committee. These include representatives from both NHL and NHLPA. All parties are taken into consideration while formulating a decision. 

The most recent example of the above statement is the recent deal with Baltimore Orioles. In exchange for letting the Orioles placing an MLB team in Washington, a deal was struck under the terms of which television and radio broadcast rights to Nationals games are handled by the Orioles franchise.

This business model has been tested for decades and the league’s still stick to it because it is the most profitable model now. It provides a stability to the scene which helps the particular game grow.

Teams participate in the running of the league. The shared revenue proves as an incentive for teams to have the league’s’ best interests at heart.

Will we ever see such a league in CSGO?

The recent decision by the players to vote for ESL Pro League over PEA means the answer for now is a resounding no. Furthermore, this vote will propel PEA to abandon plans for CSGO and move to other titles. While many might consider that as a victory, it’s really not.

It puts the game back into disarray with several tournament organisers fighting for dates, time and the attention of the ever-increasing viewership. The lack of a dedicated season with off seasons only means player burnout as well as viewer burnout. We have seen viewers express their dissatisfaction at the number of tournaments that teams are playing in. Disenchantment from the competitive scene and lack of a loyal fan base for teams would spell disaster for teams and tournaments alike. It would cause a decline in viewership numbers which are still the sole measure of the success of a game in esports.

However in the future as the esports evolves, we will see an influx of organisations and teams entering the scene. As the competition and talent rises among each region, we may see a big push in the future for another exclusive league.

What is the Solution?

PEA outlawed its players from participating in ESL tournaments altogether. This type of blanket ban is unpopular with the community and the players. PEA (or any league that is formed next) should create an exclusive season that spans a small window of time and does not interfere with other tournaments that teams are qualified for.

As a result, this would give the league ample time to develop a season and capture viewer attention. During the off-season, players / teams would be at liberty to participate in any other tournaments that they wish to participate in.

Finally, this proposal provides for a balance between various problems.  The traditional esports viewer has a short attention span. Keeping a viewer enthusiastic about a league can happen only through exclusive leagues. The quality of matches would reach a pinnacle in the global finals. Revenue sharing with the teams would ensure high payout for players and teams. Finally, enthusiastic viewers only leads to a dedicated fanbase for teams. This will lead to higher sales from apparel and merchandise. It would also provide for a structure , albeit for a certain period of time in a year. As much as we can go back and forth, we will never know if PEA would have been truly good for esports if it was accepted. Regardless of the outcome, however, we can be proud that the players stood up for what they believed in.