Do you esport game? The bizarre story of the e-Sports World Finals
Jason Ureta opened his inbox one morning in June to discover one of the most confusing emails he'd ever seen.
For the past three years, Ureta had run e-Sports Earnings, a prize-pool tracking website. A mysterious organization was now messaging him, demanding 3 percent of his “gross annual figure” for violating a trademark for “world competitions.” The name of the organization? The e-Sport World Finals.
The account could have been a parody of a dad trying to act cool in front of his kid’s friends.
For Ureta, this was a first. His website had nothing to do with throwing tournaments. It just tracked where the money went. Why was he being asked to pay royalties for something he didn’t even do? And why did such a broad trademark even exist? He had never heard of the e-Sport World Finals, and it seemed odd that such an organization would be able to hold ransom the title for the “largest competition in the world,” especially with so many large international tournaments already in existence.
Ureta put the e-Sport World Finals on blast, broadcasting the demand letter via Twitter and Reddit. The esports community reacted with anger, which quickly transitioned to ridicule once they found the event's homepage and Twitter feed. Indeed, soon the bizarre tale of the person behind the letter would overshadow the legal threats.
The tournament advertised itself as a November 2016 event that would take place at The Woodlands, Texas, not far from Houston.
Other details were scant, however, including basic information that most esports fans are used to seeing. You can't just put on an "esports tournament" and have it mean the same thing to everybody—you need to specify which game will be played, and who can compete in it. The e-Sports World Finals website provided none of that information. It didn't even say what kind of format would be used. It did list the cash prizes for top finishes, but confused things even more by saying that the prizes would be split during the “two week rule adjustment period," as if this were a phrase common in the industry.
Despite the paucity of information, the tournament was more than happy to accept any and all donations, along with an entry fee for players. That's right: You could pay $300 to play in a a tournament well over a year away, that wasn't even funded, and had announced no games or notable players. This is around three times more expensive than a competitor pass to a Major League Gaming event—which you can be certain, at the very least, exists.