Heads Up: EE’s blog post is very long, as will be this article, though I will attempt to summarize when possible or needed.
“A Secret Story”
Today, we got an inside look into one of Dota’s most popular pro teams, Team Secret, from the eyes of Jacky “EternaLEnVy” Mao, writing from his team’s blog. In a massive post, EternaLEnVy talks about his time on Secret, and the issues that arose during his tenure there.
The Issue of Payment and Payouts
What immediately takes center stage in the blog post is the matter of payouts. When a team participates in a tournament, they are eventually paid afterwards. The time between tournament and payout to the team organization fluctuates, depending on tournament organziers, location of tournament, and general red tape. From then, the organization hands their players the money that they earned. The organization may take a cut of the prize money, but such a matter is a case-by-case situation, and is clearly stated in every player’s contract.
This was not the case for Team Secret. EternaLEnVy said,
When a tournament pays out the money to Team Secret, Team Secret does not split and pay out the money to the team. It just sits there, and unless you hound them for it, the money won’t move for awhile.
EE had to repeatedly ask for his cut of prize money, in multiple instances. He also was not the only player to have issues during his tenure on Secret. Issues with the team and paying their players have been prevalent since the original Secret 1.0, with Johan “N0tail” Sundstein and Tal “Fly” Aizik, as was shown when details arose of a similar situation in February of this year.
Players from the same stack as EE also had issues when it came to getting paid. Team Secret seemingly withholds large sums of money from their players for months, such as Rasmus “MiSeRy” Filipsen being owed roughly $182,000 until Sept. 26 of this year. Keep in mind that MiSeRy hadn’t been on Team Secret since March 22. MiSeRy reportedly had not been paid for six months.
On top of withholding payment, the players on Secret were also receiving less money than they agreed on.
….we would talk about how it’s stupid to have a percentage of prize winnings cut in DotA because of its abnormal prize pools. It was understood by everyone on the team that there would not be any prize winnings cut to the organization.
EternalEnvy on Team Secret’s original stance on prize cuts
However, on Sept. 8, EE learned that there was a prize cut of 10 percent. Ten percent is a number that has to be put into persective. Upon winning the Shanghai Major, Team Secret claimed the Mystic Staff, and $1.11 million. Just a 10th of that is still $111,000, which is a substantial amount of money. Because of the lack of transparency from the management of the organization to both the public and their players, it’s impossible to say when this cut was implemented.
It should also be noted that Secret 3.0 had no salary. The only source of income for the players was indeed tournament money. It was only until the PandaTV deal was reached that Secret began to pay their players salary, and even then, the organization took 50 percent of the money from that deal as well.
On Secret’s Sponsors, or Lack Thereof
For a team of Secret’s caliber and popularity, companies should have been lined up to partner with the team. Puppey and the management of this organization argued that they didn’t need sponsors that were in the scene (such as companies that make gaming peripherals) because they didn’t pay enough. While the organization supposedly looked for “five digit sponsors,” they settled for four: 100TB, Nvidia, EGB, and PandaTV. Referring to Envy’s blogpost once again, here is the result of the four sponsorships:
- 100TB (web hosting service): The blog does not discuss the deal, but does state that no money was promised.
- Nvidia (PC Hardware): Promised graphics cards for the team, but the team never received them.
- EGB (online gambling website): Promised money, but were never paid.
China has a huge streaming market, with plenty of consumers and competing websites. The chinese audience is very similar to its western counterpart; we all love watching our favorite pros play. In the blog, Envy recalls how his streams on Chinese streaming websites (he first mentions one called HUOMAOTV) would be massively popular, with pros from around the Chinese scene tuning in and poking fun at both his decisions and mistakes, which he enjoyed.
Using this foothold on the market, Envy sought a sponsorship with a streaming website named PandaTV. He was offered an extremely generous (“an extremely high number in comparison to normal Chinese deals even”) offer of $500,000, but wanted to renegotiate another deal to include the rest of the team. The end deal was $1.25 million, as well as $250K in donations. The money was to be payed quarterly.
In return, the members of Team Secret would stream a certain amount of hours on PandaTV per month. EE would stream 60 hours a month, while Arteezy and Puppey would both stream 30. Over three months, EE streamed 216 hours, Arteezy 55, and Puppey just 12. Keep in mind that the organization was still taking 50 percent of this deal.
EternaLEnVy on Puppey
Puppey and I were very close for the majority of the year. He was never a guy that praised anyone really, usually he would rant about everything, flaming everything.
Eternalenvy’s opening statements on puppey
EternaLEnVy’s relationship with Puppey, put simply, is a confusing one. EE mostly focuses on Puppey’s personality. Envy paints a picture of Puppey that is very egotistic, a man who “builds his confidence by looking down on everyone else.” He also describes him as lazy.
It’s known that Puppey is a rather reclusive character in the Dota 2 pro scene when it comes to the public; he doesn’t stream much, use his Twitter much, and he doesn’t actively participate on any public forums such as /R/dota2 or Liquid.Dota. However, in the blog, Envy talks about how Puppey would almost never play pubs. Furthermore, in the pro scene, he’d occasionally not show up to practice, or if he did, he’d be rather late. This was a regular occurence.
Leading up to The International, Puppey began to more actively participate with the team and played more pubs, but at the same time, he began to act worse. It was then where the relationship between the two turned for the worst.
After Team Secret’s loss to LGD at TI6, Puppey heavily implied that the loss was entirely EE’s fault. He would repeat this opinion to the other players on the team. As Envy would begin to create his own team, Team NP, Secret expressed interest in sponsoring the new team. Puppey began, once again, warming up to EE. After being confronted about everything that he said about EE, Puppey played it off, and denied it. EternaLEnVy would call the meeting a defining moment and “one of the angriest moments of my life.”
Envy’s Closing Thoughts
Anyway, Secret still owes me $29,333 for the 10 percent prize cuts, though I don’t expect that money back. Nor the $21,000 from the salary they promised.
Envy closes out his blogpost with the opening statement above, and the fact that he’s not the only one who hasn’t been paid. Overall, he says that this year has been his most successful year in Dota.
Secret bought like drones, hired a porn star, and a few models during TI. They also flew in two of the CS:GO girls. Doing all this is fine, but the lessons from this year told me that it probably indirectly comes from the players’ pockets.
Envy revealing secret’s other expenses
One Last Thing
These are my words and do not reflect the thoughts or opinions of EternaLEnVy.
After learning all of this, I can’t help but think about the rest of the players still under the Secret banner, especially those in other games. Secret has players in the Smash Bros., Street Fighter, and Vainglory scenes. Have they been payed at all? Did Secret take a cut out of any prize money from them too?
What are your thoughts this issue? Let us know on Twitter at @GAMURScom, or in the comments below.
Questions, comments, or criticism for Carno? He’d love to hear them. Find him on Twitter at @Carno_.