EnVision Esports’ Overwatch team disbanded months ago, but players and staff are reportedly still owed thousands of dollars in late salary payments.
Former CEO Artur Minacov confirmed to Dot Esports that players and staff have not been paid for their last month of work before contracts were terminated in June. “Their last month was not paid mostly because of frustration on my side for investing so much cash, for clearly nothing in return from having a professional esports organization in Overwatch,” Minacov said. “However, all staff that are due a payment will be resolved over the next 30 to 45 days.”
Following a third-fourth place finish during 2018’s first season of Overwatch Contenders in North America, EnVision Esports dropped its Overwatch roster, citing a lack of support for the tier two Overwatch scene. The team landed in fourth place at the LAN event in Poland in May, becoming the only non-Overwatch League affiliated team to make it to the playoffs. (EnVision beat out New York Excelsior, Florida Mayhem, and Los Angeles Gladiators’ Overwatch Contenders teams.)
Former EnVision staff told Dot Esports they are each owed around $3,000. In late June, shortly after the team disbanded, Minacov told esports news site The Bench Mob that he was a month late on payments, but would be resolving the backlog “in the upcoming month.”
Lawyers are now involved in resolving the late payments for at least three former staff/players, according to two former staff who wished to remain anonymous.
Five former EnVision players were picked up by Dallas Fuel’s Overwatch Contenders team, Team Envy, in July. Minacov said he allowed the players to pick up the Overwatch Contenders slot he bought from Team Liquid in season zero in February 2018. A former EnVision player said, however, that before the team disbanded, Minacov did not allow players to try out for Overwatch League teams in season one, convinced the organization would get a spot for season two. (This is against the Overwatch Contenders rules, where Blizzard stated that players must be permitted to negotiate with Overwatch League teams.)
“There is no drama,” Minacov said. “I left the staff and players in good terms, but if you want my honest opinion, getting into [the] Overwatch scene at the early stage was probably the biggest mistake of my career so far.”
Minacov added that he’s invested “over $300,000” into the former EnVision roster.
“Can you imagine having rent and bills to pay, and having no idea when your paycheck is coming in?”
Former EnVision coach Robert “roflgator” Malecki said this isn’t a problem unique to Minacov and EnVision, but widespread in the tier two Overwatch scene. Malecki has worked with teams both big and small since Overwatch’s beta days in 2016, including the likes of Tempo Storm, Rogue, and Fnatic.
“I’ve had organizations take months to pay tournament winnings because they were holding the money to collect interest on it,” Malecki said. “Payments on some teams were completely random, and often weeks late. One organization stopped working with the team and told us all that they would pay us when the sponsor money came in. It took over two months to get it. Can you imagine having rent and bills to pay, and having no idea when your paycheck is coming in?”
Malecki added that his experiences are only his own, and that he’s aware there’s more organizations in Overwatch and beyond that have done much worse to their players and staff. “There are thousands of dollars owed to so many players,” Malecki said.
Minacov has since moved on from Overwatch, focusing now on creating a new competitive esports title called The Forge Arena. The five-on-five first-person shooter is in open beta, according to The Forge Arena website.
Multiple reports throughout the past few years confirm Malecki’s suggestion about unpaid players. Denial Esports reportedly owes money to its H1Z1 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive teams, as well as Super Smash Bros. Melee player James “Duck” Ma. In November 2017, Dot Esports spoke to former Naventic Esports Heroes of the Storm players that were owed more than $50,000 in earnings. Earlier this year, Mosaic Esports player Henrik-William “vallutaja” Kinks spoke publicly in March about team owner Brandon Kim’s debt to his players, over $20,000, according to vallutaja.
Tier two esports scenes continue to struggle, due to a wealth distribution problem. Financial support is often funneled to the top teams and players, leaving upcoming and tier two scenes at a disadvantage. Esports writer Will Partin pointed out this “precarious position” in a Kotaku piece called “The International is bad for Dota 2.”
“Dota 2 players have found themselves caught in what is effectively a version of the Stanford Marshmallow experiment, in which kids got offered one marshmallow right away, or two if they could manage to be patient,” Partin wrote. “Modern recreations of the study have shown that it is not willpower but socioeconomic status that shapes a subject’s choice. This plays out in the Dota 2 scene, too. Players caught in precarious positions will almost always prioritize short-term gain (prize winnings, especially The International) over long-term stability.”
Players are afraid to speak out about treatment from organizations, afraid to do or say anything that could jeopardize their careers. They put up with mismanagement or exploitation because, for many, esports is a dream career—one that many consider a “privilege to have,” where players should be happy to be paid at all.
Update, 3:28pm CT: Minacov updated his statement to deny the allegation of refusing Overwatch League tryouts. He pointed to a statement issued to Over.gg in June: “I told the guys that I am doing everything in my power to have a spot in Overwatch League for season two, and that if you guys stick around you will have more opportunities.”