The 2020 League of Legends New Zealand Champions, described as the tournament “set to put esports on New Zealand’s map,” had over one thousand registered players from 192 esports teams from around New Zealand.
Kicking off in December and supposed to culminate in an arena final at the end of this month, the NZ Champions tournament quickly became the talk of the esports community in New Zealand. Boasting a ludicrously large prize pool of $100,000, the tournament aimed to give New Zealand esports fans a taste of top-flight esports competition, and the chance for Kiwi players to win big.
Instead, it left over 350 players awaiting a prize payout totaling more than $28,000, and with a growing list of unanswered questions about when they would get their prize money.
Players initially grew concerned after they were asked for their bank details in early February, but were given no indication on when they would receive their share of the prize pool. Attempts to contact the organisers for more information were unsuccessful as emails, calls and messages went unread.
With no information available and no way to communicate with the organisers, many members in the community quickly speculated the event was a scam.
In his first public interview, manager of NZ League and organiser of the tournament Nic Wang said this is not the case, and although their communication had been poor, the organisers fully intended to pay out the prize pool.
“The original plan was giving out the prize payout after the final. We know how hard people are being affected by Covid-19, so we’ve now decided to pay out the prize money to all the teams before the end of the month.”
Wang said the teams could expect to be paid their prize money – around $400 per team – by the end of next week.
Players are reporting payouts of the prize money.
Wang cited Covid-19 as the reason the tournament had been delayed, but said he expected the tournament to resume soon.
He said while he was uncertain on what the future of the tournament would look like, he expected the next stage to be played online, to ensure the tournament complies with Ministry of Health guidelines.
“Even though we go to Level 2 on Thursday, we don’t feel confident to bring people together for an offline tournament.
“[Playing online] is one of the big options. We haven’t got a good idea at the moment, but playing online is Plan A.”
Wang said a decision on how the tournament would resume would be communicated with players by the beginning of June.
But fans say the lack of communication from the tournament organisers simply isn’t good enough, and are demanding better.
“Hey NZChampions, it's a bit cheeky to start your latest announcement with 'as you're all aware’... you haven't shared any info since December. So no.... NO ONE is aware.” Said one commenter.
“It would have been nice to get this info a long time ago. It’s been months and months - well before Covid-19 that you stopped communicating with the teams involved. Do better plz [sic.], because the NZ esports community is watching.” Said another.
Wang offered no apology to fans for the lack of communication from the tournament organiser, but said a public announcement on the future of the tournament will be made soon.
The tournament is the largest in New Zealand’s esports history and the largest in the Oceania region for esports title League of Legends.
The event boasted partnerships with a number of household names, as well as a partnership with League of Legends developers Riot worth in excess of $60,000. This included the rights to branding, and use of the game.
Riot are yet to respond to media inquiries.
Joshua ‘Terrath’ Bilby, jungler for Team Pixel said when he first heard about the event, it sounded too good to be true.
“Nothing on this scale has happened, not only in League of Legends but in any esports title in Oceania.
“It sounded suspicious and ambitious. I was hesitantly excited, because $100,000 is a lot of money.”
Bilby and his teammates are confident of a podium finish, after a smooth run in the group stage puts them in good stead for the playoffs.