Most HGC fans will be familiar with the Red Canids, the scrappy underdogs from Latin America who show up to every LAN with pride for their region and a passion to compete. You should also know the charismatic face of the team, Juan “Jschritte” Passos. At the end of the 2017 season, Jschritte left his family, his friends, and his region to fight for a spot on a North American HGC team. Now a member of Spacestation Gaming, the muscle-bound flex player refuses to forget his home region, and the struggles his former peers still face.
On December 13th, Jschritte put out a tweet stating that players in Latin America had not received payment for seasons 3 and 4 of the Copa America tournament series. Over the next few weeks, he would continue to keep this issue in the conversation with tweets (one of which would lead to a front-page Reddit thread) and an interview with Trollin HGC. In preparation for that show, I reached out to Juan to clarify his concerns with the state of Latin America, and get more details regarding the late payment issues. Today, I want to outline what I learned from that conversation, and hopefully shed some light on the struggles facing the competitive scene in LATAM.
Before we get into it, there are a few things to note:
- This article represents only Jschritte’s statements and views. I have reached out to Blizzard for comment, but have not heard back.
- The purpose of this article is not to stir up a witch hunt, or to attack Blizzard. At no point did Jschritte accuse Blizzard of any wrongdoing beyond a lack of communication and follow-through. He is not accusing Blizzard of any malicious intent, greed, or discrimination. I want to make that VERY clear. This is an issue of infrastructure and communication, not wickedness.
- Late payments are a very common issue in esports, but that does not mean that they do not hurt the players involved, especially in a minor region without salaries or stable infrastructure. Just because something is common does not mean we should ignore it.
What is Copa America?
Latin America does not have a true HGC league format like the major regions. There are no salaries from Blizzard, no standard regular season and playoff structure. Instead, they have a tournament series called Copa America. This series consists of four yearly season. Winning these tournaments qualify teams for international competitions, and prize money is paid out to the top four teams in each season. At the end of every season, prize money is distributed as follows:
- 1st place receives $5,000 USD
- 2nd place receives $3,000 USD
- 3rd and 4th place each receive $1,000 USD
As provided by Jschritte, the Copa America rules state that payment for each season will be made within 90 days of the conclusion of that event.
It is this clause, and it’s lack of fulfillment over the last three years that has caused so much frustration for the players of Latin America.
Where’s My Money?
Despite this 90-day window, Juan told me he has not received payment for Copa America 2017 Season 3, which concluded on July 3rd. He said that while late payments have been common since 2015, this is the longest it has taken to receive his prize money. In previous years, the delay usually averaged three months. This is especially concerning to Juan given what the LATAM players were told at the end of last season.
According to Jschritte, Blizzard stated that the issues with late payments in previous years were a result of mishandling by the company Blizzard contracted to run Copa America. They had switched to a new company for the 2017 season, and expected the problem to be resolved. Instead, as Jschritte explained, it is now worse than ever.
In addition to the delays, the sporadic nature of the payments raises another concern. Juan and his Red Canids teammates received their funds from seasons 1 and 2, but there are still teams waiting for their payments from the first season of 2017. Competing in any esport at the highest level in your region requires a significant sacrifice of time and energy, and as a result many players are forced to either rely on prize money to support themselves, or put less time into the game in favor of a more stable income stream.
Jschritte has been impacted by both sides of the issue this year. He explained that, when Red Canids qualified for the Phase 2 Western Clash this year, many of his teammates had not touched the game in two months. “They refused to play this game without [receiving] money,” he said, “and they couldn’t survive waiting for the goodwill from Blizzard to pay us.”
With a popular stream back home and additional prize money from international LANS, Jschritte was able to survive and stay committed to HOTS despite the late payments, but other players were not so fortunate. “I already had to loan money to a lot of players in LATAM,” he told me, “because they sent [messages saying] they don’t have money to eat or to pay internet bills.”
The Buck Stops with Blizzard
While ESL is contracted by Blizzard to run Copa America, Jschritte places all of the responsibility for the payment issues squarely at Blizzard’s feet. As he explained on Trollin HGC, Copa America is part of the the Heroes Global Championship, which is ultimately run by Blizzard directly. To Jschritte, their decision to subcontract portions of the global series does not remove their responsibility to make sure everything runs smoothly and that players are properly compensated.
As Juan explained, the issues go beyond just late payments. The way that Blizzard LATAM have responded to his inquiries about the issue were not acceptable. He expressed frustration with the company’s lack of communication and professionalism whenever he has approached them about his concerns.
While Jschritte and the others want the short term issue resolved, and their prize money paid out in full, this is not a one-time issue. He repeatedly stated that this has been an ongoing problem since 2015 where payments were delayed and communication with Blizzard was less than ideal. The players in Latin America don’t just want their money, they want infrastructure change. Jschritte echoed their frustrations with battling a company of Blizzard’s size every year just to receive their prize money. In short, his requests are simple:
- Pay every player what they are owed for the 2017 season.
- Explain in detail why payments were so delayed, and what steps Blizzard is taking to address those specific issues for 2018.
- Put systems in place to prevent late payments from reoccurring next year.
A huge thanks to Jschritte for taking the time to educate me on the LATAM scene and on this issue specifically. For more on Latin America, and easily the most inspirational posts in the scene, be sure to follow him on Twitter.
If you haven’t yet, I would also love it if you took a look at the most recent episode of my new series, Entry Level Esports. This week we actually discussed minor regions and how they can try to catch up to the dominant regions like Korea and EU.