The era of eSports labor disputes is in full swing, as Polygon reports that the Professional eSports Association has abandoned its inaugural season after a dispute between players and the team owners who collectively run the PEA.
Billed as an organization "focused on bringing unprecedented benefits to pro players" when it was announced in September, the PEA quickly ran afoul of those pros. According to a letter of complaint released by Scott "SirScoot" Smith last month on behalf of players for five of the seven founding PEA teams, team owners misrepresented the obligations players would have to the organization in the contracts they signed. Most notably, players were told they would still be able to compete in more established CS:GO competitions like the ESL Pro League. But last month, Smith said the PEA owners pointed to language in the player contracts saying they could prohibit participation in rival leagues like ESL.
Yesterday, Smith made it clear the pros were playing hardball in a second letter, as the players of Cloud9, Counter Logic Gaming, Immortals, Team Liquid, Team SoloMid, and NRG Esports (the last of which signed on after the original letter's release) unanimously agreed to compete in the ESL rather than PEA, leaving compLexity Gaming as the last remaining PEA participant. With no competition left for the league, PEA commissioner Jason Katz told Polygon today it was suspending plans for a CS:GO league.
Katz' statement made it clear that having players exclusively competing in its own tournaments was key to the PEA's plans, saying, "Operating a third prominent online league featuring many of the same teams turned out not to be a financially-viable business model."
While Smith acknowledged that the PEA team owners may have had legal standing to prohibit its players from competing in the ESL, he said the entire situation highlighted a greater problem in the field.
"This is a perfect example of why players need to work together in order to have a real seat at the eSports industry's negotiating table," Smith said. "We remarked in our letter two weeks ago that the industry might now be at a point at which it's just too big for trust alone to reasonably protect everyone's interests. Perhaps this is the larger conclusion that the players need to reach after experiencing the events of the past two weeks."