Last week, China’s esports industry witnessed its biggest scandal in recent memory: Newbee, the 2014 champions of Dota 2’s The International (TI), was banned for match-fixing.
This is partially a consequence of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which is close to breaking 5M cases globally (4.9M at the time of writing). TI is Dota 2’s largest annual tournament, and has been delayed until 2021, which means many of Dota 2’s best teams have lost out on a major source of prize money this year. While not an excuse for bad conduct, compared to China’s League of Legends esports scene, Dota 2 lacks the support of a publisher to ensure teams weather this financial hardship.
Among the top stories: Tencent Sports will host a $210K USD multi-title esports tournament— the World University Cyber league; and Chinese Alcohol brand Harbin Brewery signed an exclusive partnership deal with Royal Never Give-Up League of Legends player Jian “Uzi” Zihao.
Former Dota 2 TI Champions Newbee Involved in Match-Fixing, Entire Team Banned by CDA
Chinese Dota 2 teams are seen as a shining star in the country’s esports industry. “CN Dota, Best Dota,” is a slogan that was widely spread in the community, as in the nine years of TI history, Chinese teams have won the championship three times, and have been the runner-up five times. However, 2014 TI champion Newbee is currently facing multiple match-fixing accusations from the China Dota 2 Association (CDA), production company ImbaTV, and Mars Media.
On May 15, the CDA announced that the organization received a report on March 12, stating that one of its member teams, Newbee, was involved in match-fixing, and received improper benefits.
After the investigation by the CDA, the association confirmed the report, and delivered a life-long ban to all Newbee players and the team manager.
According to the announcement:
- CDA disqualified Newbee from the Dota 2 Professional League—China Dota 2 Association (DPL-CDA). The tournament is hosted by CDA and Mars Media.
- A life-long ban has been handed to all five Newbee players, and team manager Feng “Feng” Yiqin. They are not allowed to compete in any Dota 2 competitions hosted by CDA, indefinitely.
- Newbee is no longer one of eight team members of CDA.
CDA stated it has given the related evidence to Chinese tournament organizers, Chinese Dota 2 publisher Perfect World, as well as Valve.
After the CDA posted the announcement, tournament organizer ImbaTV and Mars Media released similar announcements, stating the five Newbee players and Feng have been given life-long bans to their Dota 2 competitions.
In addition, Newbee posted its own statement, and confirmed Feng, the team manager, was involved in match-fixing. However, the organization denied team players were involved in such conduct.
Newbee stated that the organization was not satisfied with the “verdict,” and that it decided it would make an appeal to CDA.
Newbee was not only one of the best Chinese Dota 2 teams, but also one of the best performing teams in the world. The organization won the 2014 edition of TI, and placed second place in 2017. According to Esports-Earnings, Newbee is the fifth highest-earning esports team of all time, in terms of prize money.
Despite the fact that Newbee and China’s Dota 2 industry has embroiled itself in this crisis, the industry still lacks high authority and transparency. Life-long bans are not the norm in esports, and it’s not clear whether the CDA, a non-profit collective of eight teams (now seven), had the right to ban an original member and its players permanently.
On March 27, League of Legends Pro League (LPL) operator TJ Sports gave Rogue Warriors (RW) a $420K fine and a 24-month global ban to player Wang”Weiyan” Xiang for match fixing. This was according to its league regulations, the “League of Legends Global Penality Index.”
TJ Sports is a joint venture of Tencent and League of Legends developer Riot Games. In many ways, TJ Sports plays the judge in China’s League of Legends esports. In China’s Dota 2 esports scene, the decision should rest with Valve or Perfect World. However, both companies have shown little interest in managing the Dota 2 esports ecosystem.
Due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, Chinese Dota 2 teams are suffering from a lack of sponsorship and prize money. Without TI, these teams are losing significant sponsorship value and a major source of income. On May 20, Keen Gaming (KG)’s team coach (real name unknown) posted a statement on Weibo that the team is disbanding. KG is also one of the members of CDA.
It seems likely that the CDA will lose two original members soon, and potentially more to follow.
Tencent Sports to Host $210K World University Cyber League, Smartphone Brand Honor Named Title Sponsor
On May 13, Tencent’s sports arm, Tencent Sports, announced that it will host a multi-title esports tournament. The university esports tournament World University Cyber League (WUCL), features a ¥1.5M RMB ($210K) prize pool money, and begins May 20 (today).
According to the announcement, WUCL includes League of Legends, Honor of Kings, Clash Royale, Peacekeeper Elite, and “robot-related” esports titles. The tournament targets 1,200 university students, and will have a global final in August.
WUCL has a title sponsorship deal with Chinese smartphone brand Honor. All mobile esports competitions will use Honor’s newest smartphone, the “Honor X10.” The tournament also has partners in hardware brand ROG, Razer, and gaming chair brand AutoFull.
RNG Player Jian “Uzi” Zihao Becomes Esports Partner of Harbin Brewery
On May 14, Chinese alcohol brand Harbin Brewery signed an exclusive partnership deal with Royal Never Give-Up (RNG) League of Legends player Jian “Uzi” Zihao. Zihao will become the esports partner of Harbin Brewery. Details of the deal were not disclosed.
Harbin Brewery is one of the official partners of the LPL.
Zihao has been recognized as one of the most influential esports players in China. Recently, Zihao partnered with Italian online retailer Net-a-Porter. He is also the first Chinese esports player to collaborate directly with Nike.
Other Esports Business News:
- On May 13, Chinese livestreaming platform DouYu announced that the eStar League of Legends team would first stream on the platform. Both Douyu and eStar Gaming are Wuhan-based organizations.
- On May 18, Chinese livestreaming platform Huya announced that it added Tsang Wah Kwong as an independent director. The company also made public that Xiaopeng He resigned as an independent director from the board of directors.
- On May 13. Tencent reported its first quarter of 2020 financial results. The company generated total net revenue of ¥108.1B ($15.8B) in Q1 2020, an increase of 26% in the same period of 2019.
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