AGES 2016 (ASEAN Games for esports) was one of the largest tournaments ever held in South East Asia. With a record-breaking prize pool of RM1 million, it attracted gamers from all around the region to the tournaments for Dota 2, CS:GO and FIFA 16 respectively.
The event was fairly ambitious, declaring on their official website: “AGES will soon become the epitome of professional gaming in South East Asia because it gathers not only the best gamers, but gaming fans from all corners of the region—and uniting them in something they all believe in.”
The Malaysian finals happened on the 27th of May 2016, followed by the Asean round the next day and the Grand Finals on the day after. The winners were crowned, everyone was applauded, and contestants left for home, looking forward to the cash prizes they’d earned.
They would continue waiting and keep waiting, because no prizes were forthcoming.
As of the time of writing, nearly four months after the event, the winners are reporting that not a single cash prize has been handed out.
Winners have attempted to contact the event organisers on Facebook as early as May to check on when they would be awarded, only to be continuously brushed off by vague replies.
There are three organisations whose names have been connected the event—Platinum Eden Sdn. Bhd., who are the main organisers and supposed sponsors; Friends Worldwide, an advertising and communications company who managed the event and handled communications; and Esports Malaysia (ESM), who regulate the eSports scene in Malaysia and are registered under the Malaysian Sports Commission.
On the 9th of September this month, the AGES Facebook page was updated with an image announcing that they were aware of the issues with the prize disbursement and that a formal announcement would be made on the 19th of September. That date came and left, and there were no more updates.
The winners were understandably upset, and made their frustration known by commenting and also contacting the parties that could still be reached.
ESM made their post on the events on the 20th of September.
They were quite clear that the blame was on Platinum Eden and Friends Worldwide.
However, a representative from Friends Worldwide posted a comment on this status, clarifying that Friends Worldwide was engaged purely as event managers and were not liable to disburse the prize money. They wished to have their name disassociated from Platinum Eden, to protect their image.
For reasons unknown, ESM deleted this comment, but screenshots were saved and can be viewed here.
ESM’s next step was to post a WhatsApp screenshot from Rinie Ramli’s account and a long message from him (we’ll touch more on that later).
Rinie is the Secretary General of ESM, and this post was later deleted on the 22nd of September.
The message was replicated in an image form and reposted here, but the tl;dr version is that ESM is going to organise a conference to bring everyone involved (from the organisers to the prize winners) to talk. They also named a Mr. Taqiuddin Halim Saad as a key person responsible for everything.
Another statement continues to implicate Friends World along with Platinum Eden with, “Failure to attend the conference will indicate that Platinum Eden Sdn Bhd & Friends Worldwide [have] since the beginning of the event decided to falsely advertise [their] capability in fulfilling [their] roles and promises.”
In that same message, there was also a hashtag created (#OpsTelur). Readers were urged to “get this #OpsTelur viral like crazy! And we will be victorious!”
Many netizens were quite unimpressed, and commented just so.
However it appears to have had some effect. Yesterday, ESM posted an update.
At the time of writing, the AGES 2016 website has not responded, but we will be editing this article with updates.
Unfortunately, issues with paying out prize money are not unusual in the eSports world. Another regional eSports event, Major All Stars, has also failed to disburse the rewards from over one year ago.
It is to be hoped that this AGES fiasco will be settled faster. The prize winners are understandably disappointed, and this is a major hit for a sport that is still trying to get itself recognised as one in the eyes of the world. If the events cannot be run professionally and continued to be marred by controversies such as this, the reputation of eSports in general will suffer.
Feature Image Credit: ASEAN Games for eSports 2016