The Game Show Global eSports Cup Season 1 for Dota 2 had a first prize of $125,000 for the winners, which turned out to be the Russians of Team Empire. They comfortably beat the European mix team 4 Clover & Lepricon 3-1 in the grand final in December 2015. According to a report on Cybersport.ru from April 2017, one that attempts to list all of GameShow’s transgressions, Team Empire only received part of their prize fund. From the report it isn’t clear where they stated this or whether or not they were ever paid in full. However, I do have first hand knowledge of the situation relating to the runners-up 4 Clover & Lepricon who were owed $65,000.
Swedish player Per Anders Olsson “Pajkatt” Lille played for that team and wasn’t paid in the promised 90 day time period. It took a little bit longer for him to receive payment, something over two years by his estimation. With the assistance of a contractor who was working with Game Show on a new project they were able to eventually receive the prize money, but it was a chore no player should have to go through.
“I eventually got paid. It took two years of me nagging and saying I would ask someone to write about it, but I eventually got it. I think there might be some people who still didn’t get paid though” he told me. He also added that he was aware other players on the team had similar experiences but wasn’t sure which of his former teammates had received money and which had given up even trying.
Their premier CS:GO tournament, that concluded in February of 2016, had similar payment issues. Despite their pledge of 90 day payouts, multiple organisations spoke of having to wait for over six months to get payments.
A representative from Astralis told me “we did get the money. It however took a lot back and forth with one of their employees to get it. They then paid us in two installments. One in March and one in June of 2016.”
The same story was reiterated by a member of Team Dignitas, the competition’s runners-up, who said “I just remember that the money took ages to come, about six months give or take.”
One source who used to work with Gameshow suggested that the reason they eventually paid out CS:GO before the Dota prize pool was because they had more influence among the CIS region scene when it came to Dota and therefore could prevent people from going public. With CS:GO it was a vitally important expansion so they funneled all the available money into making sure everyone was paid, even if it was well past the 90 day payout window.
Not content with running a tournament organizer into the ground amid constant negative publicity, it seems to have been mostly forgotten that Burdyko also had an esports organisation that had a penchant for not paying its players their salaries. Divided into Albus NoX for League of Legends and ANOX for other games, multiple players complained about their treatment by management and detailed the constant problems they had when it came to getting the money they were owed.
For example, their CS:GO team briefly composed of the names that would go on to make the core of the successful Vega Squadron team, namely Leonid “chopper” Vishnyakov, Nikolay
“Mir” Bityukov and Dmitriy “jR” Chervak. The reason that their stay was so brief? Simply put, the money never materialized.
“They signed contracts with us, but they didn’t pay the money as described” Vishnyakov told me. “We had to pay our wages, we were told we had to pay for our trip to ESWC (Electronic Sports World Cup, a tournament held in France every year).” He also added that some other players who had been in the squad accepted equipment in the absence of money, just to get something out of their time representing ANOX.
The team’s manager, Alexander “Lk-” Lemeshev, has a much sharper recollection about the missing money. Like many others he is still owed a not unsubstantial sum.
“I joined them back in August 2016” he recalls “and that’s when they started delaying payments. For the two months there I only received $200 out of $1500 that we’ve agreed. The same applies to all the other members of the team… Some got $200, some got $300, no-one got their full salary.”
In regards to their ESWC qualification, the team had won their regional qualifiers but when it came time to book travel and apply for visas, the ANOX management couldn’t find the money or even take the time to be transparent with the organisation. In the end, after a split in the team, the players were facing tens of thousands of dollars in costs to attend the event and reluctantly gave up their spot, which was filled by Team Norse.
Unlike many others this team hadn’t suffered in silence. They were very public about the situation surrounding ESWC. An interview with HLTV.org explained why they couldn’t attend. It wasn’t an issue that caused a lot of waves, probably because Burdyko was mostly a silent partner, someone who everyone knew was involved but didn’t seem to have his name attached to it anywhere.
While the organisation would lose the potential to have a Counter-Strike team that would go on to be the enjoy relative international success, Albus NOX enjoyed that success. The league of Legends roster continually defied expectations in 2016, qualifying for the World Championship after coming through a wildcard qualifier. They would then go on to have a record of 4-2 in groups, only failing to the top the group due to a tiebreaker, and would make it to the quarter-final stage where they were swept by H2K. Undoubtedly they were the greatest wildcard team in League of Legends history and this should have been a steady foundation for the organisation to build upon, a huge potential to attract sponsors after their miracle run.
Instrumental to their success was the team’s support player Kirill “Likkrit” Malofeyev. The team spokesperson and figurehead, he took to his personal stream to talk about everything that was wrong with the CIS region and his time in Albus NOX Luna on November 30th 2017. His rant would be picked up by the English esports press and Reddit alike, the entire segment being transcribed before he was able to delete the VoD. Here is what he had to say about his time in Albus NOX:
“Albus NoX is a team that scammed its players out of their money. The players, the staff, everybody. According to the info I have, there doesn’t exist a person who’s worked for them for a long time without getting scammed out of their money. The basic idea is, they’d promise a certain salary, they’d promise this and that… Just to be clear, Albus Nox Luna still hasn’t paid me three months of salary.
“We parted ways over a year ago, after showing a result we could never have counted on, we performed like fucking arena gods. But sports results are not what a certain Mr. Burdyko is about, not by a long shot. He wanted to screw the players over. Us, the Overwatchers, everyone who was working for the org. Some were paid more, some less; I’m not sure even a single person was paid the full amount.”
Albus NoX Luna did a nice job. It had a certain budget which was embezzled, so yeah, for the people who organized it all, it was quite a nice outcome.
“ANX is the biggest fucking scam I’ve known. Just screwing you over, without giving a fuck. We could sue them. But for that, our contracts would first need to be recognized as legally binding, and it’s anyone’s fucking guess if they will be. And secondly, there’s nothing to collect. They’ve died, in case you didn’t notice. The person responsible for it all. We could sue, but there’s little point, because we’ll lose money on that. Players getting straight-up scammed out of their money is some very rare shit.”
He would go on to call out other organizations and say that the whole League of Legends scene in the CIS region should be left to die due to lack of funding and continual broken promises. In most situations a region’s star player who had been continually mistreated by his employers and was owed large sums of money would be seen as the victim. This being a competitive landscape controlled by Riot Games, who have a long track record of punishing players for speaking out against any problems they face due to their “PR first” policy. Malofeyev was suspended for six months. The reason? According to their ruling the manner of his “useful feedback” was “toxic.” Malofeyev promptly retired calling out the decision as an abuse of power, another victim of Burdyko’s brand of bullshit.
By 2017 the financial problems continued to mount. Internally Gameshow were split between the employees who were looking for the exit and those who wanted to stay and try to make things right. These people were split across multiple regions in Eastern Europe and Russia with not a lot of clear channels of communication. The broadcasting side of the company was also swirling down the toilet, with them announcing that they were going to temporarily stop recording new content in February. It never came back and for the remainder of the channel’s life cycle it would broadcast reruns.
Employees I interviewed at the time said that they didn’t know where the money had gone but were sure there had been plenty of it at some point. One minute they’d be told that a new cash injection had come into the business and payment backlogs would be resolved, the next they’d be told that injection had been spent on other backlogs and their project, or indeed their salary, was the next priority. It had reached a point where even executives in the company were foregoing a salary while they tried to stop the sinking.
When it came to me interviewing people who had been trying to chase down money, there was one name that repeatedly came up; Sebastian Läger. He had been installed as the head of Lithuanian Esports in 2015, but was also working on pretty much every major project Gameshow were involved with. In 2016 he realized he had made a grave error in committing, but was determined to try and direct any funds he saw coming in to the people who needed them. This didn’t just include players who had outstanding prizes but also employees he himself had hired. During this period his own salary stopped turning up in his bank account.
“I wasn’t paid for over six months and all the agreed equity never transformed into reality,” he said. “That all dragged until 2017 when I finally called it quits more or less. Eventually in 2018 I made a deal with Burdyko where he agreed to pay 50% of all the debts he owed me. I made it clear for me to agree he had to offer similar deals to the staff.”
While Burdyko agreed and started paying these reduced debts seemingly out of his own pocket, he left Gameshow in August 2017. The company was pretty much a shell of itself by this point and it’s not clear if it still exists in spirit. Someone, somewhere probably has a claim to the brand, another esports company associated with broken promises and bad juju, worthless unless it can be sold to an unsuspecting idiot who doesn’t know their history.