The Telkom DGL Masters has increased its prize pool for 2017 to almost R1,5 million and added a third title to the tournament series. In a *slightly* surprising move, the Masters will now feature FIFA 17 alongside CS:GO and Dota 2.

The News

The increased prize pool will see the grand finals for CS:GO and Dota 2 feature R550,000 each in cash (R50,000 more than last year). Alongside that, there will be an additional R110,000 per title up for grabs at the two Masters Cups planned before the main Masters LAN events.

According to the announcement, FIFA 17 has been added to the Masters after “tremendous feedback.” The two FIFA tournaments will feature a combined prize pool of R120,000 (so assume R60,000 per tournament).

The FIFA tournaments will be “open to all FIFA players in South Africa who will be able to attend either-of-two planned Masters events for the year and compete in-front of a live audience for the mantle of Masters champion.”

The press release goes on to say that “with this added investment, the DGL is determined to support the online gaming community across all spheres; casual, semi-professional and professional gaming. We look forward to another incredible year of DGL Masters action.”

Other than the amounts and addition of FIFA 17, no additional information has been confirmed as yet, but we are willing to speculate below…

An Opinion

I haven’t seen any complaints about the increased prize pool being too little but I suspect some may secretly be a little frustrated about it. It’s a ten percent increase but the number of Masters teams have increased by 25 percent (two additional teams alongside the eight from 2016).

There has however been more public complaints about the choice of title. While console was always likely to feature, it was expected that when the announcement happened that it would be a title like Call of Duty or similar. But I think it’s pretty obvious why FIFA was chosen.

FIFA at LAN events draws good participant numbers, it’s diverse and is easily understood by a larger audience in South Africa – more so than Call of Duty, League of Legends or any other ‘traditional’ esports title ever will be. This positions FIFA as the most marketable esports title in the country (something I have maintained for years) and is the title I am willing to bet will lead the charge by being first on mainstream TV. SuperSport may have run some CS:GO and Overwatch already, but South African (and ultimately African) audiences will engage more easily with FIFA. But keep in mind that from the moment that happens, it has opened the doors for everything else.

Furthermore, operating a FIFA LAN event has a lot less technical failures to worry about. It requires a lot less equipment to operate. Matches are short and ultimately engaging. A prize pool of R60,000 at an event will draw participants from around the country and even if only the top eight secured prizes from that pool, the earnings per player will still be pretty decent compared to the earnings per player during the 2016 Masters. On top of that, FIFA has a number of major events with healthy prize pools internationally which include Gfinity, FIFA Interactive World Cup, ESWC and more. Internationally, traditional football clubs have added esports divisions specifically focused on FIFA. It’s clearly a game many are investing in.

I also wonder just how much the Kwesé Sports FIFA 17 Tournament at rAge Joburg (along with numerous other regular local tournaments being operated for FIFA) directed the decision to add FIFA to the Masters. At rAge last year, the two stands were alongside each other and I spoke to a few people who pointed out how loud the Kwesé event got. But it’s the entrance numbers alone that are likely to have been the factor. The rAge qualifier for Kwesé pulled 146 entrants which, given it’s clash with a FIFA ESWC South African qualifier the same weekend, is still a good number. However, the second qualifier hosted in Cape Town drew 312 players. [Numbers are pulled from the operators tournament brackets].

While the announcement didn’t make it clear as to when the FIFA would slot into the year, the “two planned Masters events for the year” comment should allow for an educated guess. According to the DGL schedule, there will be four Masters LAN events (this excludes the DGC which is not scheduled for rAge Joburg – perhaps a conversation for another time). The four events are listed as follows:

  • LAN CSGO Masters Cup: 29 June to 2 July (Date is subject to change)
  • LAN Dota 2 Masters Cup: 18 May to 22 May (Date is subject to change)
  • LAN CSGO Masters Grand Final: 6 to 8 OCT (Date is subject to change)
  • LAN Dota 2 Masters Grand Final: 28 July to 30 July (Date is subject to change)

Two of those events (the Masters Grand Final) line up with two other known events already announced – EGE (28 to 30 July) and rAge Joburg (6 to 8 October). The safe money is that the two events will play host to Dota 2 and CS:GO respectively, but whether they will also play host to FIFA is up in the air. The other two (the Masters Cups) are likely to be standalone events similar to last year which saw rAge Cape Town and Ster Kinekor hosting an event each. So that leaves FIFA players with four potential dates to book in their diaries right now.

I’m pretty sure details (including which platform, formats, rules and registrations, along with the all important dates) will be following soon. Meanwhile, FIFA players should start warming up because there’s money to be made in playing.