Over the weekend, eyebrows inched up again over ESPN’s report on H1Z1’s esports league, which was “suspended indefinitely” following what sounded like major financial difficulties stemming back months. Since then, more accusations have been leveled by VPesports, which says it’s been following the mess for five months, and some of that’s been rebutted by Jace Hall. So let’s break it down.
The esports-centric site and its sources weave a disturbing tale that insinuates corporate insolvency, excessive spending, and deliberate misrepresentation to investors. “In addition to accounting for the whereabouts of the alleged $27 million associated with the H1Z1 Pro League, issues regarding Facebook’s partnership have also been raised alleging viewer statistic manipulation and the reporting of those statistics to investors involved with Caesar’s Entertainment, where the first split was played,” author Elle Thibeau writes.
There’s also a description of paid audience members at live events, criticism of Jace Hall’s treatment of employees, a mention of still more layoffs at Hall’s associated companies, leadership infighting, partial budget records, and a warning that NantG might be in for it, having invested in the company ventures this past summer.
For his part, Jace Hall responded to the article on a incredibly long Twitter recording last night. “All I can tell you is that I’m not a liar,” Hall says, noting he was not personally contacted about the article. He acknowledges that the game has been on the decline and that financial declines naturally follows that trend; he says the league is still in existence but that the second split was canceled specifically because of the playerbase’s size; he denies that the league is insolvent; he denies the claim about the missing $27M (“I don’t know where that number comes from” – that’s “more than double” what the budget was); he denies the excessive spending claims; he clarifies the difference between investors and sponsors; he denies losing Facebook as a client; he denies buying bots to boost viewership; he sorts out the difference between concurrency and total playerbase; he points out that the author’s description of the corporate lineage is easily debunked with a Google search. He also has a laugh over the idea that he partnered with NantG and purchased the rights to H1Z1 (that did not happen). He does, however, acknowledge that folks in Vegas were brought in to bolster the viewing audience.
Notably, Thibeau speculates that some of the weird Daybreak stuff back in August was related to the supposed Renova sanctions, which Hall vehemently denies; he says there was a necessary investigation at Daybreak at the time, but there were no sanctions on Daybreak, and that indeed Daybreak was the victim of the clickbait press. Worth noting here is that part of Hall’s account of the coverage of the Columbus Nova incident, which we covered extensively since we broke the bombshell itself, isn’t quite accurate: He suggests it was a misunderstanding about Jason Epstein’s employment past, which is a bizarre characterization of Daybreak’s misleading the public about its ownership for three years, which is the only reason MMO players were concerned about sanctions in the first place. But in any case, he seems to be correct about the outcome.
Really, it’s an equally exhaustive line-by-line rebuttal in which Hall comes off as mostly honest and transparent – and it still somehow doesn’t portend a sparkling future for the game’s esports.