Ukrainian StarCraft II player Dmytro "DIMAGA" Filipchuk has signed on to represent the German manufacturer of gaming peripherals Roccat in competition and media. It is a one-year deal for an unspecified amount of money.
The 27-year-old Zerg, who famously became the first person to beat three-time GSL Champion Lim "NesTea" Jae Duk in a televised Zerg vs. Zerg match, has been a free agent since leaving his former team Mortal Teamwork on January 15.
Filipchuk was the first member to join Mortal Teamwork’s StarCraft II team on July 24, 2010, dating all the way back to the StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty beta. Not more than two weeks after his departure, Mortal Teamwork shut down after nearly 15 years of operation in competitive gaming. After months of talking with several teams, Filipchuk has decided that Roccat will be his home.
"Sadly, Mortal Teamwork had problems with their sponsors and went bankrupt," Filipchuk told GameSpot. "Roccat and its management have a strong heritage in eSports, and they are really committed to professional gaming. I’m happy to join a team where everyone is 100 percent motivated to achieve their goals. I feel that I get the support I need here."
Filipchuk follows a model that sees individual players sign contracts directly with sponsors over signing with a traditional gaming team. While the majority of the world’s best and highest-paid gamers are on teams such as Evil Geniuses, SK Telecom, and TSM, several others have chosen this direct approach. Most notable are first-person shooter deathmatch legend Johnathan "Fatal1ty" Wendel who started his own peripheral company Fatal1ty Inc. more than a decade ago, and fellow StarCraft II players Manuel "Grubby" Schenkhuizen and Aleksey "White-Ra" Krupnyk.
Most recently, Filipchuk's manager, Cyber Sports Network founder Andrew Tomlinson, negotiated similar deals with the other players he manages, including Korean StarCraft II players Kim "viOLet" Dong and Hwan Choi "Polt" Seong Hoon. Last August, Tomlinson negotiated a one-year deal between Kim and Azubu, and most recently, a one-year contract between Seong and computer hardware manufacturer Cooler Master, along with the energy drink NOS.
"Based off of the offers we have received from teams, the deals structured with these sponsors have much better financial capabilities as well as a sense of financial security for the players so they can focus their efforts towards preparing for matches," Tomlinson told GameSpot. "Many players on teams are left in the dark about sponsor expectations, but with these that is definitely not the case. The players are very aware of what is expected of them, as they are involved in the contract negotiation process. Additionally, although these are their title sponsors, I have the ability to sell them elsewhere to non-conflicting brands."
Tomlinson noted that not all players are right for these types of deals. "All three of these players exhibit qualities that can carry a brand's presence and see the return companies look for," he said. "When you see these guys compete at large events, often you will hear the crowd chanting their names."
Filipchuk considered many variables when deciding his choice, though of course getting the best deal was top priority. "Honestly, it’s obviously the money/salary," Filipchuk told GameSpot. "But there is also a ton of other factors like prize money, streaming restrictions, job security, devices to use, and building my own brand."
"The most important reason is when considering my future it makes the most sense. I believe with personal sponsorships you can get much more opportunities overall with high financial capabilities. Also this gives me the chance to build myself more and work closer with a company than I ever have before.”
Some concern raised by fans with players signing to individual sponsors is a lack of team unity and practice partners. Filipchuk says this won’t be an issue. "I have a lot of friends that I talk with, and can practice with when I need to. I used to practice on my own, so it's not necessary for me. Playing on Ladder is enough for me."
Earlier this month, famed American StarCraft II player Greg "IdrA" Fields was removed from his team Evil Geniuses due to derogatory remarks. Since then, he has gone on to make an unofficial end to his playing career, choosing instead to move into a commentator role and produce content. Such an option was not in Filipchuk's mind.
"No, I never think about retiring," Filipchuk said adamantly. "I'm one of the top 16 players in the world according to the World Championship Series, so my decision was right to keep practicing hard and try to do my best as always."
Filipchuk will represent Roccat in his first official tournament this upcoming weekend at Blizzard’s 2013 WCS Season 1 Finals in South Korea. Filipchuk is only one of three non-Korean players to be represented of the 16 in attendance, and is currently grouped with current GSL Code S runner-up Lee "INnoVation" Shin Hyung, and the previous season’s champion, Shin "RorO" No Yeol. Filipchuk knows he has a tough battle in front of him, but he has never been one to be put down by such a thing.
"I have a GSL champion in RorO, a runner-up in Innovation who is really crazy in Terran vs. Zerg, and Revival who is very scary in Zerg vs. Zerg lately," Filipchuk said. "It will be really tough for me. So if I'm being objective, I have a really small chance to pass this group. But as always, I will try to do my best, and I hope I will show at least my standard play. If I can do it, I think it will be really fun."
In a statement sent to GameSpot from Roccat marketing manager Sebastian Strick, the company described its partnership with Filipchuk as "perfect."
StarCraft II is one of the biggest eSports titles in many parts of the world. With DIMAGA we have found a player who fits our brand perfectly," Strick said. "Besides his tremendous success as a gamer, he has the perfect attitude and professionalism to represent ROCCAT in tournaments and competitions all over the world."
"DIMAGA will take part in the development and testing of our new products. With his experience and knowledge of gaming he will be the perfect addition for our product designers," the statement goes on. "As well as being in the unique position of influencing and advising on our products at an early stage, he will of course get all the support every traditional team would be able to give him."
Filipchuk says he wants to buy an apartment for himself and his wife. Earlier this year the StarCraft community got together without provocation to try to win a contest to send them on a honeymoon vacation to the United Arab Emirates. They won the contest. This as much as anything is why Filipchuk won't be leaving the game anytime soon.
"eSports is the best option for me. I love what I do. I just love it.”