‘Chiu on This’ is a short and regular opinion blast
I read an article about how Dota 2 is apparently being “left behind” as an esport. It is half right and half wrong by omission. It brings up salient points about teams and orgs in the space, particularly organizers having to deal with Valve’s lazy communication. The problem with the article is that it focuses on the Western side of esports as if it encompassed all of esports. The problem with that view is obvious: Dota 2 is much more popular in the SEA/CIS/China compared to the West. It also misses the point that Valve has decided to make the esport focused more on the players.
Both Valve and Riot are dictators in their scenes. The difference is that Valve is mostly inactive until its own events happen while Riot is a dictator all year around. Both have positives and negatives. Riot’s approach makes it easier for the new investors to buy in as it is something closer to what they are used to. Valve’s approach toward Dota 2 is almost antithetical that. Riot is about its own game, own league and then the teams in that order. Valve is about its own game, The International and then the players. Players are given a higher priority in that particular scene. This makes it harder for teams and tournament orgs to make events as players are notoriously fickle and can leave a team or tournament at the drop of a hat if it isn’t a top of the line event.
The article points out the strength of franchising but misses out the weakness. It is very much a player’s game, which will inherently limit its growth in the West. But there are strengths to a system where winning is all that matters. Primarily that you cannot get any new five-person rosters out of nowhere. Many of Dota 2’s best stories come from teams that have almost no backing in their local countries. Ad Finem, MVP, SG e-sports are all teams like this. Anyone can go from the bottom to the top so long as they have the skill to prove it in the server. This actually has nothing do with the ecosystem, but it feels like this is a critical component for Valve’s policy. They want anyone to have a clear path to becoming the best in the world whereas I don’t think it’s nearly as cut and dry in the League of Legends system.
Essentially the biggest problem with the article is that it misses on the entire ecosystem of CIS, SEA and China. The game is incredibly popular in all three regions and Mineski/ESL have teamed up to start running LAN events in the region. I’d assume there must be some kind of payoff in investing into tournaments in that region. This game could very much go the way of Brood War or Super Smash Bros Melee. That is, it can become a game that is centered on a very specific region and within that region is very successful.
Finally, Dota 2 players are a bit of a unique brand. The player base of the game always remains the same no matter how many other games come out (notably, it suffered no significant player drop after the release of Overwatch). Because of that, there will always be a certain level of interest in the game itself and that is parlayed into cosmetics, which is then parlayed into the prize pools to watch pro players play.
If I was to point out one thing that could kill Dota 2 esports, it isn’t necessarily the lack of franchising or tournament orgs being unable to put on LAN events without being screwed by Valve randomly, but Valve’s disdain for the artists/designers of cosmetics. They are the critical piece that gets the casual audience to buy into chests, which funds the esports side of it.