Valve's Dota 2 Majors are some of the most highly anticipated LAN events of the year, but these tournaments are making life--and business--increasingly difficult for third-party tournament organizers.
Featured image by Esports Edition.

Valve Majors Are Killing Third Party Dota Tournaments

May 31, 2017
Featured image by Esports Edition.

The unfortunate repercussions of Valve’s Dota 2 Major system on the livelihood of third-party tournaments isn’t a new topic. In fact, we wrote an article about it last year. But lots of things have changed since we commented on it in 2016—we’ve had almost another full year of Majors, and the effect of these events on the larger Dota 2 tournament ecosystem is starting to become clear.

Many of the issues facing third party organizers were laid out in a lengthy Reddit post by BEAT_Bil.

After Valve implemented the Major system in Dota 2, third-party tournament organizers lost the ability to make money off of cosmetics and crowdfund their own events through in-game purchases. Beyond The Summit resorted to offering t-shirts and other swag as a way to help boost the prize pool for the Summit 5. The initial prize pool for the event was $100,000 and merchandise sales only boosted it up to $101,044. Previous prize pools for The Summit had ranged from $250,000 to over $300,000. A decline of that magnitude is pretty sad for one of the most highly anticipated Dota events of the year.

Where do third-party tournaments stand in the overall Dota scene? Well, to begin with, non-Majors are more likely to feature tier 2 and 3 teams. The biggest and best teams have been known to turn down invitations to smaller tournaments for a variety of reasons–either the prize pool wasn’t worth the hassle of travel, or the team decided they needed the time to bootcamp for a more prestigious tournament.

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There’s also the issue of teams dropping out. My boy EternalEnvy is guilty of this. His team dropped out of Dreamleague last year, causing a litany of issues with the brackets. Unfortunately, this was a repeat for Dreamleague as Team NP dropped out of this season in early May. In both cases, EternalEnvy has stated that it’s more or less due to scheduling issues with other tournaments. Dreamleague doesn’t pay out the same as a Major or premier tournament, so they’re the ones that get dropped. While it might not be classy, it is a business move. Dreamleague have banned Team NP for one year over this incident.

Since the collapse of Dota2Lounge and item betting in general, viewership for online events with mostly tier 2 and 3 teams has fallen off.  To make matters worse, if popular teams decline to participate in an online league or qualifier, the tournaments don’t pull in nearly as many viewers.

There’s a silver lining here. When top teams drop out of an event, it allows the smaller organizations a chance to gain LAN experience and grow their fan base. That being said, teams like SG e-sports still have to ‘prove themselves’ at Valve Majors. Many viewers are content to dismiss a team’s results until they’ve had a noteworthy showing at one of the Majors or TI.

Majors: The Only Tournaments That Matter?

The prize pool for Valve’s Majors is an intimidating $3,000,000, and this kind of price point puts them leaps and bounds ahead of every single third-party organizer. For logical reasons, teams focus their energy and resources on performing well at the Majors — there’s more money on the line, but even more importantly, placing well at a Major is one of many factors that can give teams a direct invite to the International. Impressive runs at smaller tournaments aren’t overlooked entirely, but if the strongest teams aren’t attending, it’s hard to draw any definitive conclusions. I’ll put it this way: if a small tournament attracts two tier 1 teams and six tier 2 teams, does it say much about the quality of the tier 1 team’s play if they beat their tier 2 opponents?

One of the many things Dota fans like to lord over League of Legends players is the diverse event circuit for Valve’s game, which stands out when compared to how Riot Games chooses to run the esports side of their business. Valve runs four massive tournaments each year–three Majors and TI–but outside of that, there’s always been a plethora of organizers willing to throw their hats into the proverbial ring and host their own events.

It would be a damn shame if tournaments like The Summit and EPICENTER started disappearing simply because they can’t compete with the prestige or prize pool of the Majors.

It’s time for Valve to revisit the crowdfunding system and help these tournaments maintain their vital role in supporting the professional Dota 2 scene. As we move forward, the only possible way for third-party tournaments to remain a staple of the competitive landscape is if Valve grants them access to the in-game crowdfunding tools they had been using to generate attractive prize pools.

Upcoming third-party tournaments include:

  • EPICENTER 2017 (6/4)
  • Galaxy Battles (6/14)
  • The Summit 7 (6/14)
  • Mars Dota 2 League (7/5)
  • DreamLeague Season 7 (7/21)
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Kara Jacobacci
Kara has been following professional DotA2 since the TI4 qualifiers. When not watching matches on Twitch, she can be found working (or attempting to find work) as a geologist and enjoying nature.
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