Steven R. February 2, 2020
First there was the Valve major era, then there was the Dota Pro Circuit era, and after The International 2020, we will see the league era.
According to a report by TeamLiquid.net, Valve is set to heavily overhaul the professional Dota 2 scene following The International 2020. The new Dota Pro Circuit format will be comprised of three majors and a series of tiered regional leagues. These leagues will replace minors entirely, and will be afforded more time to play out by removing two majors from the calendar each year.
The leagues will feature two tiers with an open format, allowing new and sponsorless teams the opportunity to earn a spot in the tier-two leagues through open qualifiers. Weaker teams from the higher-tier leagues will be forced into a relegation system, which can see tier-two teams take their spot from them. Top performers from the high-tier leagues can earn a spot in majors, which will take place between league phases.
The overall format is generally similar to the LCK and LPL, the top League of Legends leagues of South Korea and China. The key difference is that the combination of majors and league placements will be used to determine the invitees to The International.
Dota 2 leagues a needed change despite lack of minors
A number of key details were either not confirmed in TeamLiquid.net’s report or have not yet been confirmed by Valve.
It has not yet been determined who will operate the leagues or how they will be structured. It is unclear how many teams will compete in each league, or how the initial batch of teams will be determined. A different number of teams may even be involved in each region's respective leagues. It is also unclear how much money will be on the line in these leagues, and where the money will be coming from.
Regardless, this should be very welcome news for Dota 2 fans. Though The International has become one of the biggest esports events of the year, its gaudy prize pool has largely come at the expense of the rest of the Dota 2 scene. Players have little incentive to compete in events outside the Dota Pro Circuit, and Valve’s open format has encouraged some top teams to forego working with larger esports organizations.
These factors have combined to make Dota 2 incredibly unstable to the point where exceptional talent routinely wallows away in free agency.
Though there are many potential pitfalls here, having regional leagues should create greater opportunities for developing players and offer Dota 2 fans more high-level action to watch. Valve has traditionally announced changes to the professional scene in the days leading into The International, so expect concrete details to come this summer.