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Riot Games campus / Wikimedia

Accusations fly that Riot Games tried to sabotage Dota 2 esports

There has always been a rivalry between Dota 2 and League of Legends, but according to recently resurfaced reports, that battle was at one point played out between the two games' rival publishers.

During a podcast discussing Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, esports journalist Richard Lewis discussed some of the history between Riot Games and Valve. According to Lewis, League of Legends publisher Riot Games made aggressive maneuvers to try and undercut the growth of Dota 2 esports as part of its efforts to cement its own game as the top title in the burgeoning genre.

“[Riot] said to legendary orgs like [Dignitas and Evil Geniuses] ‘if you want to play League of Legends and get in on what we’re building, you can’t have a Dota team.’ And they’ve always denied this...then they backed off...then it was floated again when they created the LCS,” Lewis said.

The discussion stems from rumors and reports from 2012 of Riot Games attempting to coax North American esports organizations into not sponsoring teams in competing games. This centered around Evil Geniuses, Team Dignitas, compLexity Gaming, and Counter Logic Gaming having discussions with Riot Games regarding fielding teams in other MOBA titles including Dota 2 and Heroes of Newerth.

Riot Games staff at the time aggressively denied the reports, but the topic was confirmed by a number of individuals from these organizations as well as by esports journalist Rod “Slasher” Breslau. Michael O’Dell, who was with Dignitas at the time, stated that these reports were untrue but later suggested that Riot did indeed attempt to keep esports organizations away from other MOBAs besides League of Legends. O'Dell also noted that Riot later ceased these attempts.

In the years since, a number of esports organizations have successfully juggled teams between both League of Legends and Dota 2. The likes of Team Liquid and Fnatic have had a steady presence in Dota 2 while also owning franchises in top LoL leagues.

Despite that, questions have arisen since regarding whether Riot Games is truly comfortable with letting organizations compete in other esports that it sees as competition.

In 2017, Riot Games controversially denied Immortals a spot in the LCS which some speculated was due to the organization’s purchase of a spot in the Overwatch League. Immortals has since returned to the LCS through its acquisition of OpTic Gaming. There have however been a few cases in which Riot directly acknowledged teams competing in other esports titles, notably including when LCS broadcasters congratulated Cloud9's Counter-Strike: Global Offensive team for winning a major championship.

Why doesn’t Dota 2 have more esports organizations?

Regardless of whether Riot Games did this, Valve has done a much better job than Riot of chasing multi-game esports organizations out of Dota 2. The Dota 2 publisher has created an ecosystem that is inherently untenable for most esports organizations, leaving many pro players without a financial safety net.

This largely stems from the size and importance of The International, which is annually the biggest live event in all of esports. The massive event consists of a disproportionately large slice of the money paid out to players each year, pushing players towards attempts to win money at TI rather than anything else.

A long list of multi-game esports organizations have left Dota 2 behind over the years, while even more haven’t even attempted to get into the game in the first place. Though Riot Games may or may not have looked to nudge tenured organizations away from its competitors in the past, Dota 2’s woes ultimately rest solely with Valve.

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