The International 2020 has taken a big hit. The event was delayed indefinitely by Dota 2 publisher Valve last week due to the uncertainty facing the world due to the ongoing pandemic. The combination of travel restrictions and policies on group sizes proved to be too much to confidently handle so far in advance.
Valve suggested that it is considering other possibilities and will make definite plans at a later date. But what might those plans be? What’s the best case scenario for Dota 2 fans? What’s the worst?
No matter what Valve ultimately decides on for TI10, the road will likely start with the previously announced changes to the Dota Pro Circuit.
Well before esports events began getting cancelled or rescheduled, Valve had plans for some major changes to the Dota 2 pro scene. To be precise, Valve was planning to remodel Dota 2’s tournament schedule in the image of League of Legends.
Instead of having five majors and five minors to determine the invitees to The International, there would instead be a series of regional leagues operated by third-party tournament organizers in conjunction with Valve. Each region would have a tier-one and tier-two league with three stages during the year. Top performers from each tier-one league would gain the opportunity to compete in an interregional major, with both league and major play earning them points towards a spot in The International.
– The International is delayed due to COVID-19. Likely to be pushed to 2021.
– DPC being restructured for Fall. More info later.
– Battle Pass will be released sooner than later but will be after at least a couple of weeks later than usual.https://t.co/12934UUWSO pic.twitter.com/ImoFHeu6Fd
— Wykrhm Reddy (@wykrhm) May 1, 2020
Response to this format was mixed, with the largest concern being the probable loss of revenue among pro players stemming from the evacuation of non-DPC tournament organizers. No matter what pro players want though, Valve is going to do what it wants, and right now Valve’s option are basically the only option available for pro players.
Online regional leagues have become the standard across all of esports over recent months and Dota 2 is no exception. Leagues like the BTS Pro Series and ESL One Los Angeles are a taste of what’s to come and are the most likely way Valve approaches reopening the Dota 2 pro scene in earnest. A reinvention of the DPC is set to occur later this year, and odd are that Valve will simply move forward with its previously scheduled plans.
Quality Dota 2 action can be had in an exclusively online setting. That shouldn’t be news to any longtime Dota 2 fan due to the sheer number of great online events that were hosted before the Dota Pro Circuit era, but fans have been reminded recently that live events with $1 million prize pools aren’t a necessity.
The easiest alternative to TI10 taking place in front of a live crowd is TI10 taking place online. By hosting online regional leagues to determine the representatives from each region, Valve could pull together a solid lineup of deserving competitors. From there, it’s just a matter of setting up the groups.
This would be logistically easy and would allow teams that have been separated due to travel restrictions to compete together once again. It’s a perfect solution, with one big pitfall. That pitfall is the intense lag that comes with interregional play.
This can work out in some cases, with the best examples being South America and North America, and Europe and CIS. Issues can arise when other regions come together, as was seen with Malaysian Yeik “MidOne” Nai Zheng playing in the European WePlay! Pushka League with 200 ping. Even within those viable regions, less than ideal network conditions can make things unplayable, as was seen with beastcoast’s forfeit losses due to lag in the BTS Pro Series.
our fans who have followed the team have been aware of our connectivity issues within these past few weeks. please understand that given the current situation, the safety and health of our boys is our top priority. because of this, they are at home with their family and not at
— beastcoast (@beastcoast) April 19, 2020
An online TI10 is a very real possibility just because it is so easily executed. If it does end up becoming a reality, it could be mired by numerous technical pauses and other issues.
Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive are two of the biggest games in esports, but Valve on the whole isn’t all that interested in competitive gaming. The company’s bread is buttered on the prominence of Steam in the PC gaming market and even if both titles became competitively barren, Valve’s bottom line would barely take a hit.
Valve doesn’t need TI10 to happen, and if rescheduling and relocating it becomes untenable, it might not. And some of this is out of Valve’s hands.
— Kotaku (@Kotaku) July 31, 2018
One might hear that and immediately ask about the TI10 Battle Pass, as Valve would be missing out on tens of millions of dollars by not putting one out. While that’s true, there’s also no reason they can’t simply release a battle pass in Dota 2 not attached to an event.
Apex Legends, Fortnite, and even Counter-Strike: Global Offensive have released highly successful paid in the vein of battle passes that aren’t attached to events. Even if Valve takes a hit by not having it attached to The International, pocketing the 25% of the proceeds that usually get funneled into the event’s prize pool could potentially make up the difference for the company.
Fans of pro Dota 2 might wonder how this would affect the game’s pro scene. 70% of the money awarded to Dota 2 pros in 2019 was tied to The International, and having that money evaporate would be ruinous.
Counter-Strike fans might point out that Valve has been relatively indifferent supporting the enduring first-person shooter. The game has built up an incredibly deep, robust competitive scene in spite of Valve’s disregard for the game. Valve might look to that and feel like it can divest from Dota 2 even further.
This isn’t necessarily likely to happen, but it isn’t inconceivable either.
On the opposite side of this discussion is, what if Valve really wants The International to happen as scheduled? While esports events are certainly not necessary for continuing society, it would theoretically be possible. Valve could almost certainly find somewhere to host TI10 if it desperately wanted to.
Obviously, this still wouldn’t be The International as fans know it. It would likely take place entirely behind closed doors and without a live crowd. There will be various travel restrictions that might force some of the best teams out of competing. There would be serious health concerns as well.
It’s a risky proposition, but a likely huge prize pool would guarantee it to be one of the biggest esports events of the year regardless. But Valve’s statement on delaying The International seems to have made it clear that the event won’t be held any time soon.