TI 2023 will feature a Side Shop made by the community

By Kenneth Williams


Jul 10, 2023

Reading time: 10 min

TI 2023 will mark several firsts for competitive Dota 2, and one of them will be a community-hosted Side Shop to help celebrate the event.

The International is unique in the Dota 2 esports calendar. It’s obviously the most prestigious event of the year and usually boasts the largest prize pool, but it’s also an annual celebration of Dota 2 and everyone who plays it. From pro players to Heralds, everyone has something to look forward to. In the spirit of community, Dota 2 fan group Crimson Witnesses has announced a new initiative to bring fans closer together at the main event. The group plans to open a new initiative called the Side Shop at TI 2023, featuring watch parties, community artists, content creators, and much much more.

WIN.gg recently had the opportunity to speak with NinjahTigah and the rest of the Crimson Witnesses administration team about the Side Shop. Here’s how fans, esports teams, and Valve itself can support the effort.

An interview with the team behind the TI 2023 Side Shop

WIN.gg: To start, can you tell us a little bit about the Crimson Witnesses?

NinjahTigah: The Crimson Witnesses are a community supporters’ club! Our passion and goals are to further develop the attendee experience at events as a community. For many people, traveling to esports events can be a lonely prospect. Their friend group may not have the funds to travel, their friends may not be passionate enough about Dota or have other limitations.

We seek to create an environment where everyone feels welcome to join us as we get to know each other and foster a sense of community among the group and wider community.

All members of our Discord community can put together a meetup or set a time and place to get together in our meetup ideas channel. This is a core principle of our group and allows creative ideas to pop up, which has served the community extraordinarily well.

The only exception to hosting meetups is for ticketed events. In this situation, the hosts must go through a rigorous vetting process to determine the objective of the event. This is done to assure the community that the hosts are committed to providing meaningful experiences.

And what has the group done to celebrate previous TIs?

For the event planning surrounding TI8, there were a couple of goals. Namely, to share the home city of two of the admins with visitors from elsewhere in the world and to connect people who were traveling alone or in small groups.

During the event, everyone would sit together in the arena, and day after day, the group would grow. Between games, we would go grab food outside of the arena, usually at Costco – hard to beat the poutine. At the end of the day, we would coordinate going out for food and drinks. Our experiences at TI8 and all the new friends we made from around the world made it the best International yet.

With the International being held in Shanghai the following year, only a handful of community members were able to attend, and so growth temporarily stagnated from where it was at TI8, and no TI9 planning was undertaken within the server.

Crimson Witnesses TI Side Shop hosts

The International headed to Europe for the first time since 2011 in 2020, and there was a concerted effort to attend in Stockholm. The event was then switched to Bucharest, and eventually, due to COVID, the live event was canceled. However, there was a massive public outcry from people in the community, as many had non-refundable flights and accommodation.

Fortunately, members of the Discord community banded together and organized the renting out of Cinema Europa and hosted a watch party in Bucharest. In the spirit of the original goal for the server, meetups for meals and drinks were organized around the watch party.

Additionally, many LANs were played at Marsupy Gaming Club, and some of my favorite gaming moments occurred there. The community in attendance banded together to make the watch party a spectacular and unique event. These members who participated in the attendance and organizing of this event are still part of the Discord community to this day and are contributing core members of the community.

All of which, as a benefit of the events prior, culminated in the events and massive growth of the server for TI11. As a result of the core principles established at TI8 and the spectacular display of community spirit demonstrated at TI10, when TI11 rolled around, the server was set up for success in providing some unique experiences to those attending. Ticket sales for TI11 were, unfortunately, poorly handled. As a result, many people ended up not having tickets for the event at various stages of TI. 

Crimson Witnesses TI Side Shop hosts

Having experienced how fun TI10 was for those attending, we went ahead and coordinated a watch party for all those unable to secure tickets with Reality Rift, which partnered with Tundra Esports. As part of this year, for the days between the playoffs and finals, a trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia was organized.

A collection of people who had never met before but shared in the community spirit of the Discord banded together to form a truly special and spontaneous trip for several days together. Many events were coordinated within the server following and prior to this, including a Korean BBQ meetup, which was amazing fun.

Razer organized a birthday celebration for Gorgc, which was fun for our community to take advantage of, and many attended. We had gatherings at Sentosa Island, Singapore Zoo, some nights out together, LANs, hikes, as well as, very importantly, an opportunity to return to the TI8-style gathering in the stadium.

The International has always been a community-driven event, but how did the idea of a community-created market for TI come about?

A major inspiration for this year has been observing various events over the years of attending The International and the experiences of our entire community. Feedback from members of our community has been a massive tool from which we can learn, and those who attend events are generally very passionate about some aspect of the game.

At TI11 in Singapore, there were many different individual team merchandise stores, which was great to see. However, sadly, those stores were scattered over the city, which was quite frustrating for many and presented an accessibility issue. We hope to alleviate this issue by creating a centralized store.

We understand if the teams feel like this will create an unnecessarily competitive environment, but we believe the overall excitement around such an event will outweigh any potential downsides. 

Another piece of feedback is that at previous TIs, there were artists present doing 3D graphics and creating amazing artwork. However, there were always limitations for those who could attend, which dampened the potential expression of creativity and uniqueness of offerings to the community. A fully community-sponsored event would eliminate these limitations.

Crimson Witnesses TI Side Shop hosts

Valve decided to do something different last year, which obviously upset a lot of people, by introducing a multiple-day gap between the playoffs and finals. I understand the frustrations, especially for those traveling abroad and dealing with work and financial constraints.

However, from the perspective of building a celebration of Dota, there is so much untapped potential waiting to be explored with a large break between the playoffs and finals. It will be hard to adjust to at first, of course, as with anything new. However, just like with this community side shop, I’m sure that together as a community, we could come up with some spectacularly creative events in the lead-up to the TI finals to celebrate Dota that will excite people.

The initial post mentioned the Crimson Witnesses were working with esports teams to sell merch, clothing, and more at the TI 2023 Side Shop. What are the plans for team representation?

As of the time of writing this, out of respect to the teams participating in the Bali major, we haven’t approached teams yet in case the support staff are busy with tournament-related work, and we don’t wish to be a distraction. We will begin sending out proposals to the teams as soon as the Bali major has ended on the 9th of July. Until that time, we’re going to let teams decide if they wish to approach us.

The hope and plans are to have all of the Division 1 teams represented at the event, as well as as many Division 2 teams as possible. Who knows, maybe one of the Division 2 teams present with cool merch at this event could be a future TI-winning team! 

Although this attempt to bring the community together may be difficult to coordinate, as I’m sure many teams have their own individual plans, we’d love to see our entire community come together and start sharing their passion for the game in a collective location. By centralizing a location, it will allow all the fans of the game to come out and have free access to a massive pop-up store with all their favorite teams available, which to date hasn’t occurred on the scale we’re hoping to achieve. 

We are, of course, open to all feedback and entirely open to suggestions from artists/teams for building an event like this.

Have any community artists signed up for the event?

I’ve been blown away by the support from the community’s artists and the general level of interest in our initial post. 

So far, in nearly all cases, the artists are just waiting for the announcement for TI ticket sales and to confirm that they’ll be capable of attending this year. That said, we currently have 14 community artists who have said they’d love to attend, and we’re working with those artists to address potential concerns.

We will continue to build out our relevant Discord channel section with the artists who have confirmed attendance over the coming weeks. This section will allow artists to gather pre-orders for their artwork and have a better idea of what they should bring to the event, as that has been a logistical concern voiced by many of the artists.

Any artist who wishes to take advantage of this section only needs to reach out to any of the admins. We’ll verify the artists and then provide them with permission to post in whatever format they feel best showcases their talents. 

We encourage all artists in the community to take advantage of this opportunity to show off their creativity free of charge.

Has Valve acknowledged your efforts? If not, how could the company support you?

As of the time of writing this, we have received no acknowledgment from Valve. However, we would absolutely love some communication and feedback on what exactly they would require from us.

One of the largest concerns raised by the artists has been in relation to the potential use of the Dota IP. We would absolutely love it if Valve could alleviate this concern or at least provide the community artists with the requirements for using their IP.

From our perspective, if neglected, it would be a massive waste of potential to further advertise the game to a wider gaming audience and attract even more artistic talent and organizations.

Using this opportunity would only further show just how passionate Dota fans are about Valve’s creation. Not only this, but it would be amazing for the game’s community to become closer to each other.

Crimson Witnesses TI Side Shop hosts

On the other side of the spectrum. how can the average attendee show support for this endeavor?

Primarily through actively engaging in the event buildup and getting excited for the community. If you see an artist or team that you love posting about this event on social media, engage with them! Support them and their work. When the day of the event rolls around, come out and have a good time with us! It will come at no personal cost to throw a like on a post, to share, but to an artist creating something they love, even the smallest bit of care and support goes a long way. For those who are doing something they’re passionate about.

Another way to support us is by joining our Discord where we host various meetups ranging from restaurants, diners, bars, clubs, and more. All you need to do is show up at the location at the given time, no ticket purchasing or anything else required. Everything is pay your own way.

We also organize group tours where the bill is split evenly between everyone, and all prices will be available on the relevant host website.

Additionally, we have private parties at as close to cost price as possible, any and all net proceeds generated are directly refunded into helping provide the community with events like the Side Shop, to host giveaways, or provide swag bags.


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