The Dota 2 pro scene is set to undergo a huge overhaul in 2021. Those changes were initially set to take place in 2020, but the scene was instead left in limbo for months.
The gears will start turning again in January with the introduction of the new Dota Pro Circuit. Instead of revolving around a series of majors and minors, the bulk of the season will play out in six regional leagues. Here’s how those leagues will work.
The new Dota Pro Circuit format will feature an expansion of competition at the regional level. Instead of teams earning a spot in intercontinental majors through qualifiers, teams earn a spot in a major by competing in regional leagues. Each region will have a tier-one league and a tier-two league with eight teams in each.
These two leagues will use a relegation system similar to the one seen in professional League of Legends in years past. Teams that perform poorly in the tier-one league may be sent down to the tier-two league, while teams from the tier-two league will have a chance at being promoted. Teams that perform poorly in the tier-two league must clear open qualifiers in order to reclaim their spot.
It is unclear how promotion and demotion will be integrated into the new leagues, and different leagues have taken different approaches to this in the past. LoL leagues typically had a relegation tournament in which the worst teams of the top league faced the best of the second-tier league for a spot in the tier-one league for the next season. Other leagues outright promote or demote teams based on their wins and losses in the prior season.
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The initial outline for the new DPC was to have three “cycles” during the season which would include a regional league season followed by an interregional major. Teams earn points based on their performances in both the leagues and the majors, with those points determining the direct invitees to The International. The new Dota Pro Circuit format seems to be following this same format, though some of the details are still unknown.
It is unclear if Valve is planning to host the same sort of major events where teams from all six regions come together in a live setting. Judging from Valve’s handling of both The International and the next Counter-Strike: Global Offensive major, it seems as though Valve is willing to delay things indefinitely in order to avoid possible travel complications. That could see seasons drag out for an extended period of time, or it could see smaller majors that pit just two regions against one another in an online setting.
It is currently unknown which teams will compete in the new Dota Pro Circuit and it is unknown how Valve will decide on those that do. Valve will likely choose one of two different methods.
First is a qualifier format similar to that of The International 2019. This would see an open qualifier involving any interested teams, followed by a closed qualifier that includes top teams from the open qualifiers and a series of invitees. The top eight teams from the qualifier would be elevated to the tier-one league, with the eight teams below that being sent to the tier-two league.
The other possibility is a system more in line with The International 2017. Instead of forcing teams to qualify, Valve could give direct invitations to these leagues based on their performance in every tournament throughout the year. This system was often frustrating for pro players as there was a great deal of mystery when it came to the exact criteria being used, but it also simplifies things for squads such as Team Secret and Quincy Crew that have dominated their regions over the last several months.
Valve noted in a recent blog post that the Dota Pro Circuit will return on January 18, 2021. That’s a firm date, but it’s not entirely clear what it is that will start on January 18. Will this mark the start of the leagues themselves, or is this when qualifiers will begin? And when is the deadline for submitting team rosters?
If Valve holds firm on this date, most or all of these questions should be answered before long.
Valve previously indicated that The International 10 will take place in August 2021 in Stockholm, Sweden, but it is unclear whether those plans will actually come to fruition. Valve has repeatedly rolled back its plans for large events in both Dota 2 and CSGO.
Though sporting events can be effectively and safely held in a bubble environment like the one seen with the 2020 League of Legends World Championship, Valve seemingly isn’t interested in arranging something like this. That means there really isn’t actually a definitive return date for large Dota 2 and CSGO events.
That is unknown. Though Dota 2 fans generated over $160 million in revenue through the TI10 Battle Pass with $40 million of that was earmarked for the TI10 prize pool, it is currently unknown what might happen to that money.
The most likely outcome is that Valve distributes that money across the other upcoming tournaments and leagues that will make up the Dota Pro Circuit, though how exactly that money is to be split is uncertain. The other possibility is Valve running another TI10 Battle Pass in 2021, and combining the two amounts to make for one giant prize pool that could be worth well over $70 million.
While that would certainly be a jaw-dropping number, the Dota 2 pro scene as a whole would better benefit from having significant money available in events outside of majors and The International.