A look at the first season of Majors
The first three Dota 2 Majors are behind us which means that Valve’s last year promise has been fulfilled. It has been a long awaited and heavily requested thing by the community so let’s take a look at last year in Dota 2, particularly the Majors and how they affected the Dota 2 ecosystem.
Normal, disaster, great - three Majors this year
We kicked off the year with the Frankfurt Major which took place three months after The International 5. The event was run by tried and tested partner of Valve - ESL. What we can say about the event that it was a regular, well run premier Dota 2 tournament. There were no substantial delays or tech issues, the production was high level, but it didn’t stand out from anything that we’ve seen before, the venue was a little bit empty during the weekdays but the crowd got bigger towards the end of the competition.
Then came the Shanghai Major. Run by Valve’s Chinese partner - Perfect Word. This time the tournament was a complete disaster. The problems that occurred at this Major have been nearly unseen when it comes to Dota 2 premier events. We’ve witnessed ridiculous delays, incredible tech issues, poor production, firing of the english host and then the whole production crew. The things got so far that Gabe Newell, the CEO of a Valve - a multi million company, called James Harding, the english host, “an ass” on reddit. Completely unprecedented action.
The last of the tree was the Manila Major. This time responsible for the event was a new company on the Dota 2 market - PGL. This event was much different from two previous that we’ve seen. Some of it was probably because of the need of overshadowing the previous Major but most of it was without a doubt PGL initiative. I’m talking about much higher level of production, implementation of new features into the coverage, high prizepool cosplay competition, incredible treatment for the players and so on. Also the location of the tournament was a great success with the crowd being absolutely amazing.
Outside of the tournaments themselves
So we have seen one ok, one disastrous and one great Major. But the fact of the matter is that with Majors comes much more than just 7 day long LANs with $3 000 000 prize pool. They also bring roster locks, announcing invites, planing qualifiers and so on. How were they handled by Valve?
The way the rosters regulations worked this year is clearly imperfect. As we seen players even from the very best teams can be dropped one or two days before the roster lock, just as Misery and w33haa from Team Secret. Furthermore the six months roster lock before The International doesn’t seem to work at all. If the teams don’t believe that they have the best chance at winning they will violate it. Just like Team Secret and Evil Geniuses before TI. This time it worked out as it was only two teams in different regions but it shows the potential for a massive mess. Not to mention the American region and amount of teams squads that could be invited to regional qualifiers.
The way that this system could be improved is implementing a drop date and then a pick up date. It would give the players that were dropped from more time to set their roster and would smoothen the transition a lot. Additionally the roster lock could only apply to teams directly invited to Majors. Then much less stable in nature tier two scene wouldn’t suffer as much. This wouldn’t solve all the problems but those are in my opinion steps in the right direction.
Historically Valve has not been the best with communication and this season of Major has showcased it perfectly. No one had any idea how many teams and when were going to get invited to a Major. We had no idea what is the criterium for it. Some teams suffered because of it. Some of the invites have been questionable. The list goes on…
Scheduling - that is another area in the Dota 2 ecosystem that the Major shacked up substantially. The dates of the Majors, the dates of the qualifiers aren’t known very much in advance. Because of that it is incredibly hard for the organisers to plan their events. The Major also create somewhat a dead period after them with teams resting and reshuffling.
How was this year in Dota 2?
In general i wouldn’t say this year in Dota 2 was a success. The Majors managed to bring premier LAN events to areas of the world were they weren’t held before. Additionally it turns out that fans out there are the most passionate ones you could find. They upped the production value competition a little bit. They also added more structure to the Dota 2 calendar and it doesn’t feel that much like it is just about one tournament a year.
However, many of the changes implemented by Valve didn’t work. Their hands off and noncommunicative way of running the scene backfired in many cases resulting in a disastrous Major, and substantial “headaches” for nearly everyone involved in the scene - pro players, teams and tournament organisers, the crowd funding of non Valve events died out and the transfers between the teams have been as hectic as they were before if not more.