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Is the Dota Pro Circuit Burning Out Players and Fans?

The International in Seattle
Fans have flocked to Seattle over the years to take in The International. Photo by Dota 2 The International (flickr) [CC License]
  • We sat down with joinDOTA editor Abelle to pick her brain about the future of esports
  • Will The International return to Seattle after a one-year hiatus?
  • Will Fortnite become the next big thing in competitive gaming?

The growth of esports over the last decade has been absolutely staggering. The small gatherings of old in basements and dorm rooms have morphed into heavily hyped global events that are attended by tens of thousands hardcore gamers and are live streamed by millions of frenzied fans around the world. The industry’s growth has had a profound effect on the bottom line, and financial analysts widely agree that the esports market will be worth over a billion dollars by 2020.

We recently sat down with joinDOTA.com editor Annabelle Fischer (or Abelle as she’s known to her readers), to pick her brain on the limitless future of esports. She shared her thoughts on The International: Dota 2 in Vancouver, and also revealed the number one attribute you need to dominate the cutthroat world of competitive gaming.

SBD: How did your passion for esports begin?

AF: It started in 2012 when a new friend of mine at the time introduced me to Dota 2. I watched streams before I played the game and quickly got sucked into the competitive scene. I gravitated towards players or teams I felt some affinity with. This led me to cheer for mousesports, the closest thing to a German team, where some of my family are from.

I also loved No Tidehunter. At first it was simply because I loved Tidehunter and they had the hero in their logo, but as the year progressed it became obvious that they were also a fantastic team. When they faced defending champions, fan favourites and two-time Grand Finalists Na`Vi in the TI3 Grand Finals and won, I was hooked for life.

After getting hooked on Dota 2, I started to branch out a bit. I watched a fair amount of the FGC, specifically Street Fighter VI, but I’ve fallen behind since SFV came out and I moved to Germany to write for joinDOTA.

If you’re seriously interested in competing in Dota 2, you’re going to make sure you’re at a place in your life where you have time to dedicate yourself to the grind.

SBD: Where would you suggest fans start if they want to learn more about competing in Dota tournaments?

AF: If you’re seriously interested in competing in Dota 2, you’re going to make sure you’re at a place in your life where you have time to dedicate yourself to the grind. Going pro is more time consuming than a full-time job, and not many people can make it to the point where they’re making a decent living. If you’re able to do it, seek out events held in your local community. Just playing games and grinding your way to the top of the MMR leaderboard is good for your skills ingame, but you’ll also want to build your teamwork and social skills. The solo queue experience is not the same as a competitive match. Being involved in your local scene will help to make a name for yourself besides appearing in high rank pub games.

SBD: What direction would you like to see Dota go, considering the growing popularity of esports?

AF: I’d like the Dota 2 scene to not worry too much about becoming more mainstream. Games like League of Legends are built to have wide appeal, but Dota is special because it’s such a challenge. That said, there needs to be better support for levels of competition beyond the very top. At the moment, there is little to no support for the amateur scene through the lower tiers of the professional scene, making the path to a professional career an extremely risky one for any young people hoping to make it.

“I remember a time when Major qualifiers were an anticipated event, but these days they seem to pass barely noticed.”

SBD: What are your thoughts on the Dota Pro Circuit as compared to the old system?

AF: Valve have improved some things over past years with the new system, but also created new problems. The schedule this year is way too packed and in its current state, there is no incentive for top tier teams to sit out any of the events. Both players and fans are burning out, it’s hard to build up hype for an event when there’s practically one every weekend – let alone qualifiers. I remember a time when Major qualifiers were an anticipated event, but these days they seem to pass barely noticed.

I think things would be better if Majors were spaced out a bit more and Minors were reworked into something to help develop the lower tier teams in the scene.

SBD: The International is taking place away from Seattle in Vancouver this year. Where would you like to see the event go next?

AF: I’m a bit torn about the idea of TI moving away from Seattle. That city holds so many treasured memories for the Dota 2 scene, and returning to it each year feels a bit like a pilgrimage. I’m sure once Vancouver TI comes and goes I’ll feel a bit differently though. Canada is my home and having TI there will be special. It would be fun to see TI back in Europe some time but I really think Seattle is the perfect place. The weather is nice, the food is good and the proximity to the Valve office makes it that much easier for them to organize the event itself.

esports is a very new and unpredictable industry. You need to be able to roll with unexpected rescheduling, different time zones or sleep schedule shifts.

SBD: What’s the most important characteristic you need to be successful at esports?

AF: I think flexibility is very important. esports is a very new and unpredictable industry. You need to be able to roll with unexpected rescheduling, different time zones or sleep schedule shifts. You also can’t count on your favorite game living forever. Some games will have a great run, but others may burn out faster.

SBD: The world of esports consists mainly of males. Do you think it will stay this way or will we start seeing more female players in the near future?

AF: esports is not unique in being a predominantly male industry and community. Traditional sports, and the sciences and skilled trades are all places seen as traditionally male and the underlying reason for that is that sexism exists in society. I’m not going to pretend that I know how to fix that. It can’t simply be broken down to “If we do X, more women will play esports.” I do think that there are more girls growing up today who are playing video games, so maybe in a few years we’ll see a larger number of those girls looking to go pro. If I’d known about esports before 2012 I’d have loved to try to get good, I’m very competitive and I’m sure there are plenty of other women out there like me.

SBD: What do you foresee being the next big esports game?

AF: So many companies these days want their game to be the next big eSport, but it’s so hard to say which ones will actually be able to sustain a healthy scene. For instance, PUBG had such an explosive year, but competitive events are not widely viewed outside of China. Blizzard are obviously pumping tons of money into the Overwatch League, so at this point I’m not sure if calling the “next” thing would be accurate. Now Fortnite has been promised this massive sum of money, but it remains to be seen how it will be spent and distributed, or whether people will even be into Fortnite as esports.

SBD: Do you think esports will ever be an Olympic event?

AF: Having esports at the Olympics doesn’t make much sense to me. Unless an eSport comes along which is easy to understand for a casual viewer randomly tuning in, people would probably just be incredibly confused. I’ve spent a significant amount of time watching Dota 2 with my mum, and she definitely wouldn’t be able to tell what was going on based on what the casters were saying. There’s just so many details that need to be explained. Olympic sports are usually popular sports like Hockey or physical feats which are easy to appreciate, like a 100-metre sprint.

Also, the need to shoehorn esports into traditional sports feels wholly unnecessary to me. Being in the Olympics doesn’t make esports more valid or important.

Author Image
Ryan Murphy began his love affair with sports journalism at the age of nine when he wrote his first article about his little league baseball team. He has since authored his own column for Fox Sports and has created campaigns for the WWE, the NHL, and the NFL. Ryan's critically acclaimed stories have also been published in 20 books and have been featured on more than 170 radio stations and 40 newspapers across North America.