10 Problems With The DOTA 2 Major System Source:

It’s time to face the facts, eSports are becoming a legitimate industry, supported by millions of people, watched by thousands online, and played by the very best of the best in tournaments with prize pools featuring significant amounts of money. One of the industry leaders, of course, is DOTA 2, which has seen its annual International tournament expand by leaps and bounds since it was introduced six years ago, to the point that The International 6 will likely feature a partially crowd-funded prize pool of over $20 million, which is more than some “real” sports offer. Game developer Valve, who own DOTA 2, attempted to implement a series of three Majors, massive yearly tournaments in addition to The International, with a series of rules that they had hoped would stabilize the pro scene to some extent. Unfortunately, due to several errors in judgment, some bad luck, and a few truly questionable decisions, the first year of the Major system has had more than its share of problems, which need to be fixed before a second season begins. We’ve tried to summarize those issues here, in order to get you up to speeed.

10. The Roster Lock System Was Poorly Implemented

In an attempt to stop the incredible amount of roster shuffling that usually occurs throughout the year as teams scramble to find a tournament-caliber team for The International, Valve instituted roster lock periods before each of the Majors, including a two-tournament lock that covered the Manila Major and The International. Any team that registered for a Major, which changed their roster during that period, would forfeit any chance at a direct invite to the Major, or to the Regional Qualifiers, and would instead be forced to fight through the Open Qualifiers. On paper, it probably sounded like a great idea, however, repeatedly during the first year since the Majors were introduced, we’ve seen teams either switch things up at the very last moment before the lock goes into effect, screwing over some talented players in the process by leaving them without a team, and only able to be added to a group willing to brave the Open Qualifiers, or some pro teams actually ignoring the roster lock, making changes, and taking their chances in the qualifiers. While that sounds like a punishment, it really isn’t, because… Source:

9. The Open Qualifiers Are A Joke

The Open Qualifiers are two 1024-team Best-of-1 tournaments for each of the four DOTA regions (Europe, China, Americas, Southeast Asia), with the winner of each earning a spot in the Regional Qualifiers. Ostensibly, they exist to allow lesser-known or newly-formed teams a lottery ticket to one of Valve’s multi-million dollar tournaments that they would never be invited to normally. In practice, however, they’ve been little more than hundreds of barely competent pub teams thrown together in the mix with a handful of high-tier pro teams who were theoretically being “punished” for breaking the roster lock, and who then bulldozed their way into the final rounds and, in some cases, easily scored a win (as was the case for the TI6 Open Qualifiers, which saw Evil Geniuses plow through the Americas Open Qualifiers, while Team Secret did the same in Europe, and Vici Gaming easily mopped up a qualifier in China). Sure, there was a minuscule possibility that those pro teams would get dumped out by a cheesy strategy, but against the clearly inferior level of play, with two chances to win, it was never even close to a realistic proposition. If Valve can use the Open Qualifiers as the carrot for low-rank teams it’s meant to be, they’re more than fine. As it is, however, they’re just a walk in the park for top teams who violate the roster lock rules. Source:

8. Regional Parity Doesn’t Exist

It’s no secret that the European and Chinese regions have dominated the DOTA scene in terms of depth of quality teams, while the Americas and SEA lag behind. Even though the top teams in both America and SEA stack up very well against the rest of the world, beyond two or three in each region, there simply isn’t any stability that allows better teams to develop. This was best exemplified by the invitations for TI6, which chose only a small number of direct invites in favor of allowing two teams in each region to qualify, as well as a third team that would fight in a wild card playoff for the final two slots. The problem which arose was that, thanks to a general lack of depth, as well as several prominent American teams breaking the roster lock rules, the teams that would qualify were easily predictable before the process even began. In the Americas, Evil Geniuses, along with strong teams Digital Chaos and compLexity Gaming, were far and away the best teams, and all three, unsurprisingly, snapped up the three regional spots with minimal effort. Over in SEA, while MVP Phoenix, one of the region’s strongest teams, earned a direct invite, the other top squad, Fnatic, did not, but still managed to sail through the regionals, with two lesser teams that aren’t expected to really compete at TI6 picking up the other invites. Meanwhile, over in Europe and China, the regionals were a series of bloodbaths that saw several good teams left without an invitation to TI. While it would be nice to see the Americas and SEA pick up their game, and there is still hope for that in the future, until it does, Valve needs to stop concerning itself with making sure that, outside of direct invites, every region gets the same number of qualifiers. However, that brings up a couple of other issues… Source:

7. No Known Ranking System

One of the major issues with DOTA is that there is no universally accepted ranking system for teams of any kind. Going into every announcement of Major invitations, the debate ran rampant over which teams would pick up the precious direct invites, bypassing all qualifiers and going straight to the main tournament. And while debate is not necessarily a bad thing, it would be nice, especially when we’re talking about a game that has so many statistics available for people to obsess over, if we had some idea just what it takes to earn a direct invite to a Major. Over the course of the year, theories have been made, thrown out, and reconfigured more times than anyone could count, and at every Major, Valve would provide a list of invites that would invariably raise a few eyebrows. The fact that many top tier teams rarely played anything but the biggest tournaments between Majors, combined with all the issues brought on by Valve’s roster lock rules resulting in even more instability, made it even harder to determine just what put a team in contention for a direct invitation? To make matters worse… Source:

6. Direct Invites Lack Consistency

Valve certainly didn’t do themselves any favors with DOTA teams and fans with their seemingly random decisions when it came to Major invites. We’re not just talking about which teams got invited (although as we mentioned, that certainly raised some ire in corners of the Internet), but a simple matter of the fact that nobody quite knew how many teams were going to be invited to each tournament, right up until Valve made their announcement of who was even getting one. For the inaugural Major at Frankfurt, and the second one in Shanghai, there were 8 direct invites and 8 qualifiers (2 from each region). However, at the third Major in Manila, there were an incredible 12 direct invites and only 4 regional qualifiers. Then, to top things off, TI6 went entirely the other direction, with only 6 direct invites, 8 regional qualifiers, and 2 wild card spots. Plus, thanks to the ridiculous instability of the American region after many teams voluntarily broke the roster lock, only 5 teams even met the qualifications for a regional invite (which have always consisted of 10 teams in the past), with two of them being newly-formed teams that had barely played any matches! And each time, nobody in the DOTA community knew what was going to happen until Valve finally came out and said something, leading to outrage from fans, teams, and players. Source:

5. Poor Scheduling

Going back to the roster lock issue for a moment, the TI6 qualifiers really shone the light on the biggest issue with the Major system, which is that Valve made a hash of the scheduling. Remembering that the year has 12 months (last we checked, anyway), Valve scheduled the Frankfurt Major in mid-November, the Shanghai Major in late February/early March, the Manila Major in early June, and The International itself in early August. You’ve probably already noticed that there is a significant disparity in time between events, which Valve attempted to counter-balance by forcing teams to accept a roster lock period that covered both the Manila Major and The International. However, several teams willingly broke the lock after poor showings in Manila, reasoning (likely correctly) that their teams wouldn’t have been good enough to compete at TI6, by far the biggest tournament of the year, with its potential prize pool of $20 million, and thus it was worth the risk for a potentially better chance at life-changing money. Another notable problem, which goes back to the lack of a ranking system, was that there was literally one tournament between Manila and the announcement of the TI6 invites, and in fact, those invites were handed out literally hours after that tournament ended, leading to reasonable curiosity about what criteria Valve had used to make their determinations. And the bad scheduling had another effect, as well… Source:

4. Ridiculously Compressed Qualifiers

In the lengthy lead-up to the previous International, as well as the Frankfurt and Shanghai Majors, the regional qualifiers played out over a longer schedule, allowing broadcasters ample time to show high-profile matches in full, giving them the attention to detail they deserved. However, thanks to the much shorter time allocated for the Manila and TI6 qualifiers, the scheduled games overlapped by a ridiculous degree, forcing a large number of games to be played at virtually the same time, making coverage of them an effort in ridiculous juggling. The American broadcast hub, led by the team at Beyond The Summit, managed this nearly impossible task as best they could, but it still required multiple Twitch channels, including a main channel that flipped between games in progress in order to show as much as possible, streaming for 24 hours a day over an entire week, and bringing in extra talent from all over in order to carry the casting load. In addition, the potential for long delays that are present in any online gaming tournament played havoc with the already tight schedule, and some qualifiers stretched hours beyond their expected time. In fact, teams that qualified from the second set of Open Qualifiers had as few as six hours before they had to play their first games in the Regionals. In addition, for fans trying to watch the qualifiers, keeping up with the hectic pace was a monumental task that many found frustrating. Source:

3. Shanghai Was A Disaster

It wasn’t just the qualifiers that got away from Valve, as the Shanghai Major, the second of the series, was a mess of epic proportions that even drew the wrath of Valve’s founder and managing director, Gabe Newell. While the Majors themselves were sponsored by Valve, they handed off the production and streaming of the games themselves to local companies. In Frankfurt, it was long-established tournament organizers ESL One, while in Manila it was handled by PGL, both of which did admirable jobs. However, in Shanghai, the job was handed to established Chinese company Perfect World, and they proceeded to screw things up in ways not thought humanly possible. From the beginning, there were massive delays and production snafus (the casters in the picture below were literally forced to scrounge up chairs to sit in so they could do their jobs), at times forcing an unprepared on-air broadcast team to fill hours at a time. After the first night was an unmitigated disaster, Valve actually stepped in, firing the production team (as well as the on-screen host, who was blamed for using excessively bad language and disrespecting several players and teams during the stream, a move that was seen as somewhat unfair). Although most of the issues were mitigated, problems persisted, which detracted from the fact that the games played in the tournament itself were actually a showcase of some incredible DOTA…which many people never got to see. Source:

2. Excessively Negative Public Perception

Any fanbase is volatile, especially one that revolves around an incredibly competitive online game like DOTA, but it’s hard to blame fans for starting to get more than a little upset with the first year of Valve’s Majors. Between all the issues we’ve just mentioned, the public perception of DOTA in the past year has been one that is trending extremely negatively, threatening to undo all the good work that had been done to build it up as a legitimate eSport, to the point that parts of the International 5 were broadcast on ESPN, with the entire genre looking like it might actually somewhat break through into the mainstream. However, the wave of fan negativity, much of it well-earned, has served to paint the Majors in a fairly bad light. At a time when Valve should be gearing up for The International 6, which looks like it will once again break the record for largest prize pool at an eSports tournament, there are so many issues being raised about their Major system that need to be dealt with before the second year comes around. However, there’s one more large issue with that… Source:

1. Valve Doesn’t Communicate

As game companies go, Valve is possibly the most secretive on the planet. Nobody knows anything about what’s going on there until they announce a release date, or a patch update, or in the case of DOTA, tournament invitations. Valve’s close-mouthed approach to handling their customer base has served them well when it comes to surprising people with game releases, or Steam sales, but when it comes to DOTA, an eSport that is played in dozens of tournaments a year, and supports millions of players, and wants to be treated as something more than “dumb kids playing video games” on the larger stage, the silence can be infuriating. We’re not saying that Valve needs to pull back the curtain completely, but the time has come for them to become more directly involved in the DOTA tournament scene, and not just by funding more tournaments. DOTA needs things like a ranking system, standardized tournaments, stable pro rosters, and yes, some sort of union for pro players (and casters), to help make sure that the industry can sustain itself. Things like this need to come from Valve, because at the end of the day, it’s their game, and they need to take charge of it, and let people know what’s going on. Source:
Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle is an avid wrestling and film fan. He's been writing about WWE, movies, and video games for Goliath since 2015.