The new DPC system carries enormous weight on its shoulders. 2020 was an incredibly tough year for pro-Dota and arguably the scene’s lowest point. Majors and The International were canceled, and Valve failed to adapt and introduce an adjusted season for the entire year. For many parts of the Dota ecosystem, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Organizations folded or were forced to drop Dota rosters. Younger pros were forced to leave the scene and find normal jobs while several of the scene’s greatest players retired or took extended breaks.
Through immense effort from event organizers, we still had well-produced tournaments to stave off the lack of a true, official pro scene. This could only go on for so long though, as players and fans are motivated by the prestige of Majors and Internationals.
The new system has many failings of the previous year to make up for; the scene is desperate for an International, lower-tier pros need to make a living, and organizations who run events and host teams need to see that Dota is a thriving esport which is worth holding on to.
The new scene has a drastic change in format to the previous season; regional leagues, just two majors, and a TI with no open qualifier are big changes for Dota. Let’s take a close look at how the scene may prosper under the new system.
Setting the pace – for whose benefit?
The introduction of regional leagues as a core part of the DPC is the biggest change to the scene. Pro Dota has almost always revolved around tournaments – an event that lasts anywhere from a few days to just over a week. For Dota fans, that meant short bursts of lots of games to watch, then very little until the next big event. With the new system of leagues, we have a steady flow of games where there is almost always some top tier Dota to watch, mimicking the format of regular sports seasons. However, spreading out the leagues over such a long period of time can harm the hype potential of events.
A single season of the regional leagues will last six weeks but contains just 28 series. This takes a lot of tension out of the scene. Does a team have one series left to decide if they make it to the next Major? Well, see you next week for that. As we’re so early into the season, we’ve yet to see any high stakes games, but later into the season where one series could determine the fate of multiple teams, this is likely to be an issue. Previously, we’d wait at most a day or two for the next round of a qualifier or perhaps a lower bracket final. The large gaps between games are almost certain to suck the tension out of the scene.
One reason, which is perhaps the prime reason for this change, is that it could draw in casual fans or those who have yet to discover Dota. Consistently broadcasting top tier Dota makes sure that casual fans who stumble across Dota on Twitch will be more likely to find high tier games with premium production. New fans are important to the scene’s health and bringing in casual viewers gives Dota a stronger presence on streaming platforms. These are factors that keep Dota relevant and encourages Valve, tournament organizers, and esports organizations to keep investing in the scene and make sure our beloved game will be around for years to come.
In pursuit of a more mainstream appeal, do we really have to sacrifice the hype of our scene? A long and slow season isn’t an especially exciting one, and perhaps there are better ways to bring in new fans. When was the last time you saw an ad for Dota 2?
Dota across the world
Regional leagues aren’t entirely new to Dota 2. Tier 2 and below has often consisted of regional leagues with international competition mostly reserved for more premium events. Now, even the upper divisions of pro-Dota will be bound to their regions for some time.
An exciting result of this is the development of separate metas. We saw this at times last year where some regions favored certain heroes – Omniknight became one of the most contested heroes in the Chinese scene while the Western regions barely touched it. Allowing each region to develop its own unique style and discovering which heroes they value or fear the most will lead to some fascinating drafting battles and clashes of strategy when the regions finally meet at the Majors and International.
The only downside to regional play is that weaker regions have less opportunity to grow and learn from playing the better teams of stronger regions. For example, South American teams could previously qualify to international events, such as the Valve Minors and Majors from seasons gone by. This gave them valuable exposure to teams from Europe and China who they would usually never play — providing a unique challenge to their strategies as well as offering new ideas they could bring back to their region to experiment with. These meetings will become very infrequent and for those outside of the Upper Division, there is realistically no chance they will get to play against the world’s best teams.
So, will the new DPC bring Dota back to its former glory after a disappointing year?
Well, it stands a damn good chance. The regional leagues aren’t perfect but will play an important role in setting up for immense events further down the line. It all hinges on the Majors and eventually TI – fans and players are desperate to hear the roar of the crowd, to watch the best of each region battle it out with high stakes. To watch their favorite player lift a trophy while being showered in confetti. We’ve gone far too long without these things.