2020: A Good Year For Dota 2
2020 happened to become a good year for Dota 2 — and here's why.
Usually, at the end of the year, such texts are written in order to identify a specific player and/or team who have shown excellent play throughout the year, made us wonder, freeze, rejoice, and delight. But not in 2020. It’s unquestionable that from the very beginning of the year, everything went wrong, and I'm not talking about global events, but about esports, Dota 2 specifically.
In Europe, no one could’ve imagined at the beginning of the year what could happen in the near future: minds of each and everyone were busy with the upcoming tournaments, and in the summer, we were waiting for the tenth anniversary of The International, which was supposed to force fans of other MOBAs (well, all the other esports disciplines too) to sit quietly and admire the scale and epicness it has.
At the very start of the calendar year, WePlay Esports held Bukovel Minor, a bright holiday show full of the New Year and Christmas spirit in the middle of a ski resort in Ukraine, and a week later in Leipzig, the Major started, DreamLeague Season 13. This tournament was confidently won by Team Secret, who started their titanic gait there — Puppey’s team were the ones who really enjoyed Dota and got a lot of prize money in 2020, setting a legendary streak of eight tournament victories in a row, which has already been recorded in the annals of history. They showed seemingly perfect form this year, just loosened it a little at the end (there are plenty of reasons: Matu currently plays WoW for hours, and Puppey himself admits that the team's motivation faded). Clearly, Secret were determined to win The International 10 like never before. But fate decreed otherwise.
There was another Minor after Leipzig, which preceded the Dota festival in Los Angeles, and... that was the end of offline DPC tournaments. It was decided to move the championships to a regional online format, but even then, for the most part, this was the orgs’ decision — no Los Angeles, Moscow, or Singapore. At the time, Valve had yet to figure out what to do with the season and TI10. As always, the developers were in no hurry to share their plans with the public and forced us to patiently watch online tournaments, including charity ones (the prize funds from them were transferred to help fight coronavirus).
And at some point, Gabe's team splashed our faces with a frightening but pretty expected text with terrible words: TI10 postponed to 2021. The hearts of fans all over the world skipped a beat.
However, despite the cancellation of the year’s main esports event, players and fans did not despair: TOs held a bunch of unofficial tournaments, with OMEGA League being the quintessence. A huge prize pool, ex-TI dates, the heat of passion, and high-class Dota. We were witnessing the downside of the pandemic: due to everything’s transition to online, the teams literally had to choose which tournaments to participate in because there were so many. For us, the audience, there was always something to see and something to enjoy. With a caveat: to get maximum pleasure, a small, previously not so tangible piece of context — the DPC significance — was still missing.
As it was written above, the planet had to split into separate parts in order to comfortably compete within separate regions (and only SumaiL & MidOne acted against the system, playing with sky-high ping for the sake of their teams).
China had its own world. No one remembers (and will not want to remember) what happened in the Celestial Empire before the beginning of autumn when the region restarted with a huge number of reshuffles and loud statements from Elephant.4AM. The Chinese, who have been indwelling in suspended animation for the last few years, have started to look like a very serious and competitive force once again: the leader of the region, PSG.LGD, won most of the tournaments in which tier-1 teams participated (three out of seven); Elephant almost achieved the same success, confidently placing themselves behind the blue-reds with two victories in seven tournaments. And then there is Vici Gaming, who did not lag behind by much.
So, we have three top teams from China, which, in addition to titles in their geographical location, also show superintelligent Dota, alternating styles, and are attracting views. I really want to see all this fraternity at the LAN finals so that they can either confirm or refute my words that China can again win the palm in the discipline.
At the same time, a completely uncontrollable horror is happening in Southeast Asia: total match-fixing and players (managers and even teams) are leaving SEA to join other regions. There’s a need for decisive measures from Valve, and the early return of the DPC might somehow establish discipline and balance in Southeast Asia. Otherwise, we risk losing a huge fanbase and the homeland of great players.
North America was left without serious teams since Evil Geniuses moved to Europe: only Fear + comrades stack, ppd’s mix (who rose from the ashes for the sake of NA), and a rather comedian roster from Arkosh Gaming, SirActionSlacks’ team, were left to fight at local tournaments. So far, everything looks like the region will completely vanish, and hardly anything can help it. Probably a serious advertising campaign might do, but do you remember the last time Valve did something like this? One LA tournament is not enough. Maybe NA could be saved by collaborating with South America, where teams are good but not that classy. South America behaved quietly throughout the pandemic season, but even this region had casualties: Astini and his Midas Club squad moved to Ukraine to grow and compete with European teams.
In the united region of CIS + Europe, not everything is so smooth. Real-life cyberpunk is happening: the rich separated from the poor and rose beyond their reach, leaving the weak part of the region stewing in a soup of match-fixing, scandals, and endless reshuffles. Only a few teams tried to make their way up, and only Vikin.gg were able to gain a foothold closer to warm places: the flashing stacks of Mudgolems, 5Men, and others eventually fell apart, and even the seemingly invincible Just_Error squad broke after just one big tournament. Is it worth mentioning those organizations that closed their Dota squads “on-demand” due to lack of funding?
And yet, despite certain troubles in each region separately, this year we received more positive things than anyone could expect. Gabe Newell, who has been in New Zealand since the beginning of the year, seemed to receive enlightenment there, which was passed on to the Dota content team. As if being struck by lightning, Valve, somewhere in the middle of summer, began to talk to the community much more often than in the past few years. And this is very important.
In almost every update on the dota2.com website, one can notice words like "we listen,” "we read,” "you wanted,” "we know,” and so on — which indicates the presence, and even a little stingy communication is hugely significant.
And what about all those content updates that the developers have released over the past six months? True, from February to July, there was almost nothing, but the whole world was busy with something, wasn’t it? Still, we got a huge, varied, and wonderful Battle Pass with a cool PvE game about Aghanim and a bunch of great cosmetics. Then came the Dota Plus update, Diretide (which everyone has been waiting on for seven years, Valve let us sell items from there, which is very unusual for them), a huge gameplay patch, and even a new hero. Put your jokes about a "small indie company" aside; they’re not appropriate given the coronavirus context and the amount of content released over the last half-a-year.
DPC kicks off in like 3 weeks. Classically, nothing's been announced - most teams have no idea what is going on.— Ben Steenhuisen (@Noxville) December 28, 2020
If I were in charge of it, this is probably how I'd do it in terms of direct Div 1 invites vs Closed Qualifier invites. Some decent teams are inactive hence ???. pic.twitter.com/5nA6RHnta8
True, there is not much information yet about the DPC season in 2021, but we already know about a big league with LAN finals in March, which was officially announced by the developers in one of their posts — it means Valve know what they are doing. True, some regions need close supervision. Otherwise, we risk losing them once and for all, but everything will work out with a reboot of the entire system. True, from the point of view of historically important esports, this year can literally be crossed out or skipped. But in terms of scene evolution, we got more than ever before.
2020 happened to become that necessary catalyst for important thoughts among all Dota followers. We began to listen to the developers and appreciate their work (although people will still find a reason to whine on Reddit), and the developers again began to communicate with us and listen to our opinions. Newcomers among teams, players, hosts, and commentators had a chance to show themselves, to attract attention, because due to a large number of tournaments and divisions in regions, access to the top league has become easier. TOs improved the quality of their work and finally realized that the tier-2 scene also deserves attention, and in future Dota, there should be a place for Open Qualifiers so that stories like Yellow Submarine happen more often. Those who have recently discovered esports have been able to feast on online Dota and are ready to fill the arenas as soon as LANs begin to appear on the horizon.
Considering small details and large fragments, I will not be afraid to say: 2020 was still a good year for Dota.
And 2021 will be even better.