Taiga, 23 Savage, and now Saksa: ULTI Agency is building up an impressive list of Dota 2 clients.
On Sunday, February 6th, ULTI Agency announced the signing of Martin “Saksa” Sazdov. The former OG support was the latest high-profile Dota 2 signing from the esports marketing and talent agency.
Agents and agencies aren’t traditionally something we see in Dota 2. The game is a player-driven esport more than perhaps any other. Some of the biggest and most successful Dota 2 organizations are founded and led by players. When you’re your own boss, you’re not always going to think you need an agent.
But as those players move out of active playing roles, increasingly into the management positions, the balance of power is shifting. And changes in the past few years, such as placing DPC slots into organizations’ hands, have meant that individual players have less power.
We spoke to ULTI Agency CEO Asgeir Kvalvik after their most recent signing. He was able to share with us insight into the agency’s goals and, specifically, their plans in Dota 2
Big moves in Dota 2
Since launching in September 2020, ULTI Agency has expanded to represent almost 40 esports pros from around the world. While initially, they focused on CS: GO, building an impressive client list, their expansion into Dota 2 has seen them sign multiple huge names. Besides Saksa, the agency now represents Nuengnara “23savage” Teeramahanon, Tommy “Taiga” Le, Rasmus “MISERY” Filipsen, and Adam “Aramis” Moroz.
Kvalvik explains their motivation: “After the signing of Taiga, we quickly understood that Dota 2 is a game we want to offer our help and expertise in. Now our goal is to become the number #1 agency for Dota 2 players.”
With this in mind, ULTI Agency traveled to the OG gaming house in Lisbon to talk directly to Taiga and his teammates. This gave the agency some greater insight into the Dota 2 scene, which has a complex dynamic. Dota 2 pro players are independent and may or may not be playing under an official organization. Valve is the developer, and while they outline the structure of the DPC and The International, it’s tournament organizers who control the majority of events that get played. And that’s just the Tier 1 scene.
“Agencies are not a big thing within Dota 2 yet, but we are here to change that,” says Kvalvik. “Now we’ve signed some big names and have the capacity to represent many more.”
What agencies like ULTI bring to Dota 2
Its clear ULTI has big plans for Dota 2. But what does an agency bring to a player, especially in an esport we’ve already described as player-led? The answer is professionalism and an equal balance of power.
“We have followed esports grow immensely over the last 20 years, and we have a big desire to help professionalize esports to the same level as other traditional sports.” ULTI Agency certainly has the pedigree for that. The company is co-owned by former Manchester United player and manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Esports is a very different animal to traditional sports. But it’s necessary to crib notes on the more positive aspects. Such as the power of agents to secure contracts and level the playing field between players and teams. As Kvalvik states, “We believe agencies are needed to equal the power between organizations and players and to make sure that players are protected and are getting what they deserve.”
Beyond this, the agency takes on some of the less glamorous aspects of being a pro player. Networking, handling social media, looking for personal sponsorships are necessary parts of being a pro. But all this takes time away from playing the game. And, if needed, the company offers financial and legal advice. “Being a top esports athlete today demands 24/7 focus. We are here to help our players with everything we can outside the server.”
But the biggest takeaway is the protection and stability an agency could bring. At the start of the year, Dota 2 was rocked with the cancellation of the first Major of the DPC season. Only public outcry from teams, players, and personalities stopped Valve from stripping away one of the most lucrative tournaments of the season and rendering months of competition pointless.
While Dota players may forever be at the whim of Valve, agents and agencies can help prevent another issue like this. And with the signing of some of the top talents in Dota 2, ULTI Agency is setting an example.