Undying’s need for a GoFundMe highlight’s some of the problems with Dota 2’s professional scene and structure. The team heading to TI10 said their lack of funding has led to an inability to fund a bootcamp.
Have you heard of Evan Fournier? Unless you’re a hard-core NBA basketball fan, it’s unlikely. However, Evan Fournier makes more money than most of us ever will in our lifetimes. Yesterday, Fournier signed a 78-million-dollar deal to play with the New York Knicks. Evan Fournier isn’t a star player. He’s not the name that brings in headlines or sells tickets. Still, Fournier makes an amazing living off of basketball. Fournier won’t need a GoFundMe to live his dream of playing professional basketball.
Why bring up NBA you might ask? Well, as you can see, the NBA pays its players enough to live, even if they aren’t the greatest of all time. In Dota, this certainly isn’t the case.
Undying’s Financial Situation
Yesterday on Twitter, Team Undying’s captain David “Moonmeander” Tan posted a twitlonger about the rough journey that the team has gone through to get to this point, as well as the journey ahead. Along with the twitlonger, Moonmeander also posted a GoFundMe page to raise money for a boot camp for his team. According to Moon: “Unlike other teams, we don’t have a sponsor, so we can’t just fly our high ping players into NA to boot camp for Major qualifiers.”
Team Undying announced over a week ago that they would be playing at TI without an organization. Despite this fact, they would also be searching for sponsors. Again, in the twitlonger Moonmeander mentioned that “some have been poached” and that some are “waiting till after TI.”
As of right now, it seems as though sponsors are waiting to see how a team in one of the most chaotic regions fares at the biggest Dota tournament in the world. During the year, the team struggled to even pay their manager. Moonmeander said that they “couldn’t pay him until they found an organization.” It wasn’t until recently that they pooled their winnings in order to adequately pay their manager.
A General Trend in Dota Esports
But Undying’s situation seems to be a microcosm of a general trend in Dota esports. When you don’t have financial support, it can be tough to compete, or even keep playing. This seems to be true across all regions, but especially in North America. Undying went undefeated in their qualifier run, despite having no org, but none of the other teams playing had one either. Watching the DPC, you can see just how far ahead a team like Evil Geniuses is compared to the other teams in the region.
Some commentators have pointed to the mentalities of NA players as part of the reason for sponsors and orgs not being as interested. And that may be part of it, but it’s also hard to commit to pro Dota when winning may be the difference between you being able to pay rent for the month. This may make matches matter more, and therefore make them more exciting, but it also makes it hard to break into the scene. When even a TI qualifying team has to raise money in order to bootcamp, you know there’s a problem.
A GoFundMe For a Boot Camp?
Moommeander contends that a boot camp is all his team needs right now: “We don’t need a chef, we don’t need a masseuse, we don’t need first class tickets, we just need a boot camp.” Like the “premium organizations” Moon is looking to have a chance to compete at the top level. Accordingly he didn’t necessarily want to start a GoFundMe, but it seemed like a necessary course of action.
But a crowdfund might not send the right message. South American analyst Anthony “Scantzor” Hodgson points out that starting a GoFundMe for a team “that is already guaranteed to win $100k+” might just further entrench the issues. The fact of the matter is that non-TI teams are likely struggling even more with the system as it stands.
What Can We Do?
So what do we do about it? On an individual level, not much. We as viewers shouldn’t necessarily foot the bill for player expenses like boot camps and advanced gaming tech. As it stands, the Dota scene very much lies in Valve’s hands. Parts of the reason I brought the NBA is because even the benchwarmers are able to survive playing the game. This means that they have time to practice, to get better at the game, and not have to worry about making enough to live. In Dota, enough loses might force potential super stars out of the scene.
A possible solution is to have Valve put more money into making sure that teams without orgs have a safety net. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but enough so that that teams can focus on playing, rather than worrying about bills. Another change that could be made, and one that has been suggested even during the DPC is to adapt prize money and funding distribution. For major tournaments, the prize money could be more evenly spread out, making it so that teams who’ve gotten at least to the playoffs can get some money. We could even take money from TI and spread it across other tournaments, so that the ecosystem doesn’t solely rely on TI for so many results.
It’s a tough problem to tackle, but if we want our scene to stick around, it’s an issue we have to solve. I think I speak for most of us when I say we want Dota to grow and thrive. Let’s start by making sure teams don’t need GoFundMe’s to play in the same room together. For more esports news, stick with us at esports.gg!