Players in the CIS are worried about esports dying in the region. So what is Valve doing to soften the blow?
We’re ten days out from the close of most of the DPC Leagues. And yet not a single game of EEU DPC Dota has been played. Worse than this, there’s no sign of any moves from Valve since the reported communication to teams directly.
The war in Ukraine has obviously affected hundreds in the region directly. But indirectly, it’s created a schism in esports within the region. Organizers debate over allowing Russian teams in their tournaments. Or even Russian players. It’s an awful environment to try and organize an event.
As previously reported, the EEU/CIS region is hurting. That’s plain to see. But perhaps more surprising is the attitude of players in the region. Interviews from Natus Vincere’s players, the most prominent Ukrainian esports organization, paint a picture of players worried about their futures.
In a group interview posted on March 23rd, the tone of players was one of worry about whether Dota and esports as a whole would survive the conflict. “I don’t want to think about Dota dying as an esports title in Eastern Europe….” said Alexey “Solo” Berezin. But it’s a reality the players have to face. “I’d like the DPC EEU to be postponed rather than canceled,” he continued.
Vladimir "No[o]ne" Minenko echoed the sentiment. Speaking about his difficulties even concentrating on Dota, he explained the problem. “It’s insignificant to what’s happening right now, and that’s why I wanted this whole thing to end.”
Rumors and Speculation
If it all seems like doom and gloom for the EEU DPC, don’t give up hope yet. There’s still light on the horizon. DPC players, for instance, seem to believe they’re going to be playing in something soon.
Three days ago, in an interview on the official Na’Vi Dota YouTube, Vladislav “laise” Lais hinted that there was a tournament in the works behind the scenes.
“As for the DPC, I hope we get to play the second season. There were rumors about a potential league for the CIS - similar to the previous one featuring four teams online. That’s all I know.”
But beyond Na’Vi, Russian teams are continuing like they’ll have a chance to play soon. It’s hard to ignore Dota 2 Champions League Season 9, even if their organizers have become a pariah due to links to pro-Putin statements and state funding. In that league, Gambit Esports and sister team AS Monaco Gambit are having an incredible run of games. And a Kyrgyz team, HYDRA, dominates with a familiar face at the helm: Former Virtus.pro support Baqyt “Zayac” Emiljanov.
Speaking of Virtus.pro, it today emerged that the team recently headed to Almaty, Kazakhstan, to boot camp. This news broke in a post on the team’s official VK. Although the team is not scheduled for any events publicly, teams that aren’t about to play in tournaments don’t randomly head to boot camps.
All this feeds into speculation that there is a season replacement tournament in the works. But then why not just announce it, and quell fears?
Valve’s problems with an EEU replacement tournament
Valve tends to make a few missteps when announcing things like this. Like when the developer canceled a Major with basically no notice. Beyond this, there are some problems the developer will have to face with an EEU replacement tournament. Besides some aspects of The International, Valve doesn’t directly organize its events. Instead, it leaves them in the hands of tournament organizers. And there are problems with almost all of the potential TOs for a replacement tournament.
Epic Esports Events, as we’ve mentioned, has dubious connections. That would likely sour the Ukrainian teams which would participate in any replacement. So they’re out of the running.
WePlay, another potential organizer from within the region, is working at a reduced capacity because of the conflict in Ukraine. Their work on Gamers Galaxy was admirable, but it was hard not to notice the re-used assets and animations. This isn’t a huge criticism. Other TOs like ESL and others have re-used assets for years. But from WePlay, it was perhaps more noticeable because of the incredible production value we’ve seen from them in the past.
There’s also the fact that WePlay would not provide a Russian broadcast. And for a replacement tournament in the CIS region, that basically rules them out of participation.
So with no apparent local option, you’d have to turn to out-of-region TOs. But ESL, for example, has banned Russian teams. Players would be able to play under a neutral banner, but that might not be acceptable for all.
A Russian org might be willing to drop their banner for a single Major. But it’s unlikely they’d be willing to give it up for an entire ‘season’ or season replacement. Couple this with the fact that most tournament organizers will face a backlash of some kind for supporting Russian players in any capacity, and it’s hard to imagine there are any takers.
As a result, Valve has a challenging situation on its hands. It has just over a month to organize a replacement tournament. It has to find a TO that’s willing to take the heat. And no matter what, it’s likely to annoy some of the participants. Perhaps there’s a good reason why we haven’t heard from them: They’re likely just as stumped as we are.