With the DPC postponed, top tier Dota 2 in EEU is in a bad state. And only recently leaked communications from Valve detail what’s next.

It’s now been almost a month since the EEU portion of the DPC, which includes teams from Ukraine and Russia, was indefinitely postponed. Since then, in the english-speaking Dota scene at least, there’s been no communication of what’s next for EEU Dota.

The silence means that organizations such as Virtus.pro, Team Spirit, AS Monaco Gambit, Natus Vincere, and a dozen more besides have no information on how to continue in top-tier Dota 2. And almost 100 players from the region are left in limbo. And even the TI10 champions, Team Spirit, currently have no league to play in.

Silence from Valve is nothing new. It’s been the standard operating procedure for the company on almost every issue for years. Only breaking down recently with the reactionary hosting of the WEU Regional Finals replacement tournaments. After initially cancelling the Winter Tour Major, Valve was forced into action by community outcry.

It stands in contrast to the recent developments within Dota on in-game content. Valve has been calling its shots and making them with patch content. They promised 7.31 would release on February 23rd, and it did. They promised a Spring Cleaning update, and low and behold, it was just released.

So it’s frustrating that Valve is once again leaving the community at large in the dark. But it’s not just Valve. Top-tier EEU DPC teams are being quietly shut out, whichever side of the war their country of origin lands on. 

No News isn’t Good News

The Gamers Galaxy International Series Dubai started in the midst of the outbreak of war (Image via Gamers Galaxy)
The Gamers Galaxy International Series Dubai started in the midst of the outbreak of war (Image via Gamers Galaxy)

On March 3rd Virtus.pro was quietly removed from Gamers Galaxy International in Dubai. The team released an inflammatory and accusatory statement. And while the content of that statement is a checklist of reactionary slang, with boxes like “witch hunt” and accusations of blackmail all ticked, the lack of transparency from the tournament organizer spoke volumes as well.

No official statement, no acknowledgement on broadcast, and no response from press requests for comment. The players of Virtus.pro were between a rock and a hard place. Between their Russian owners, and the Ukrainian tournament contractor WePlay. Either go against the wishes of your employer, and make a statement that could lead to your imprisonment or worse when you return to Russia. Or give up playing the game that is your livelihood at an international event. An impossible decision for a team of players, all between 18-22 years old, who would rightfully defer the decision to management. A management that happens to work under ESforce esports holdings, a company that has publicly denied that the War in Ukraine was an invasion

It’s a vicious catch-22. A decision was made to remove Virtus.pro from the tournament, and no official clarification has ever come out. But why would it? Why engage with the accusatory post from Virtus.pro, or the Twitch chat spam, or the angry messages on Twitter written in Russian? After all, not engaging is the default. It’s the official line of Valve after all!

Valve’s Communication to EEU Teams

But teams beyond Virtus.pro find themselves in an impossible situation. Teams with far more tenable positions than one owned by outspoken supporters of the Russian regime. 

We know from leaked conversations, first detailed in cyber.sports.ru, that Valve HAS reached out to teams in the Eastern European league. The company has stated that each team must confirm three details:

  • That they'll be able to play the postponed matches at any time during the future
  • That they’ll be able to get Visas for all of their players and travel to Stockholm for the Major
  • That teams will be able to receive the prize money from Valve and have it distributed to players

Valve has indicated that it does not want to launch a league where teams cannot fully participate in matches or attend the Major. And it definitely doesn't want a scandal where teams are not receiving prize money.

According to representatives of EEU teams, each team was asked to personally describe their current situation to Valve as it applies to the details above. Teams have reportedly submitted this information, and Valve is in the process of making a decision about the EEU DPC league.

Ultimately, it’s highly likely many teams will not be able to fulfil the requirements. Visas applications for Ukrainians, Russians, Belarusians, and other CIS countries are currently under intense scrutiny, although are being accepted by the most part. Beyond that, sanctions against Russia and Belarus have made making payments to those countries incredibly difficult. Even Ukrainians have found themselves struggling to receive money, with Ukrainian Twitch streamers unable to take some payments. Decades of having an economy tied inexorably to Russia has meant that many Ukrainians feel the pinch even when sanctions are against their oppressor. This means that achieving some of the very basic measures that Valve has set out may be an issue. 

What’s more, the leaked messages suggest that Valve is attempting to separate itself from current EEU DPC organizer Epic Esports Events. The company is also host of the Dota 2 Champions League Season 8, an event that has seen multiple teams withdraw due to the situation in Ukraine, and the fact it still allows Russian teams to participate. 

Epic Esports Events is owned by ESforce holdings, just like Virtus.pro. And just like Virtus.pro and Gamers Galaxy, Valve is seemingly uncomfortable with continuing to do business with Epic Esports Events, given their parent company's outspoken position.

This week, Team Unique CEO George “DrAmer” Faleev released a statement on the current DPC situation. It detailed a letter written to Valve by current CIS players. The story is all too familiar. One with Valve and their perennial lack of communication.

“It was not Valve who wrote to the players, instead it was the players who wrote a long letter asking them to explain the situation, why they took and deleted the entire region so silently without any information.”

Faleev stated that there doesn’t seem any interest from Valve in helping these players play.

The EEU Players Left Behind

Dendi's Instagram is a stark reminder of what Ukrainian players are going through (Image via dendiq on Instagram)
Dendi's Instagram is a stark reminder of what Ukrainian players are going through (Image via dendiq on Instagram)

Ultimately it’s the players who are once again suffering. Just like in January when Valve decided to cancel the Major on a whim, its overarching decision-making has affected hundreds of people’s livelihoods without so much as a message back.

The obvious and very visible suffering of the Ukrainian players must be first in people’s minds. In some cases, they are quite literally fighting for their lives. Their homes are being bombed and their country ravaged. It is simultaneously heart-breaking and inspirational to see the likes of Danil “Dendi” Ishtulin’s Instagram filled with stories and posts about the war. His most recent story is a quote from his TI1 teammate Oleksandr "XBOCT" Dashkevych: “With sounds of explosions, panic and a lot of unanswered questions—like for many, the war started that way for me.” 

While a career in esports may not be on the minds of everyone right now—and it seems almost ridiculous to be worrying about the health of esports at a time when a country is at war—Ukrainian players should be free to concentrate on survival without wondering if there’s going to be a league for them to play in in the future. Left to question if all the work they’ve put in for years will be wiped away, along with so much else, by this war.

“It was not Valve who wrote to the players, instead it was the players who wrote a long letter asking them to explain the situation, why they took and deleted the entire region so silently without any information.”

George “DrAmer” Faleev - Team Unique CEO

And While their situation is far different, players from Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia, must also now make dramatic decisions about their future to continue playing. It seems likely that some teams and organizations will now be permanently black-listed from events. Players from these teams should at least know where they stand. Do they need to move to continue their career? Should they look for roles on teams in other regions?

Even if you don’t belong to a team that’s become a public pariah, these kind of questions remain. Team Spirit was probably the most beloved and renown team in Dota 2 six months ago. Now it's players have no league to play in, no way to get a Major. The team has moved its operations to an entirely different country. And they may have no path to defending their title at TI.

Every single day that there’s no movement from Valve on the EEU DPC things get worse for the players. Doing nothing and saying nothing is often seen as the uncontroversial thing to do. But Valve must make a decision about the EEU DPC and it's future. If it doesn't, it could irreparably damage one of the strongest regions in Dota 2.