It’s almost TI season, and theres not a more exciting time to be a Dota fan than right now. Every year, Valve releases a Battle Pass, or better known as “Compendium” right before The International. The aim of the compendium is to raise funding to host the event, and contribute to its prize pool.
Quality over quantity
Ever since the launch of the Dota Pro Circuit in late 2017, Valve Sent out one big compendium rather than the normal three small ones. This is due to Valve now only hosting one tournament; The International, rather than the various majors throughout the year. As a result, the battle pass is a true culmination of the entire year. Ending with a week long marathon of the highly anticipated and prestigious The International Main Event. This means that theres a lot of high expectations set for Valve to make sure players get a good amount of new content, since the amount of events for Dota are very barren throughout the year.
Every year Valve aims to host the most prestigious event in all of esports. The word “prestigious” is very much an understatement in this case. Valve continues to surpass each year’s prize pools of the coveted TI tournament of the year before; peaking at just over $25 million in 2018, in contrast with the previous years $24 million. However, the rate of the prize pools increase over the past few years is going down, and community members are getting ready for that inevitable year where players will no longer be able to surpass the previous years prize pool. Although this is nothing more than an ego shock for most(because Dota 2 is the best game of all time), but its an indication that there are some problems regarding the game. Let’s take a dive into why this year might be a little different.
Far from home
For the first time in history, TI will be hosted on Chinese soil, which brought a lot of sour tastes in Western fans mouths. North America is a very barren region for Dota 2 at the moment. There is currently only one team that consistently placed top 3 in high profile tournaments, and that team is Evil Geniuses. Other than that, NA is a sea of tier 2 teams that just aren’t ready to play on the big stage. All of this results in the sad realization that tournament organizers are hesitant to host LAN tournaments in North America. Not only are the timezones extremely different from Europe, but the scene is struggling as a whole.
The NA drought is definitely saddening, since in other games, North America has a very strong presence in esports. In the past, it didn’t really matter, because Valve would always host TI at Key Arena in Seattle. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case anymore. Currently, Key Arena is going through major renovations, making the venue unusable since December of 2018. Valve however, did the next best thing and decided to host TI8 in Vancouver, Canada. This made fans feel that The International was truly International. Even though the US didn’t get a LAN, at least North America did. Everyone was happy.
China vs The World
This year, TI will be held in Shanghai, China, and the community was less than happy with the decision. Although the conflict may seem racially based at first, its very much a socio political issue. These concerns stem from how the Chinese government handle esports. There are many rumors that Valve is receiving financial benefits from the Chinese government or Ace, for hosting TI in China. With player numbers steadily dropping in the West, Valve is looking to have Dota 2 conquer the Chinese gaming market. It makes a lot of financial sense since most esports viewers and compendium holders, are from China.
It’s known that China handles gaming and general online services very differently from the West. For example, game developers have to comply with very strict rules before being able to distribute games in China. Things like blood, skulls and gore are completely disallowed. Furthermore, China has their own search engine, social media, messaging service, even their own video streaming service. Without diving too deep into these points, the Western Dota 2 community have little to no empathy with how China handles gaming. Leading us to believe that players will be more hesitant to purchase a compendium this year.
Players don’t trust Valve anymore
Rewinding back in time to when Valve implemented the annual Battle Pass Compendium in 2017, the response from the community was slightly mixed, but mostly positive. With minor complaints regarding recycled content from previous years like the voice wheel chat lines, and controversial RNG errors in their treasure opening system. Overall, the Hero item sets were well received, and the prize pool skyrocketed again for the 7th time.
Unfortunately, the TI8 compendium suffered from the same issues as the TI7 compendium, more recycled content, and more RNG errors. To elaborate on these “errors”, Valve implement a system in their treasure opening called “escalating odds”. In layman terms, Escalating Odds basically means the more treasures you buy, the more likely you will get the actual rarer item that everyone wants. But for the second year in a row, the escalating odds system was broken for one of the treasures. There were hundreds of reports of players opening an uncharacteristically large amount of treasures without receiving any rare items. Players compared their rewards with one another and found that the “escalating odds” was broken, and Valve swiftly sent out a fix.
“Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me”
It’s an understatement to say that players felt robbed after experiencing this bug 2 years in a row. In fact, some players have conjured a rumor stating that this “bug” was intentionally placed by Valve to increase the amount of treasures being bought. Since at the time, the overall performance of the TI7 compendium was a lot slower than the TI6 one. Although this is mostly due to the record low player numbers of Dota 2 at that time. Alas, fans put on their tin-foil hats and came to that conclusion, but more likely than not, its mostly just Valve being Valve. They have a decent track record of silly bugs in their products, and odds are, this wont happen again. For some players though, the 2019 compendium is one that they will not partake in, due to these mistakes.
Continuing with trends of bad things happening twice, the one thing no one wants, is what happened during The Shanghai Major. For those uninitiated, The Shanghai Major was one of the biggest production disasters in all of esports. From laggy streams, to very bad player living conditions, to high profile personalities being fired by Gabe Newell himself. The chances of a “Shanghai Major” making a repeat this TI9 Compendium is very slim, but not out of the realm of possibility. If TI9 Compendium does end up being as bad as The Shanghai Major, its without a question that the community will not stand for it.
Year long delays on rewards
But the biggest issue with the TI7 and TI8 compendium, was involving the premium rewards. On average, a player had to pay just under $1 thousand to receive a Baby Roshan, and a mini mock Aegis. In classic Valve fashion, a date wasn’t disclosed on when players would receive their premium souvenirs, but players assumed it wouldn’t take more than 6 months. As of this articles release, many compendium owners are yet to receive their rewards, 2 years after they purchased them. Of course, Valves communication on the matter was far and few, but a Valve insider disclosed this tweet. One more point on the Baby Roshans, valve did send out the first wave of them, but they looked completely different from what was advertised, and Valve were forced to resend a revised version.
It’s easy to see that this years compendium just wont do as well as the previous year, but everyone is forgetting how powerful the Chinese market is. China leads esports viewership numbers in almost every game, and Chinese players spent more on the compendium than any other audience. Chinese fans traveled all the way from their homeland, going through the atrocious US visa application process, to attend TI in the US. Chinese players are extremely passionate, and have a very strong financial presence for Dota 2. For the first time, TI will be hosted on their turf, and one can only imagine how special it will be for the Chinese scene. Will The International 2019’s prize pool surpass that of TI8? No one can say for certain, but its safe to say, it’s a fools errand to discount China.