This last month saw the conclusion of the first Epicenter, the first of its name and the biggest Dota 2 tournament put on by European production house Epic Esports Events. The five-man team who arranged and organized the entire tournament put on quite a show, with a massive Roshan on-stage and incredible lighting effects. Epicenter wasn't just the premiere of high-level competitive 6.87 Dota, it was signalling a change in the winds, a shift that needs to happen.
Moscow deserves a major.
A symbol of a more structured landscape, Valve instituted the majors as a means of not only ensuring competitive stability, but also to move the focus of large tournaments to new areas, bringing an International-level experience to locales outside of Seattle.
These premier tournaments highlight the best of Dota, the kind of spectacle and sense of scale that elevates the competition into keystone moments. Storylines are played out, rivalries meet, titans clash, and the crowd's roar pours out of the arena. It's an experience unlike any other in esports. Moving the tournament system into a major format, similar to Counter-Strike's, allows Valve to bring that experience to audiences around the globe.
This also highlights an underlying theme of the majors: they take place in areas that Valve and tournament organizers identify as viable for a large-scale Dota championship. While competitive Dota 2 certainly isn't lacking in an audience online, hosting a major highlights that region and puts a spotlight on them, similar to hosting the Olympics or World Cup.
Valve's three choices for this year's majors are fairly straightforward. Europe is a no-brainer, as it's an accessible time zone for many regions, and since many top competitors come from European backgrounds. Shanghai reflects the Chinese influence on Dota 2, which has existed since the days when it was still called "DotA." Manila may seem odd, but it's a burgeoning scene with many interesting play styles and teams, including Fnatic and Mineski.
"Moving the tournament system into a major format, similar to Counter-Strike's, allows Valve to bring that experience to audiences around the globe."
The United States already hosts The International, so no major required, but where does that leave the audience of Eastern Europe and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)? They seem like the odd ball out.
Yet, if you look at recent Dota history, Moscow should be completely deserving of a major. Based on the teams to come from that region, you have strong competitors like Team Empire and Virtus.Pro, not to mention the Natus Vincere squad that dominated Dota 2 for more than a year.
Production-wise, Epicenter proved the region has both the talent and audience for it. While Starladder is already hosted in Kiev, the Epic Esports Events team showed a knack for putting on a production above the level of any other premier tournament this year. While Frankfurt was a fairly by-the-numbers production, the Shanghai Major suffered repeated production issues, network problems, and reports of poor conditions for players and talent. Frankly, Epicenter made the Shanghai Major look like an amateur production.
Players were also enthusiastic to talk about how well Epicenter handled the show behind the scenes, accommodating for travel and food better than most earlier events they had been to in the region. Kyle "swindlemelonzz" Freedman, captain of Complexity Gaming, noted the immediate availability of practice rooms for teams as a plus. Many other tournaments, he says, didn't let teams practice until an hour or so before matches.
"Imagine a basketball team traveling for playoffs and they're not allowed on the courts for three days," said Freedman. "It's just not how things should be done."
Crowds also packed the arena in Moscow every night for Epicenter, and there were plenty of non-competitive culture events like a cosplay competition that kept the energy high during downtime. The crowd cheered and roared for every big event, regardless of national pride, and the production only dipped in small areas, with immediate fixes and feedback being recognized.
The CIS and Eastern European region has been home to many Dota teams, and even more Dota fans. It's a region clearly ready to take the major stage and show international Dota fans just how proud the community is in Moscow. It's even better for the Epic Esports Events team to manage it. After last week's production, many eyes will be on them for the upcoming Epicenter 2.0, and it would be fantastic to see what they could do with the resources of a major.
So please Valve, when looking over the regions to host majors for this coming year, think of the crowds, the massive Rosh, the heart of the Moscow audience and the level of excitement they have for the game.