Industry Sources in China Claim Valve Declined Offers to Host The International 10 in Shanghai

Valve Corporation was offered and rejected an opportunity to host The International in Shanghai this year, according to several people familiar with the situation who spoke publicly about it.

On Oct.10, Dota 2 shoutcaster Kyle Freedman posted an opinion piece expressing his disappointment with Valve’s handling of the global Dota 2 esports ecosystem during the COVID-19 pandemic. Translated by Team Aster CEO Zhili Guo and published on Chinese social media platform Weibo, the article went viral, drawing even more criticism of Valve Corporation in China. 

Responding to the post, Zhou “Haitao” Lingxiang, co-founder of the Chinese tournament organizer Imba TV, agreed with Freedman’s assessment and revealed that Valve’s partner in China, Perfect World (the distributor of Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive in the country), had spoken to the company about bringing TI10 to Shanghai this year. He also claims that this offer had the support of the Shanghai government.

“From April to May, Perfect World CEO Hong Xiao reached out to Valve and asked if Valve is willing to move The International 2020 to Shanghai, and the Shanghai government expressed full support for the event. However, Valve refused this proposal,” Lingxiang claimed on his Weibo.

In addition, Pan “RURU” Jie, the founder and CEO of LGD Gaming, reposted Lingxiang’s Weibo and confirmed his statement, adding that the Shanghai government’s support would be similar to what it provided to TJ Sports/Riot Games for the League of Legends World Championship.

Both Valve and Perfect World did not respond to requests for comment at the time of writing.

The Shanghai government has been providing support to power the annual League of Legends event in the city since August by deploying an advertising campaign at many Shanghai metro stations, malls, university complex street, and even multiple Worlds-related ground stamps at Nanjing Road, one of the famous commercial roads in China (similar to London’s Oxford Road).

Sources close to the Shanghai government told The Esports Observer that some of that government support has been provided for free. 

Since Valve decided to cancel this year’s TI10 in Stockholm, Sweden, and delay it to July 2021, it has faced criticism from the global Dota 2 community. In addition to TI10 being canceled, Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) events were shut down this year as well–even as the prize pool money for TI10 surpassed $40M USD this month.

The lack of competition during the COVID-19 pandemic has hurt multiple second- and third-tier Dota 2 teams that ultimately decided to disband due to lack of funding. In September, LLya Vlasov, the CEO of Singapore esports organization Reality Rift, announced his decision to shut down the organization’s Dota 2 squad. He explained that low effort management from Valve was one of the main reasons that he made his decision.

“The only thing that saves the whole scene from collapsing is the fact that Dota 2 is a great game, that people love and hate sometimes,” said Vlasov.

Even one of the biggest Chinese Dota 2 teams PSG.LGD is losing sponsorship value from no DPC events this year. During 2019 The International, PSG.LGD had ten active sponsors; now it only has six.  

Valve acknowledged its failure to communicate on Dota 2 esports-related issues and promised to provide resources to third parties in September. On Monday, Valve committed $45K USD to help organizer Live media Esports Entertainment support the South American Dota 2 scene. However, Dota 2 professionals and fans show more concerns about the sustainability of the whole esports ecosystem, and uncertain pandemic forecasts in Europe for TI10 in the next year. 

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