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What the Major/Minor system means for competitive Dota 2

The new esports ecosystem seems intimidating, but let’s break down the facts.

Fans wait for teams outside Key Arena before the first day of The International 7.
Dota 2 Official Photostream/Valve

Before the group stages of The International 7 this August, Valve shared with players and managers details of the upcoming Major/Minor system announced several weeks before. This particular announcement put 22 sponsors third-party events and millions of dollars on the calendar for players.

The new competitive circuit already had a lot going for it. Announced in early July, the upcoming season would, first and foremost, re-introduce more regular third-party events as the main focus of the competitive year. It also makes transparent The International’s invites by introducing Qualifying Points, which are accumulated through the events over the year. It also requires each event to have a minimum prize pool, open qualifiers for all six of The International’s qualifying regions and a LAN final.

At first glance, the sudden transparency can be a bit overwhelming for anyone trying to understand it all at once. It’s understandable, as the new ecosystem attempts to fix plenty of issues in the Dota 2 competitive scene at once. The prospect of a good compromise in an esports ecosystem seems impossible to most, but the new Major/Minor system comes extremely close.

Elbow room for organizers

A long-term concern of the Majors system was how the presence of only two (or three) Majors could limit the presence of tournaments and organizers throughout the year, and for a solid number of reasons, intentional or not.

For the first year of Majors, only three production studios were allowed to organize: respectively ESL, Perfect World and PGL. For the 2016-17 season, it was only PGL. With the introduction of the Major/Minor system, a variety of production studios, esports event organizers and more can get their chance to show their chops. This year, ten companies will host events for the circuit.

A fan holds a sign at The International 7.
Dota 2 Official Photostream/Valve

Valve’s lack of communication about these massive events also made it difficult for third-party event organizers to plan their own. On several occasions, including DreamLeague Season 6 in late 2016, organizers would have their events announced, with qualifiers nearly completed, before Valve announced their events (in this case, the Boston Major). This mean that teams would need to drop out of the events entirely in order to train or be present.

Time to shine

This pre-Major crunch also became an issue in and of itself. It did create a good “beat” for the season, but it also limited how often events could be held between Majors.

In a 17-week season for two majors, three weeks would be spent shuffling rosters, and many teams spend two or three weeks before events actually training. Larger “premier” events spanning beyond a weekend could take up two weeks’ worth of time (after travel). Plus, there were the qualifiers for the Majors themselves, which put many teams’ schedules up in the air for two weeks.

In the end, there would only be about 10 weeks per season for tournaments to organize — and even less before and after The International.

According to several sources, Valve has made the explicit effort to ensure no two events overlap. In other words, they acknowledged all of the aforementioned scheduling problems and made care that it wouldn’t happen again, allowing organizers to safely plan their events.

Mindful participation

Of course, with 22 events on the board plus the confirmed presence of a “roster swap window,” teams aren’t going to be able to play literally every event. Between travel, training and normal human rest, trying to attend all of the planned tournaments would likely put players in a worse spot than they started.

But that may very well be the point. (Not exhausting the players. More so, not being at every event.)

Team Liquid at The International 7.
Dota 2 Official Photostream/Valve

While attending every small competition may have been hot in 2013, it’s clear that the Minors are intended for smaller teams, with less money and fewer QPs on the table. Larger teams are allowed to attend, of course, but there may be conflict with, say, the qualifiers of a Major and the main event of a Minor. Teams may also elect to train during this time as well, though they can lose out on valuable QPs sitting out to long.

In other words, there’s the hope that Dota 2 teams in all tiers will learn and understand where they are in the scene, plus how they will prepare for events, and which events they should take into consideration.

Growing up

All of this means that, in the long run, there will be more room to grow for professional Dota players—and those that are aspiring to such. Smaller teams have a better chance to shine now than anytime in the past few years. The changes come as the presence, or lack thereof, of the tier-two scene became a looming question for the long-term health of competitive and regional Dota 2.

Tier-two and tier-three teams will be encouraged to reach any tournament they can, as the threat of larger-than-life pros at every small event is removed. This means that they’ll be more frequently presented with talent of their own, and higher, caliber on a regular basis, and the LAN events ensure different environments.

Dota 2 fans wait to enter The International 7.
Dota 2 Official Photostream/Valve

Plus, with the requirement of open qualifiers for each region, teams in regions that are underrepresented but well-packed, such as South America and the Commonwealth of Independent States, will have more room to breathe. Local scenes are encouraged to grow in order to show what they’ve got internationally as players are presented with the prospect of flying out to compete professionally.

And in the end, that’s what it should be all about: making the dream possible for anyone. While there will probably be Open Qualifiers for The International, there’s now a more transparent—and more exciting—way for teams to make their climb to the top. Anything can happen during the year, but what we expect is that the 2017-18 season be action-packed for Dota 2 fans, tournament organizers and pros of all ages and skill levels.