Dota 2 needs a players union to properly represent players’ concerns

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Dota 2 is one of the biggest esports titles. It has widespread acceptance with professional teams from all over the world. Once a year, Dota 2 hosts The International. It is a tournament which has regularly raised the highest numbers in esports prize pools. But for a game of such stature and structure, Dota 2 lacks a players union.

The players do not have a forum to air their concerns and opinions. With Players Unions forming in other esports titles, it is imperative that the Dota 2 pro circuit does not get left behind. There are several advantages to forming a players union, however, there are also many obstacles to Forming a players union in Dota 2.

Dota 2 needs a Players Union

The Dota 2 esports circuit is well established and it has a large number of players across all tiers. It is one of the few games that have strong teams coming from every region all over the world. Over the past years, we have seen top class teams emerge from North America, South America, CIS, Europe as well as Asia [ Mainly South East Asia]. In addition, there are also several international teams in existence which require greater coordination and a high skill level.

But despite such a wide range of players and teams, Dota 2 does not have a formal Players’ Union. With the growth of esports, the establishment of a players’ union has become one of the top priorities for several esport titles. There are talks of player unions for Overwatch League as well as Counter-Strike Global Offensive. There are various advantages to having a formal players’ union. It is beneficial not only to the players, but also the game developer and third-party tournament.    

As esports continues its growth and becomes more mainstream, the lack of a players’ union is something that needs attention. Players need a forum to represent themselves and speak for their own interests. However, it is up to the players themselves to form a players union. Tournament organisers or Valve cannot be seen as having a stake in any potential union formed.

What are the advantages of a Players’ Union for Dota 2?

As we mentioned before, a players union is beneficial to all the involved parties. The tournament organisers will have a single point of contact with the players. The union will be able to represent their concerns regarding the development of Dota 2 to Valve. In addition to this, there are several perks such as Player representation, ensuring minimum facilities at tournaments and a greater collective bargaining power in general.

Communication channel with Valve

Dota 2 is Valve’s brainchild with a lot of inputs from the game’s caretaker, IceFrog. As is the case with any MOBA game, it is necessary to release regular updates to balance the game. Any new hero or item release is followed by several tweaks to other characters and their abilities. However, even in a phase when no new heroes are released, Valve has to release updates to keep the game fresh.

Having a direct line of communication with Valve would help players to air their opinions on several matters. They would be able to help shape Valve policies regarding certain decisions in the game. This might be a feedback on Dota Plus, the Compendium TI8 structure or player contracts. Having a direct line of communication regardless of whether you are on a top tier team or not is essential to keep the game healthy.

Feedback on the esports scene

The Dota Pro Circuit 2018-19 starts with the Kuala Lumpur Major in November. Valve announced the dates and the format of the current DPC season a few weeks ago. There is a drastic reduction in the number of Majors and Minors this year compared to last year. In turn, the total prize money for the season also seems to be significantly lower. Valve’s intention in scheduling the lower number of events is obvious. They want to ensure proper rest and a fixed schedule for the Dota 2 scene.

There is now a hierarchy in the Dota 2 esports scene. The winner of a Dota 2 minor will receive an invite to the next Major. Teams that place high in a Dota 2 Major have a much higher chance of receiving an invite to the International 2019. But with the first Major allowing a prize pool of $ 1 million and assuming it remains similar across the remainder of the calendar, we will actually see a significant dip in the prize money for Dota 2.

Is this due to the lack of interest from Third party tournament organisers? Or did Valve enforce the limitations on the number of tournaments first and then proceed with registrations? It does seem like it is a Valve decision which has led to the lower number of tournaments. Since this is something that will directly impact the livelihood of Dota 2 players, it should have been a topic of discussion between Valve, the teams and the players.

We are sure Valve does take feedback from the players, but having a players union puts forth greater negotiating power. The players would have a collective bargaining power which would ensure proper treatment as equals from Valve.

Representation against Fraudulent organisations

Esports has a long history of organisations not paying players their salaries despite having valid contracts and/or promises. In the past, this was often overlooked simply because of the huge resources that a player would require to pursue legal action. However, it is not the case anymore. Today we have law firms specialising in esports and willing to provide legal assistance to players, teams and tournament organisers.

A players union would substantially lower the costs of representing a player. The collective funds in a players union would be sufficient to pay for legal costs, which would not burden individual players.  This is something that is extremely necessary yet we have not seen any move towards the same so far in Dota 2. With CS: GO and Overwatch forming their own players’ union, Dota 2 cannot be far behind. But as of yet, we have not heard of any talks of a players’ union.

Collective Bargaining power

Having the strength in numbers gives a big advantage to forming a players union. With bigger numbers, they have a higher collective bargaining power. They can demand certain minimum facilities at tournaments such as the quality and number of peripherals, the schedule, living conditions etc. Tournament organisers always want to save money and it is their right to do so. However, there are minimum requirements when you are a professional gamer. Substandard PCs can severely hamper your game and alter the competitive nature of a tournament.

Dota 2 players have had instances when a team owner would want to take a lion’s share of The International victory prize money. Wings Gaming suffered due to their decision to fight against their team owner.

However, there are several obstacles to forming a players’ union that would actually be effective. For one, the players in Dota 2 are scattered all over the world. Unlike Overwatch league or the CSPPA which are North American Unions, Dota 2 Players Union will have a tough time finding common ground. Do the players register a union in one part of the world? How does that hold up for the players from another region? There are several unique questions which arise when we think of a players’ union. However, the fact is that the players need to have a collective voice, to air their concerns and have a communication channel. What do you think is the right approach to forming a Players union in Dota 2?


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