Dota 2 Feature: Exit Stage Left: North America’s Dota 2 scene

Home to Valve, North America’s Dota 2 scene continues to decline as more teams and players exit the stage. 

Historically, North American Dota has been a bit behind the curve in both competitive Dota 2 and viewership relative to other regions like Europe and China.

In recent years SEA has started to rise and now even South America is growing in leaps and bounds. 

This last year alone, Peru was tied for first as the most represented country at The International 2022 with 13/100 players hailing from the country. Thunder Awaken had written history for the South America region even before the TI11 Main Event kicked off in the Suntec Arena, by securing a spot in the Upper Bracket playoffs and then ended with a stunning 5-6th place finish. 

But other than Evil Geniuses and their big TI5 championship win, North America has mostly stagnated at best and is fading off the stage at worst. 

What’s going on?

The NA region has an infamous reputation for its roster inconsistency. Individual players within the NA region are a bit more trigger-happy to make the changes they deem necessary, but for the most part, the NA region is not any different from the other regions. 

The lack of sponsorships forces NA players to juggle Dota 2, school, and jobs leaving very little time for anything else. This same problem is felt within all regions for most tier-two teams but is much more prevalent in the NA region. The problem has much less to do with the teams in the NA region and more so with the overall system and situation.

The NA region does not have a lack of talented players waiting for their time to conquer the international stage. It has a lack of sponsorships to maintain the cohesion necessary to take them there.

Perhaps no players know this better than those in Quincy Crew.

Two years ago Quincy Crew threatened to dethrone Evil Geniuses’ grasp on the region’s monopoly as they headed into The International 10. 

Quincy Crew had been through the ‘organization’ ringer since its inception in 2018. Forming as a stack in the post-TI8 shuffle, they were quickly picked up by Forward Gaming just a few weeks later. In July 2019 the organization went bust and released the squad BEFORE their TI9 appearance, but was quickly scooped up by Newbee before the big event. 

Following their commendable 9-12th place finish at The International 9, Quincy Crew went back to their original moniker before being picked up by Chaos Esports in November 2019. 

Once again, the team was dropped as Chaos bowed out of Dota 2 amid financial concerns in March 2020 and has been Quincy Crew until picked up before The International 11 by Soniqs —which incidentally dropped them shortly after the conclusion of the big event. 

In the last several years, for every new organization that enters and stays in the North American region, approximately four leave the region or Dota 2 behind —Exit Stage Left: Team Liquid, Team Dignitas, Cloud9, compLexity Gaming, Optic Gaming, Chaos Esports, Forward Gaming, Newbee International (ok special conditions apply but still stands they didn’t stick around), etc. 

The biggest blow to the region came only two weeks ago when Evil Geniuses released their full Dota 2 roster and confirmed their interest in South America. 

For Dota 2, the money – the sponsors and the various tournament prizes- aren’t there to be had unless you are part of the elite, top teams.

Big tournaments being hosted in the region are at an all-time low. The PGL Dota 2 Major Arlington 2022 was the first Major to be held in NA since the Boston Major in 2016.

Two months ago one of the oldest tournament organizer and esports production companies, Beyond the Summit, announced they would not produce a DPC league next year and most likely would not be involved in the Dota 2 competitive scene at all in 2023.

Besides tournaments, partnership deals for organizations in the NA region are limited. 

Much of the industry is heavily reliant on sponsorship and brand partnership revenue with an overbalanced tendency towards riskier industries such as gambling and newer trends or emerging industries. 

In June 2021 North American esports organization TSM signed a 10-year naming rights deal, valued at $210m with FTX Trading Limited and West Realm Shires Services Inc, the owners of cryptocurrency exchanges FTX and FTX.US.

However, the collapse of FTX a few weeks ago left the cryptocurrency industry and esports in a bind.

TSM announced that it has cut ties with crypto exchange FTX. And most likely there will be more trouble with any teams that are partnered with crypto businesses. 

What to do?

Due to this volatile nature, people have stopped believing in North American Dota as a whole.

Arkosh Gaming was created to inject rivalry and interest by Jake “SirActionSlacks” Kanner in the NA region in 2020 and one year ago they were competing in Division 1 of the DPC. But it seemed to create more controversy than interest and never really brought about a surge in interest in the region, just the team. 

So what are things that can be done? South America’s rise is because more opportunities were created and interest in sponsorships and partnerships came along with it. 

Southeast Asia continues to be a hotspot for fans and players, with a healthy interest and investment in seeing the scene grow and flourish. 

Despite the cost of living in some countries in Europe, the scene is alive and well with no shortage of investments or key stakeholders willing to give teams and players a shot or opportunities. 

China has its own ecosystem and culture surrounding esports and Dota 2. Between academy teams, leagues, living facilities, and other support the pipeline and overall institution is positive. 

What can be done to make America Dota great? Is it even possible or is this a region that is too focused on console gaming or other priorities? Do we write off NA and make them part of South America in a reversal of what used to be for SA Dota players? 

Let’s hear the suggestions in the comments below and perhaps we can look at raising awareness and ideas to make it happen.