This season, there will be about 22 tournaments where teams can participate in and get Qualifying Points for a direct invite to The International 2018. In every tournament, only the top four earn Qualifying Points.
Every single one of those tournaments is required by Valve to conduct regional qualifiers so there is at least one team from each region. Due to the insane number of games, teams find it difficult to join all those events even if they desperately need the points.
Fans also find it difficult to catch up on everything. Sometimes the main event of a tournament is on the same day as the regional qualifier of another tournament. If top teams are playing in the regional qualifier, the main event will lose a lot live viewers.
Seasonal leagues divided by region can be an alternative for Qualifying Points next season. Instead of having to apply to a lot of tournaments and have scheduling conflicts that force teams to drop out, why not join the region's seasonal league added with several tournaments conducted by external organizers?
The main down-side of seasonal leagues will be the monetary reward. Generally, teams join tournaments to earn money. For world class teams, they also want to show how good they are so they can play in The International.
Valve can easily give invites, but not money. With an annual decrease of around 100 thousand in-game players for two consecutive years, it is already amazing that Valve could rely on cosmetics to keep The International prize pools increasing every year up to last year.
This season they seem unhappy with their cosmetics sales, proven by the appearance of Dota Plus subscription. Therefore, it is unlikely for Valve to grant massive prize pools for seasonal leagues.
Just because Valve control Dota 2 does not mean they can force top teams to join their seasonal leagues. Valve need top teams in the main stage of The International and Valve have to make way for top teams to be there no matter if they join Valve's other events or not.
Thankfully, prize pools are not the only source of income available for professional teams. They can also find sponsors that will give them money in exchange for advertising. More streamed games should mean more value for sponsors, shouldn't it?
Figuring out the optimal intrusiveness level of advertising
Physical sports team Manchester United earns around £53 million per year for having Chevrolet written on their jerseys. Their stadium, Old Trafford, has a capacity of 74,994 people. When spectators watch Manchester United play in their stadium, they constantly see sponsorship advertisements both on the jerseys and around the field.
On the other hand, sponsorship advertisements are commonly not visible in Dota 2 professional games. Spectators can see team banners in-game, which is a way to advertise team merchandises, but we will not see the players' jerseys or any other areas that show team sponsorship advertisements in matches.
Huge amount sponsorship deals are more likely to get when there is a lot of room for advertising. For now, Dota 2 does not give nearly as much room as physical sports. With that in mind, it looks like there is not much chance for teams to earn a lot of sponsorship money from online seasonal leagues.
Maybe something needs to change. Top Dota 2 teams already earn a lot of money from events' prize pools, but there are many teams who did not earn much and had to disband due to not winning in qualifiers. The reliance towards ranking high in top tier events for Dota 2 players to make their career work is toxic for the competitive scene, and it needs to change. After all, more professional players is good for the fans.
It is understandable for Dota 2, and esports in general, to be more careful with advertisements compared to physical sports. Irrelevant, and sometimes inappropriate, advertisements in the internet often pop-up and intrude on internet users to the point of the popularization of ad-blocks. People have grown to presume unexpected online advertisements as evil things.
However, sometimes unexpected advertisements are necessary to fund websites and the people behind them. Most people will not leave their hobbies just because of one small change that they dislike, especially if that change does not affect the way they enjoy their hobbies. The secret is to find the acceptable amount and level of intrusiveness for Dota 2 professional games.
Do not be afraid, Valve will not allow overly intrusive in-game sponsorship advertisements
Contrary to popular belief, Valve does not recklessly add new things to Dota 2. Although many people have been vocal about how much they dislike Dota Plus, the in-game player count shows that Valve did not ruin their game with it. Valve is a rich company that hosts tournaments with monstrous prize pools. They are not playing around with Dota 2 and they deserve trust.
Accurate research of the ways to make acceptable in-game sponsorship advertisements is difficult to do. Experiments will need to be done and we may not like it the first time. One thing we need to remember is that Valve want video game players to like Dota 2. If they are making an aspect less likable, they are doing it to make another aspect more likable.
Hopefully, in-game sponsorship advertising for teams is something Valve is already working on. Better sponsorship deals will lead to better professional games for the fans, which will cause worldwide video game players to like Dota 2 more.
How do you feel about seasonal leagues and in-game sponsorship advertisements? Let us know in the comments below!