While it’s not exactly half-time in the pro circuit season, with 6 more months left and most of the Qualifier Points still to be distributed, it’s still worth looking into what the Dota 2 Pro Circuit has been thus far in comparison to the expectations going into it and perhaps early signs of what needs to improve in a potential second season.
One of the biggest concerns regarding the new Pro Circuit was the issue of oversaturation and scheduling overlaps. Players and teams were concerned that qualifiers would overlap and that players would be forced to choose which tournaments to participate in, whereras parts of the community were worried that there would be too many online tournaments and qualifiers at the same time.
A lot of these concerns turned out to be rather valid, especially for teams at the lower end of the spectrum that are forced to play open qualifiers, most of which overlap. But even main qualifiers can and have been affected by this, as rescheduling a single match can cause a ripple effect that will affect multiple qualifiers at once.
From a viewer#s perspective, the qualifiers have been scheduled in bursts, meaning they are all stacked on top of one another for a short period of time before multiple LANs occur. This qualifier period can feel overwhelming, but generally this also allows fans to always watch Dota at any given time of the day and the likes of Na’Vi have proven that online matches can still draw big numbers.
When Majors were first introduced to Dota 2, it felt like people around the world were offered the chance to experience what The International felt like. The support from Valve allowed these events to be massive in a variety of aspects: prizepool, teams, format and everything from venue to player accommodations. While the Shanghai Major sticks out like a sore thumb, events like the Manila Major have rivaled TI in both atmosphere and excitement.
But when the Boston Major and Kiev Major rolled around, there were concerns, especially from the player side of things. Players would not be provided food on days they didn’t play matches the format was cut down to a single elimination playoff bracket and accomodations were considered to be cut down to only 7 people instead of 8, meaning additional staff would have to be paid for by the teams themselves.
In a lot of ways, these Majors were preparation for the first Pro Circuit season, where Majors are no longer the big, TI like events, but rather third-party events with a higher prizepool. ESL One Hamburg and DreamLeague Season 8 have certainly had teams and games worthy of a Major, but especially ESL One Hamburg stands out with its 4 team playoff bracket and bo1 encounters in its group stage. Both events differ from the previous Majors in that they only have 8 teams on LAN, as opposed to 16. No Pro Circuit event in this season has had more than 10 teams thus far and while a couple of upcoming events will feature 16 teams, it’s unlikely to be the norm in the long run.
For viewers, the quality of events hasn’t changed too much, if anything it is a refreshing pace of change to see teams from every region at every event. That said, no event has truly felt like the “old” Majors yet, neither in size nor prestige.
One of the biggest differences between current Pro Circuit events and previous Majors is the format. For years now, Valve events have looked to steer away from Bo1s as much as possible. To accomplish that, TIs usually last over a week and Majors have taken about a week as well, with numerous days on the main stage. Current Pro Circuit events tend to last only about 4 days with fewer main stage days. As a result, Pro Circuit events have had inferior formats to previous Majors, often with multiple Bo1s, shorter playoff stages or simply no group stage at all.
The Pro Circuit season thus far has been enjoyable, with many teams clashing at various events and more storylines to follow than before, especially when looking at events hosted by the same organizer. The assigned prestige of Minor or Major makes it easier to evaluate a tournament's importance and the regional requirements ensure a diverse set of teams at every event.
There are still hiccups in regards to scheduling and a variety of Minors and Majors were already forced to be cancelled, but the Pro Circuit thus far benefits everyone. It's a necessary step into the right direction, but adjustments will likely have to be made if there is supposed to be a second season. For now though, it's a welcoming change that makes the competitive scene feel refreshed.