Why the Fiasco of Seattle May only be the Beginning...
Only a few days have passed since the Swedes from Alliance lifted the Aegis of Champions at the Benaroya Hall in Seattle, United States during The International 2013 - Valve’s third annual event. Like each year, this event was full of surprises, some good and others bad, but at the end of the day, what we all remember from it is that - after several years at the top - the domination of the Chinese teams has (finally) come to an end. Does the “Fiasco of Seattle” mean that the Chinese teams will never conquer Valve’s ARTS title again? No! But reconquering the scene will take time and effort. It will be one of their toughest challenges. In this column, I focus on some of the reasons that led to this downfall and what should be done by the Chinese teams and organizations in order to avoid this situation at the next International.
1. The Chinese are no longer advantaged
For several years, the Chinese teams were arguably the best at Defense of the Ancients while Natus Vincere was the only western team capable of competing with them on Valve’s Dota 2. There are several reasons that can explain this phenomenon and “They are born in China” is not one of them. It does no matter if you are Korean or Chinese; they are not born with a gift for gaming. The only difference between Koreans, Chinese and the rest of the world is the environment in which they play video games. Nowadays, a lot of people say that the Chinese have always played in the best environment possible with a team house and a fairly good salary. While this is not true whatsoever, the fact is that they benefited from all this way earlier than the rest of the world. However, the Electronic Sports industry has grown considerably, and a few western teams now have the opportunity to play in the same conditions, or almost, than the Chinese teams. Who are in the top 3 at this year’s International? Correct! Alliance, Natus Vincere and Orange eSports. What’s their common point with the Chinese? Another good answer! They all play in a team house and have a decent or even good salary. Now, what’s the difference between the western teams and the Chinese teams? Association of Chinese eSports.
2. Association of Chinese eSports
In an interview with the chairman of the Association of Chinese eSports, Pei “King” Le, was quick to mention that this association was not aiming to control the teams. As a matter of fact, they do have some control over them. A team can’t participate in any tournament if the prize-money is lower than 250,000 RMB. At the exception of DreamHack and RaidCall EMS, the western scene does not have any tournaments with more than 250,000 RMB (i.e. $30,000) in prize-money. What does this mean? It means that if there was such an association for the western scene with the same regulations, teams would be playing only two tournaments (not counting the different seasons) throughout year. Isn’t it ridiculous considering that all the players who started playing this game did it because they enjoyed it and because they actually wanted to play the game?
The Chinese teams used to have a significant advantage over the western teams with the team house and salary, but now that several western teams have caught up, the Chinese teams are now disadvantaged. Indeed, while the Chinese teams may still be ahead than most western teams with their team house and salary, they are way behind when it comes to playing the game. This year, the Chinese teams participated in ONLY five tournaments while the western teams played in no less than nine tournaments i.e. four more tournaments. This is already a pretty big deal not to mention that the format used in most of these tournaments actually allow the teams to play more than three matches no matter what. Some of you may not understand what I am trying to say right now so I am going to use numbers.
One of the most powerful Chinese teams, Team DK, participated in five tournaments this year and played 30 official matches (11 Best-of-One’s, 4 Best-of-Two’s, 13 Best-of-Three’s and 2 Best-of-Five’s). The Swedes of Alliance played 83 official matches through eight different tournaments (45 Best-of-One’s, 4 Best-of-Two’s, 33 Best-of-Three’s and 1 Best-of-Five). What should you remember from this? Well, it does not matter how good you are, if you do not have any official matches where you can execute strategies or heroes that you have tried out in practice games, you will have poor results against the teams who can.
Last year, before the second edition of The International, I hosted an event for the Asian participating teams, and despite having a low prize-pool, the teams still enjoyed playing this event. They did not care about the money, but it was still a good way for them to play some serious matches. After The International, some players even thanked me for hosting such an event. But now that ACE have entered into the Dota 2 world, hosting these online events are now impossible. Did ACE become too powerful to give a chance to their teams to practice?
3. The Chinese teams lack creativity
This is probably a point that we all agree on. The Chinese teams have never really excelled in the creativity department, and this is true that they often use the western strategies and master them. However, they do not play new strategies or heroes because they do not want to, but because they can’t. When you play a tournament like the G-1 Champions League where the ranking in the groupstage is so important, you do not want to use heroes or strategies that you have never used in an official match before and risk to lose a match that you should normally win. It is a lot easier to try out new heroes or strategies in western tournaments for two reasons:
o The format is a lot better, more matches
o The prize-pool is “low” compared to the Chinese tournaments
When you are LGD-Gaming or Team DK, do you want to try out new heroes or strategies in the Dota 2 Super League, a tournament that offers no less than $160,000 in prizemoney? No! When you are Alliance or Natus Vincere, are you willing to play new heroes or strategies in a $10,000 tournament considering that you play like 3 of those every couple of months? Definitely!
4. ACE is not the only organization to blame
While the Association of Chinese eSports are playing an important role in the downfall of their teams at The International, the teams are also at fault. When you look at the Korean League of Legends teams, most of them have minimum two coaches and a manager, and by manager, I do not mean scheduler. When did the players’ ego become more important than hiring a coach, a person who can make the difference between a win and a defeat?
It is fair to say that TongFu’s performance over the last few months have been fantastic, and while people praise Yang “KingJ” Zhou for improving the team, people seem to forget the big contribution of former ViCi Gaming player and now TongFu’s coach, Junjie “sydm” Tong. During the Dota 2 Super League, he just show to the world how important and efficient a coach can be in a team, and at the end of the day, I was sad to see that people barely gave him any credit. You can be the most successful player in the history of the game or play in the most successful team in the world, you are not perfect and a coach can correct these imperfections. Sometimes, it is really too hard to admit that we do mistakes so we ignore them, but a coach is there to show you these mistakes and help you correct them.
You now know what to do. You want to be successful, and be at the top again? Get a coach! Of course a coach will not guarantee you a win, but I am 99% sure that he can improve the performances of the team.
Furthermore, I remember teams saying that they do not want to play in small tournaments anymore. When did they become so good to play in smaller tournaments? I am sure that TongFu enjoyed playing in the AMD Premier League Season 1. I am sure that this tournament helped them find themselves. I am also sure that this tournament gave them the confidence to win the Dota 2 Super League. If you are too good to participate in small tournaments, then do not be surprised to lose against teams who play in these low tournaments.
5. What should the Chinese teams and organizations should do?
The Association of Chinese eSports is NEEDED, it’s a fact. I do not want to imagine what would have happened to some teams if this association was not here. However, these teams are here to play games, and I do believe that King and his staff should not have their word to say regarding the tournaments they want to play as long as there are no problems. If a team confirms their participation in five tournaments and forfeit some matches in four of them, this is obviously an issue, but what if there is no issue at all? Why would ACE forbid them from participating in tournaments if everything goes smooth?
If ACE do not want the Chinese teams to be behind at the next International, let the teams participate in more tournaments. I truly feel that the Alienware Cup and the RedBull ECL was more beneficial than the Dota 2 Super League. Why? Because in these tournaments, with less money, the teams were not scared to try out new heroes and strategies. This was the first time I saw the teams try stuff and play with confidence, with no fear.
If ACE ever agree with this, the teams should then participate in more online tournaments, no matter how low the prize-money is as long as it is not ridiculously low. By participating in more tournaments, the teams receive more exposure, and probably more money. Isn’t it the purpose of ACE? Help the teams become more sustainable? How did the Alienware Cup ffect ACE and its teams? Wasn’t it a good experience for every parties involved?
NOTE: I am sure that after reading this article, some of you will think that I am harsh towards ACE and the teams/players. As I mentioned earlier, ACE is needed, and there is definitely room for improvement. I am not going to kiss their ass just because they are powerful, and the same goes with the players. I am not going to support them if they do stupid things even if they are LGD.xiao8, DK.BurNIng, iG.Ferrari_430 or TongFu.Hao. These players are amazing, but if they do things wrong, then they need someone to tell them. Protecting them will actually make them weaker.