Interview conducted by Kary
Esports Heaven was able to interview David 'GoDz' Parker about the current state of the Tier2/3 season, details on Beyond the Summit, and the comparison of esports formats. He also delves into loyal vs. "the next big thing" fanbases as well as shares his thoughts on the regional leagues recently announced by Valve.
[UPDATE] Note: This interview was majorly conducted over the first week in February and later updated with latest questions over the course of the same month.
Hey David. Nice to have a chat with you again. How are you doing?
I'm doing well - the new year has been nice so far.
Let’s begin with Dota Summit 11. It was the first time for BTS to host a Valve certified event in the new DPC season. What circumstances led to BTS hosting a DPC event?
Being a part of the DPC has always been an exciting proposition for us. However, I think because of the "Summit" style of events, we were always hesitant to run a Summit where we had no control over the invited teams participating since the teams are such a key part of the show. For DS11, we decided to focus on running a new style of "Summit" event with a live audience and more fan engagement. It felt like the right time to try innovate with making The Summit a DPC event.
Speaking of which, what was the experience of hosting a DPC event like? Also, how different is it to host a DPC event as compared to a regular Summit?
Running a DPC event was fantastic as far as having a feeling that our event tied directly into the Dota 2 calendar year and road to The International for 2020. As mentioned, having teams entirely decided by qualifiers makes it harder to control the show and content we want to do since we were only finding out which teams would attend around 3 weeks before the event. But we also learned a lot about how to work with new talent and personalities. There were some amazing personalities who were great on camera such as JT- from iG and DM from HellRaisers.
Many people (as in the viewers) feel that Summit 11 lost a little bit of touch of that entire “cozy”, “play at home in a relaxed way” kind of atmosphere. Is it because you have a new studio or was it done intentionally?
It was definitely intentional. We were running a DPC event with a live audience. There was some consideration to not even calling it a "Dota Summit" since it was intentionally a very different event. What we realized is that we can still capture a lot of the Summit charm with the content we put out such as the "Grant Jokur" piece and different live Slacks segments we did as well.
The Summit is probably the only major Dota 2 event that is being consistently hosted in North America especially in the past 2-3 years. Besides that, there are barely any tournaments being held over there. What are your thoughts on this issue and the state of Dota 2 scene in NA regarding esports as a whole?
I think it's hard to run Dota 2 events in NA because the game isn't that big here compared to other regions and that makes it hard to find local support. Running events in the US is going to be more expensive than most other regions to begin with, then you combine that with local partners or venues wanting to focus on the more popular NA titles (LoL, CoD, Overwatch, etc), it becomes quite undesirable to run events in NA for most people. BTS is planning to stick around so you can expect those events in NA to continue at least!
For the past few Summits, we are not seeing participation from all of the top tier teams due to many reasons. Can you tell us the current state of affairs regarding the same? Is it due to DPC, or teams being very selective or preferring other events? Does it, in any way, hurt the tournament?
The lack of events in NA makes it hard for teams to want to travel here for our events. For top tier teams, they have countless events to choose between, and they generally look at which have the most favourable conditions with travel time being a big factor that goes into it. Teams are worried about exhausting themselves and burning out. The schedule is pretty exhausting, and new events are popping up every year.
Related: Bkop: “The reason I cast Chinese Dota so much is because I don’t sleep much and I use my time covering it to escape from the pain of my Crohn’s disease”
Is this also the reason for branching out to other games like CS:GO, Smash, etc. to become more stable? I’ve heard from quite a few people in this industry that only hosting events for one game isn’t suitable for survival.
I would love to see BTS still running Dota 2 events in 2030. Another decade and more of Dota 2 would be fantastic, and I think the scene and audience wants that and isn't going anywhere because the game is so amazing. With that said, it's not our game. Valve are a business and we don't know their 10 or 20 year plan for Dota 2. I don't think they know themselves or have one, nor should they. Things change so rapidly in the esports scene these days, and running events for other games is partly about stability for BTS, but it's also about passion for those games. More than half our company are huge Smash nerds, so while I know nothing about the game itself, I can say that we are just as passionate about Smash as we are with Dota 2. All the game titles that we move into and run Summits for there's always an element of passion - if we don't want to work on a title - it's reflected in the quality of the end product.
That brings me to my next question: Is hosting a tournament profitable? If you can, please breakdown the expenses and responsibilities an event production company has when it comes to hosting tournaments.
I think the answer for this is different for every TO. Some TO's goals isn't to run profitable events. I'd speculate that WePlay's recent Minor wasn't profitable but that also it wasn't their goal to be profitable. They ran one of the most impressive non-TI events in a long time and got a ton of eyeballs and people talking about them. For other TO's who have been around a while, the goal is generally to try find the right balance between sustainability and entertainment.
As far as breakdown of expenses, there's probably enough to list that I'd spend more time writing that list than the rest of this interview!
Moving on, how do you see the state of Dota 2 right now in terms of the dwindling player base, growth in general, etc. especially after the outlanders update? Is it becoming more of a spectator sport as BSJ once mentioned in an interview? What are the things that need to change in order for a positive development?
I think it is becoming more of a spectator sport. The Dota 2 community and audience is getting older which generally means less time for playing games with the added life responsibilities. Dota 2 is also a very complex game where for most people it's hard to play casually a few games a week and keep up, so the idea of just watching big tournaments and not playing is quite appealing.
I would love to see more and more players get into Dota 2, and hopefully we see some new features to attract and help new players. For now, the viewership and audience is still loyal to Dota 2, and that's a really positive sign that there will continue to be events for many years to come even if the player base isn't growing.
That brings me to my next question. The tier 2/3 scene is also not seeing much growth in terms of sustainability and players are calling it quits or shifting their focus to another game. Is this a matter of concern and how can it be tackled?
This is a tricky one and my stance on this issue comes a bit from the business side and what I see in other games or pro sports. There's not much of an audience for the scene, so monetization just isn't possible. I think there's an unrealistic expectation that Tier2-3 scene players should be able to compete full-time as their only source of income. Perhaps they could do so 2-3 years ago, and that's where that expectation came from, and that changed. But ultimately, a lot of semi-professional athletes are working other jobs, or not able to financially support themselves from their craft alone. A rank 300-500 tennis player could earn only $50-100k USD during his entire career for example. The situation really boils down to one question: 'is there an audience?'. If there is, then sponsors, prize money, team support (salaries) will all follow.
Is BTS going to come up with something to support Tier 2/3 scenes?
I think we already do constantly. We broadcast countless tier 2-3 scene events. We utilize our audience and the fact people just like to tune into BTS to promote new teams and players constantly. We're doing what we can to build and grow an audience for new players and teams throughout the entire year. We're running qualifiers and events where possible for different regions and levels as well. Are BTS going to "save" the tier 2/3 scene and throw a bunch of money at some issue ( which wouldn't even be fixed by doing so?) Of course not. But we've already done more than almost any organization as far as trying to help make the tier 2/3 scene sustainable.
Moving on, another thing that worries me is the recent OWL fiasco. Inflated numbers, “alleged” issues cropping up with top personalities leaving the scene, etc. is being seen as an indicator that things aren’t going well over there. I’m worried about the ripple effect it will cause in esports as a whole IF OWL fails and Blizzard calls it a day like they did with HotS. Is this a sign of worry?
I think the OWL franchise model is so far off what exists in Dota 2 that it's not really comparable. Additionally, for me, I put game titles such as Dota 2, League of Legends, & CS:GO (and starting to consider Fortnite) in their own category because of their longevity. These are the games that aren't going anywhere and have an audience that is gonna keep playing and keep watching their games.
They're the big 3 esports for a reason. These games all have rich histories. They've maintained strong viewership over an entire decade or more throughout various iterations (Dota 1, CS1.6). The big test for new games is whether they can maintain their hype and playerbase. There's a trend lately with games such as Apex Legends and many others where they get a huge audience and player base when they launch with the help of influencers, but that audience moves on to the next big, exciting thing as soon as it appears. These games listed have a loyal following, and I'm not worried at all about their futures right now.
Anyway, let’s get back to Dota. ESL One Los Angeles Major will be held in March. The first NA Major in a while. Does it feel good to have a premier event back in NA after this long?
It's awesome. Especially being in our backyard. After TI left American soil it's been hard for American Dota fans to feel as connected to the Dota 2 scene when there's so few events to easily go to. I can only imagine they're incredibly excited about this major.
Can we expect BTS to play a role in one way or the other since it is right up your alley?
It's an ESL event; they have put on countless, incredible shows in places like Birmingham, Genting, Frankfurt, etc. If we have any role, it'll likely be a silent one supporting their efforts to put on a great show.
How are you liking the Outlander’s update along with the many mini-updates so far? I’d like to know your view on this.
The patch has been pretty crazy. Neutral items and outposts being the big talking points. The games seem to go faster, and do feel a bit more snowbally than they used to but I'm having a lot of fun playing the patch. My biggest complaint is that in however many hundreds of games I've played not a single one has reached 70 minutes for tier 5 neutral items...
Alright, that’s a wrap. Anything you’d like to say before we sign off?
Thanks for taking the time to chat to me. Long live Dota 2!
What are your thoughts about sudden patch changes immediately before and after a tournament? For example, Dreamleague Major, where we saw a patch change before the event began and another one minutes after the event ended?
Patch changes have always been a part of Dota. They're becoming a bit more "crazy" and frequent, but I like the direction the game is headed. I think neutral items still are in a strange place and have some innate flaws but are heading in a good direction.
Shrines have been completely removed in the game and replaced by outposts. How does this change the game/meta once again?
It is crazy. Losing these TP points on the map is the biggest change that happened in the patch. TP'ing to outposts is a lot slower, and you can lose them so teams have to approach fighting and the game in general very differently. Contesting Roshan for example as Dire if you lose your outpost seems very difficult.
Going into ESL LA Major, which teams do you think are most likely to be the title contenders?
The same ones as the previous Major! Secret/VG/EG/TNC seem like the big 4 teams right now. If you want a dark horse I'd probably say Nigma.
Your thoughts on NA Dota 2 scene and teams besides EG? What is NA lacking and how can it be rectified?
I tweeted a bit about this - but basically the culture and attitude in NA is quite poor. NA pubs aren't a good experience from both a competitive and behaviour perspective and also there's less tournaments and structure compared to other regions for upcoming players in the region. I'm not sure it can easily be rectified - it'd require NA professional players and leaders to change the culture - but their main focus is on winning and playing TI, so they'd rather play EU pubs and bootcamp in EU and avoid the problem - which is fair enough to them.
Which five players one should look out for the rest of the season?
Some of my favourite players to watch right now are Emo, iceiceice, Boxi, Zai, and Miracle. They're all doing pretty unique stuff in their respective roles and just like to push the limits of the heroes they play.
What is your take on Valve's new regional league announcement? How does this impact the scene?
The new regional league system seems really good for the overall health and sustainability of the Dota 2 ecosystem. I think a lot of concerns from individual affected parties (Teams, TOs, talent) are being brought up as it could have some negative effects on certain individuals, but the ultimate goal should be creating something to improve the Dota 2 scene and creating a healthy ecosystem which this league feels like a massive step in the right direction. I'm excited for it.
Follow the interview conductor on Twitter at @Karyb4u.
Image courtesy of David Parker's Instagram