Maelk on North's potential expansion into Dota 2: 'My biggest worry in Valve titles is Valve themselves'

by Colin McNeil, Dennis Gonzales, Josh Bury Sep 29 2017

Podcast video topics and time stamps:

2:08 - What is Maelk's role as Sporting Director for North?
5:34 - Maelk's thoughts on the EU LCS
12:34 - The future business model of the EU LCS
19:08 - The difficulties in acquiring a new Dota roster
25:17 - On the new Minor and Major system for Dota 2
31:55 - What advice would you give Immortals for entering Dota 2?
37:18 - Why did North sign on with WESA?
43:10 - Explaining the Maelk Award

Jacob "Maelk" Toft-Andersen was a superstar in the early days of competitive Dota 2, best known for his time on MYM and Evil Geniuses.

But now that he's North's sporting director, the man that GosuGamers named the best captain in 2008 says the esport in which he made his name might not be a good fit for the organization's first expansion outside of CS:GO.

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"We also haven't found the right teams and players available," Maelk said. "Dota 2 especially being the second title we have our eyes on, that we want to enter, is hard to find teams that live up to our standards and is also a good fit for that. Part of that is because competition in Counter-Strike is predominantly centered around Europe and to a certain degree North America as well, and by all means improving a lot as well. Whereas in Dota, at least half of it is centered around China and Southeast Asia. While we want to be global, I think it would be a stretch for us to enter our second title with a Chinese team for instance."

Another issue that has arisen in North's search for a Dota team has been a conflict with players in regards to one of North's main principles: longevity. The organization has its CS:GO players on three-year contracts, a condition that Dota players balked at according to Maelk.

"One of the things that's important to us, which we did with Counter-Strike and we're going to enforce in whichever game we enter and whichever players we sign, is longevity. Because if we don't have our players, we'll immediately lose our fans as well. That's why our CS players are on three-year contracts. I wanted our Dota players to be the same. A lot of the Dota players were laughing at it when I talked to them. [They said] 'that's impossible, we can sign for at best August next year.' Obviously because of The International. That's because they're so stubborn, that's what they're used to, and if no other team does that why be bound by it."

Maelk's concerns about Dota do not just extend to recruiting players for a long term contract. For him, the biggest issue he has with the game is Valve and their total control over the title.

"My biggest worry in Valve titles is Valve themselves," Maelk said. "You never know what to expect. From one day to the next they could change the tournament structure. They could change the ruleset. They could just not make the game allowed to be played anymore. They could withdraw all funding. They could do any number of things. They could also sell their company and suddenly someone else takes over. You could never, never know. And that's one of the biggest issues esports has. It's the fact that everything lies with the game publisher."

One of the changes that is emblematic of Valve's control over Dota is the new Minor/Major system that they've implemented for the new season. With 11 Minor and Major tournaments over the next year, the schedule for a Dota team will be very hectic. And while Maelk was excited for the changes at first, a a closer look has revealed a number of issues that could arise with the new schedule.

"The schedule is almost as insane as a baseball schedule," Maelk said. "It's almost playing everyday for eight months straight. On the surface, this was a dream come true. Oh this is great, amazing, we've been asking for this for a long time. But when you think about it, first of all it dilutes the product. There are so many games going on, who's playing where, which tournaments are important."

"It also lowers the production quality of the tournament, something that has been brought up on Twitter as well," he continued. "There's five or six different organizers, if that, I think it's even more. Even from the most premier, the most established organizers, they are already struggling with putting out a product that I think we can all be proud of. I rarely see a product in esports that we can all be proud of. And now we suddenly have so many different people competing about it, but they're not really competing because they're all allowed to do it. So the only thing that they're competing over is the viewership and the teams, but the teams are already playing in it and with the teams comes the viewership."

Preston Dozsa is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.