Podcast video topics and time stamps:
6:50 - Will DreamLeague still be MemeLeague?
9:21 - "I don't think this system is really sustainable"
13:46 - Why Dota struggles to attract sponsors
18:54 - "That's why Dota 2 is so much better than League of Legends"
23:24 - What Valve can learn from Riot Games
26:51 - Why Overwatch is too fun to be an esport
34:11 - The problems with the old Major system
46:19 - Colin's spoiler-free review of Blade Runner 2049
54:08 - The Dota community's superiority complex
Though DreamLeague Season 8 will be a Major, complete with circuit points and a million dollar prize pool, long-time event host Jake "SirActionSlacks" Kanner told theScore esports Podcast not to expect MemeLeague to lose its whimsical nature.
"I would hope not, I don't think so. I think that's kind of what built it up into that place and they hired me again, so they're certainly not looking to have a good production (laughs) at a high level," Slacks said.
"I think this is the year of experimentation. A lot of tournament organizers are going in and trying to just be like, 'Hey, we're going to make this really great product, we're going to be the best at regular Dota.' And then some of them are thinking, 'Let's do something else and see if we can integrate that and make it a memorable event.' And I think it's those guys who try to make their events memorable rather than just make them are the ones that are really going to succeed for the next season."
However, as with many things in Dota, Slacks said he doesn't expect the current circuit to remain unchanged next year and thinks this year's Major change-up is Valve testing the waters.
"With this kind of stuff, Valve is noted to be experimental and they're known to just be like, 'Hey, let's dive in headfirst and collect data and see what people like about things,'" he said. "You saw it this year at TI7 when they didn't hire any of the normal panelists and stuff and replaced them with pro players. They decided to do that at their biggest event of the year with zero guesses on how it would turn out."
But beyond the expanded number of Valve tournaments and the addition of the points system, Slacks believes the biggest thing to come out of the 2017-18 season will be Valve opening the floodgates for advertising and outside sponsorships.
"This is the gold rush baby! This is the first time Valve has ever said, 'Guys, sponsor a minor, sponsor a Major, Coca-Cola presents the Major.' That's insane!" he said. "That's always been the thing is you're not allowed to make money on the Majors. It's like that thing people do to artists on Twitter, like 'Oh, do it for the exposure! The exposure!' Now it's advertisement at a Major, that's amazing."
However, he warned that there are still a number of factors that make investing in Dota a dicey proposition for both esports organizations as well as non-endemic brands.
Because rosters in prior seasons were constantly changing in order to maximize the odds of actually making it to and placing in The International, fans weren't loyal to teams, but rather to players, said Slacks. This makes brand building difficult unless a team has a long-serving, popular player like Danil "Dendi" Ishutin with Na`Vi and Clement "Puppey" Ivanov with his own Team Secret.
"If you want to get into esports because you want to make money with a Dota team? it's just not possible," he said of the old system. "They will take everything from you. They will take thousands upon thousands of dollars, they will drain you dry and then when [Team] Secret says, 'Hey, do you want to join?' They will [snaps fingers] see you later! And that's one of Dota's biggest problems."
According to Slacks, the new circuit has the potential to add more stability to the scene because the number of high prize pool tournaments decreases the "TI-or-nothing" mentality.
"Now it's time to be like, 'Okay, let's invest in Dota. Let's invest in teams, because they have ways to now finally make actual generated money by actually having sponsorships injected into the scene via actually being able to see returns."
However, Slacks does express concern that the sheer number of tournaments will become an albatross in its own right, with teams pushing themselves to exhaustion to qualify for as many as possible.
"For tier 1 teams, top teams, it's a fantastic system, it's amazing. But you talk to tier 2 teams, it's just suicide. I mean I was talking to a team the other day about how many tournaments they've had to play in order to try and make qualifiers for all these different ones and they say they had to play upwards to almost 50-60 games of Dota in less than a week," he said.
"It's just insane because you have all these guys that have to make it to these tournaments and they have to drill in and it's a lot of pressure."
But when asked whether the Dota hosting/casting community could face the burnout CS:GO casters have recently been struggling with, Slacks was a little less than concerned due to the different natures of the two games.
"I don't want to be a dick, but CS is the same exact game every time you watch it. Dude pushes in A and shoots a chicken," he said. "The guns are the same, everything's the same, the strategies can slightly change, it's about that twitch reaction shit. Dota is its own animal. Every single game of Dota is different and after every patch, it takes months to figure out what's the optimal strategy. Dota only gets boring in periods like right now where we haven't had a substantial patch in five months."
One thing Valve could improve on though? Surprisingly Slacks said they should take inspiration from one of their biggest rivals: Riot Games.
"Riot does a lot of things really, really well. For one, communication and clear guidelines. That is fantastic for anybody and it's one of the biggest problems that we have in Dota. If you guys know, that recent blog post about broadcasting rights and stuff like that," he said.
"We've never known and no one's ever known since the beginning of Dota. There's like the, 'Everyone play nice' mandate,' which can lead to problems down the road. Riot is extremely good at saying 'Hey, this is exactly what our guidelines are. Break these rules and you're in trouble.'"
Overall though, he said he wouldn't trade the open market approach Valve's used to grow the Dota 2 ecosystem for Riot's more top-down system.
"Completely unbiased source, but that's why Dota 2 is so much better than League of Legends," he said. "Because it's grown based on competition and innovation rather than a totalitarian authority telling everyone what they have to do. They grow the scene rather than shackle the scene. No offense to my boys over at the lesser games."
However, one thing he's not concerned about? Opposition from the Overwatch League.
"I'll be real with you here: this is a real shitty career move that I'm doing right here, but I just don't think it's going to be successful because of my level to gauge a good esport," he said.
"A good esport needs to be absolutely miserable to play. It's true, because as a viewer you watch Dota 2 and you watch these guys and you know that stress. You know that pain. You know that draggingness that it brings down on you. And you might love the game, but you don't necessarily want to play it, it's actually just as enjoyable to watch someone else suffer. Same with Counter-Strike, same with StarCraft, same with any big, successful esport is [a] super hard game that's super hard stressful. When I watch competitive Overwatch, I was thinking, 'Why would I watch these idiots play this? I want to go play this.' It's too fun. That's the problem with Overwatch and that's why I don't think it'll be a successful esport no matter how much money that anyone artificially injects into it."