Few DotA players would argue that Battle Passes are bad. Though they generally cost real money, they give way more than they take. From unique cosmetics to in-game quests, Battle Passes augmented the game of DotA more than it actually changed it. Players were incentivized with rewards outside of an MMR boost or the simple joy of winning to try things that they might not otherwise try. But where did Battle Passes go? There has not been one since the last International, and it doesn’t seem like another will come until the next TI.
The good ol’ days
Back when I began playing DotA in 2013, Battle Passes didn’t exist. Instead, players would purchase individual tickets to view tournaments from within the DotA 2 client. For smaller tournaments, the benefits of purchasing these tickets stopped there. However, larger tournaments began offering incentives to players in the form of cosmetics in order to promote sales. These sales were then eventually used to supplement the tournament’s prize pool, increasing hype for the tournament. See where this is going?
Naturally there was a good side and a bad side to this system. The good side of course was that players were actively investing in the DotA 2 esports scene. The bad side was that in its infancy, there were far too many tournaments to keep up with. Though smaller tournaments might only ask $0.99 for a ticket, larger tournaments would range anywhere from $2.99 – $9.99. When there were a dozen or more of these kind of tournaments a year, it became hard to justify purchasing a ticket for every tournament for all but the most hardcore of DotA fans. Despite this, the cosmetics and rewards gave each tournament their own personal flair and identity. They gave even players that weren’t already invested in the competitive scene a reason to participate.
The way it is
As the DotA 2 scene grew, Valve more or less consolidated the Battle Pass market with the creation of the first Majors system. Nearly each of these majors sold a TI like Compendium that allowed players to track games, complete challenges and quest, make bracket predictions and more. These Battle Passes were sold for $9.99 and remained open for two to three months at a time, nearly covering the whole year. For me at least, these seasonal challenges reignited my enthusiasm for the game time and time again. I was excited to try challenges with heroes I had never played before, and even more excited about getting loot along the journey.
But 2017 saw a massive decline in the number of Battle Passes offered compared to the previous two years. Only two Battle Passes were offered: one for the Kiev Major in January and one for TI7. For contrast, 2016 had twice as many. Unfortunately, I don’t see anything that leads me to believe this number is going to go anywhere but down. The prize pools for all DotA Pro Circuit events with the exception of TI itself appear fixed. Furthermore, the removal of the Valve sponsored Majors that often heralded the coming of a Battle Pass mean there are fewer (read “zero”) tournaments outside of TI where players can expect such a treat.
Did we lose something in Battle Passes?
Personally I would lament the loss of multiple annual Battle Passes. As I’ve already mentioned, they succeed at keeping me and my play group engaged with the game, sometimes just as our interest starts to wane. That said, I see the negatives too. Incentivizing players to play in a specific way for a reward fundamentally changes the game of DotA. Players might not play optimally or take unnecessary risks all in the name of getting one step closer to that “sick set” at the end of a lengthy quest line. As someone who loves watching high level DotA, but has neither the desire nor the capacity to play at that level himself, I play the game for fun. These Battle Passes generally amplify that feeling for me.
Also, has the DotA community lost a bit of its heart with the disappearances of smaller tournament treasures and incentives? I still think that the UI skin and courier I got from watching The Summit 3 back in 2015 is super awesome! It felt great to contribute to something that gave me so many hours of entertainment. Do you feel like we’ve lost something with Battle Passes on the decline, or would you rather they stay as far away from your game of DotA as possible?
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