TI 2022 Russian talent announcement sparks outrage in Dota 2 community

cover art for the international 11 in singaporeValve

Valve has come under fire for the way that the Russian-language broadcast for TI 2022 has been set up. NAVI and other teams will share their concerns with the developer.

The on-air team for TI 2022, the biggest tournament on the Dota 2 esports calendar, has been a hot topic ever since it became clear that the talent would be working from Oslo and not on site in Singapore, where the event will take place.

But the criticism reached a crescendo on September 29 following the announcement of the on-air team for the event, with Dota 2 caster and analyst Kyle Freedman joining the chorus of people questioning some of the broadcasting decisions.

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In a blog post, he noted that the number of Ukrainian casters and analysts on the Russian-language broadcast had been reduced from 13 to seven when compared to TI 2021; the number of Russian talent, on the other hand, had been bumped from 14 to 37.

And while the English-language team will be working remotely from Norway, the Russian-language team will operate out of Kazakhstan. This, Kyle suspects, was motivated by Norway’s decision to suspend its visa agreement with Russia because of the war in Ukraine.

“It’s my understanding that Russia is the aggressor in the current war in Ukraine,” Kyle wrote. “I believe they’ve also been documented committing numerous war crimes throughout the conflict, assuming we accept the United Nations as an unbiased party.

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“It seems odd to change the location to specifically accommodate citizens of the aggressing nation.”

Kyle also expressed his bewilderment that Valve sold the Russian broadcasting rights to TI 2022 to BetBoom, a Russian betting company, in a deal reportedly worth $1.9 million, according to Cybersport.ru.

All this has left the Ukrainian talent with two choices: boycott the event or travel to Kazakhstan to work alongside Russian casters, one of whom has allegedly been spotted drawing pro-war symbols on stream.

“Under the current circumstances, shouldn’t we optimize logistics and safety considerations for Ukrainians?” he asked.

Another major point of contention surrounding the talent announcement was the fact that voice lines had become a much rarer commodity. To support the casters and analysts working at TI 2022, Valve released talent capsules with autograph stickers that could include voice lines.

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But only the gold and holo versions of the talent stickers came with voice lines, which made these items much harder to get. On October 1, Valve ended up backtracking on this decision and made the voice lines available for purchase individually.

“Our intention was to create a compelling system that allowed fans to connect with their favorite talent in a different way than in previous years, and we fell short of that goal,” Valve said. “We are sorry for that and we intend to correct it.

“In order to address these issues, and after talking to some of the talent that reached out with concerns and proposals, we are adding the option to directly purchase a talent’s voice line with 50% of the revenue going exclusively to that talent. Players can purchase these voice lines directly from the Talent page in the Battle Pass.”

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NAVI CEO weighs in

On Twitter, NAVI CEO Yevhen Zolotarov said that his organization and a few others will reach out to Valve and PGL to “address the issue of the Russian studio”.

“Unfortunately, unlike in CS:GO, there is not a strong alliance of organizations in Dota,” the NAVI CEO said. “But there are already several of us, and we will definitely try.”

The talent announcement only adds to the tension between the Russian and the Ukrainian esports communities. Earlier this month, it was announced that Outsiders would be able to compete under Virtus.pro’s banner after months of playing under the organization-less name – a decision that has drawn fierce criticism from Ukrainians.

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New Virtus.pro CEO told Dexerto in an exclusive interview that Valve had approved the name change. “The renaming was the result of our negotiations with Valve and PGL, which approved our attendance under the Virtus.pro tag,” Aram Karamanukyan said.

TI 2022 will begin on October 8 with the last-chance qualifier, where both NAVI and Virtus.pro will be in attendance. The top two sides will progress to the main event, which will run between October 15 and 30.