Alibaba Sports Group Pledges $1.5 Million to DOTA

Don't forget, even Alibaba had to say the magic word (youtube screencap)
Don't forget, even Alibaba had to say the magic word (youtube screencap) /
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Bad News, but Not Too Bad

Ah, ah, ah – you didn’t say the magic word

This part of the story practically writes itself. I almost feel bad pointing this out. Almost. Remember the story of Alibaba and the 40 thieves? There was this cave, filled with treasure by these thieves. Alibaba could only gain entrance to the cave by using the magic word he overheard one night from the thieves: open sesame.


As Alibaba is a Chinese company, much (if not all) of their investment is going to target Chinese markets. Even their large scale plan to build stadiums across China is a reminder of where their interests lie. This is a big issue when considering how difficult the Chinese government makes getting visas. If you thought America was bad, just be glad that TI6 isn’t in China, because it’s regarded as one of the worst when it comes to even a short term stay.

But let’s forget all that for a second. Suppose we get these financially hyper-charged tournaments, and suppose they all take place in brand new, state of the art stadiums – what good does any of that do anyone if our players can’t gain admission into the country to win any of this money? I’d like to say I’m optimistic that Alibaba’s investments will grease the wheels of Chinese bureaucracy, but as I’ve pointed out before, the Chinese government isn’t known for its quick and progressive reform of policies.

Maybe, staying true to the formula of the tale, Alibaba will provide those of us involved in the eSports industry with a set of passwords that will help us get through Chinese immigration. Maybe. But I’m not putting money on it.

Reform for the future

The thing about a major move like Alibaba’s is that it points out glaring areas of deficiency that we’ve become accustomed to. Even a crappy situation, if constant for long enough, stops being crappy. It becomes normal. And that’s where DOTA’s at currently.

I *am* thinking of the children!
I *am* thinking of the children! /

We need new blood. We need a disciplinary system in place so players violating rules aren’t just slapped with a lifelong ban, like Valve is fond of doing. We need some kind of central regulation, if only to serve as the mouthpiece for our community when our players are unjustly denied visas. These are all reasonable steps that can be taken to improve the social standing of eSports among the public and investors as well.

I’ve talked with some people that argue this goes against the spirit of eSports. One of our writers (Tony Onica) made a convincing argument to me just yesterday while were discussing this article. He said that freedom from regulation and the largely self-determined agency of players was one of the key features that set eSports apart from traditional sports, and to manacle ourselves to a traditional model would cause more harm than good. That’s how Tony talks. He actually used that exact word – manacle. Cute kid, huh?

But I hear what he’s saying. It’s a valid point. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a middle-of-the-road option available, and IeSF partnering with Alibaba might just be the first step in building credibility among investors which could lead to the eSports scene really taking off.

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