Last Week in E-Sports: Who really owns DOTA?

Last Updated January 23rd, 2022

Who really owns anything? That was the question on everyone’s mind last week in e-sports. Between a court case that put into question the ownership of DOTA, PGL allowing teams under the same owner to compete in their tournaments, and Tencent unveiling plans to build and own a brand new “gaming city,” the news was centered around the debate of who can own what and why? To top it all off, the ownership of several players came into doubt as it was one of the heaviest weeks for the roster shuffle, with heavy trades being made in DOTA2, League of Legends, Counter-Strike and more.

Who Really Owns DOTA?

You’d think the obvious answer would be Blizzard or Valve, but a recent court case has thrown this all into question.

Developers Lilith and uCool have recently produced mobile games using DOTA characters, which led Blizzard to sue them for infringing on their intellectual property. However, uCool has not bothered to deny the claim that they used the DOTA name and likeness in their product, because they claim that neither Blizzard nor Valve actually own the property.

Many fans know that DOTA started out as a Warcraft 3 custom map. In order to spin the property into a full game, Valve purchased the intellectual property from lead developer IceFrog and creator Eul in 2010.

But according to uCool, the rights weren’t Eul’s to give. In 2004, Eul made it clear on a forum post that DOTA was open source. He specifically said, “Whoever wishes to release a version of DOTA may without my consent, I just ask for a nod in the credits to your map,” even going as far as to use the term open source in his post.

In addition, uCool claims that the current version of DOTA, DOTA2, used content from the Warcraft 3 map, DOTA All-Stars. That map was a sort of mish-mash of content made by numerous fan developers. If they created this content under the premise of DOTA being open source, that’s fine. However, if DOTA isn’t open source, then Valve will have taken and republished their content without consent.

This leaves Valve with two unfortunate options. Either DOTA is open source, in which case they have no control over the brand, or DOTA is not open source, in which case they stole someone else’s intellectual property, which is ironically coming to light in a case about Valve’s intellectual property getting stolen.

The PGL Makes a Ruling on Academy Teams

Academy teams have been the focus of quite a bit of controversy in the e-sports world lately. Most tournament organizers do not allow an academy team and its parent team to compete in the same tournament. This has forced several academy teams to sell their slot, which some have argued invalidates all their hard work.

The PGL has taken something of a different approach to the problem. They have ruled that both academy teams and parent teams can compete in their Counter-Strike tournaments, but only if the academy team rebrands. This means they need a different nametag and logo to avoid confusion with main squads.

However, this does not address the issues of integrity that much of the e-sports community has been discussing. Should an academy team and its parent team meet in a tournament, how can we guarantee that one side or the other wouldn’t purposefully lose in order to maximize chances of winning for the entire organization?

Either way, these questions will have to be answered soon as both Team Spirit and Team Spirit’s academy team compete in the upcoming CIS Minor, and Fnatic’s academy team will compete in the European Minor while Fnatic has already been qualified for the upcoming Major.

Take Me Down to Gaming City

Riot Games owner Tencent has announced that they will be building a new “gaming city” in cooperation with the city of Wuhu in China. The plan is to create a huge area themed around the world of video games, including an e-sports theme park, an e-sports university, a cultural and creative park, an animation industrial park, a creative block, a tech entrepreneurial community, and a cloud data center. Fans have already begun talking about what an “e-sports” theme park might entail. It could mean a huge arena to hold e-sports competitions, but it also could mean rides and attractions themed after League of Legends. Time will tell.

Wins and Losses

  • SK Telecom T1 defeated G2 Esports on Sunday for the 2017 MSI Championship. This is their second straight MSI title. Coupled with their two World Championship victories, this makes them one of the winningest teams in League of Legends.
  • German organization Mysterious Monkeys have purchased Misfits Academy’s LCS spot. That’s… kind of like a win by default… right?
  • Team Liquid defeated TNC Gaming in the StarLadder DOTA2 Invitational. TNC had shuffled their roster around early last week, making their run to the finals quite unexpected. However Team Liquid’s overall skill and synergy won the day.
  • Virtus Pro have defeated Team Empire to win the first DOTA2 Mr. Cat Invitational. They will have a chance for a rematch when they face each other in the group stages of DreamLeague Season 7 this weekend.
  • Four major European Hearthstone stars have qualified for the Hearthstone Spring Championship. They are Aleksandr “Kolento” Malsh, Dima “Rdu” Radu, Frederik “Hoej” Nielsen, and Eugene “Neirea” Shumilin. They will be playing for a spot at Worlds and, of course, the $250,000 grand prize.
  • A similar team of North American all stars have moved on to the second round of the Hearthstone Global Games. They are James “Firebat” Kostesich, William “Amnesiac” Barton, David “Dog” Caero, and Edwin “HotMEOWTH” Cook.
  • The last three qualifying spots for ESL One Cologne’s CS:GO tournament have been claimed by Team Liquid from North America and Space Soldiers and Heroic from Europe. We are still waiting for the Chinese qualifier to conclude.

The Roster Shuffle

  • Tempo Storm have signed two new players to their League of Legends team. Marcin “SELFIE” Wolski will be taking up a slot in the mid-lane while broadcaster Nick “LS” De Cesare will be joining as head coach.
  • Team EnVyUs has picked up two new mid-laners for their roster: Yasin “Nisqy” Dinçer and Choi “Pirean” Jun-sik.
  • Tong “Koro1” Yang will be joining team Royal Never Give Up for the upcoming Summer Split, after transferring from EDward gaming.
  • Brandon “Saintvicious” DiMarco will be rejoining Team Dignitas as coach after leaving the team in December 2016.
  • Former ROX Tigers and Longzhu Gaming coach Kim “SSONG” Sang-soo will be joining Immortals as the team’s new head coach.
  • DOTA2 pro Theeban “1437” Siva has joined TNC Pro Team. This moves him out of the North American region and into the APAC region.
  • The Adelaide Crows, an Australian soccer club, have bought the entirety of Legacy eSports. While the team will keep their name, it is possible that they will also adopt the Crow’s branding and colors.
  • Team Heroic benched founding member Valdemar “valde” Bjørn Vangså mere days before a CS:GO ESL One qualifier.
  • Jacob “pyth” Mourujärvi has become a free agent now that his contract with Ninjas in Pyjamas has expired. He was replaced by William “draken” Sundin earlier this March.
  • A new brand called Planet Odd has snatched up some big name Hearthstone Players. Sebastian “Xixo” Bentert, Frederik “Hoej” Nielsen, and Jung-Soo “Surrender” Kim will all be playing under the new brand. In addition, they have signed the entirety of the former LGB Esports female Counter-Strike team.
  • Hearthstone pro Cong “StrifeCro” Shu has parted ways with Cloud9 to become the first Hearthstone player to sign with Phoenix1. “This is the first expansion for our organization into Hearthstone,” Phoenix1 said in a statement. “And we plan to build around Strifecro as future opportunities arise. We’re happy to have such a veteran of the scene joining us, and we’re looking forward to becoming a part of the Hearthstone community.”
  • Mindfreak has announced that Denholm “Denz” Taylor will be replacing Cody “Excite” Rugolo on their Call of Duty team for the foreseeable future. Denz left Mindfreak to join Tainted Minds in January, but after a poor showing in the Call of Duty World League qualifiers he has decided to return home.
  • Elevate have signed Ben “Desire” Wright after Rhys “Rated” Price left the team to become a free agent.
  • Sang-Hoon “Kaiser” Ryu has left RunAway’s Overwatch team. Kaiser has not been playing with RunAway in recent times, citing illness as the original reason.
  • Alex “Ajax” Jackson announced he will be stepping down from NRG Esport’s active Overwatch roster. “I’ve come back from worse, boys,” Ajax added on Twitter. “I don’t stop fighting, and I’m going to hold a trophy.”
  • The TCL Chinese Theatre and Hammers Esports have teamed up together to create a new Los Angeles “home team.” Dubbed The Hollywood Hammers, the team will field rosters in Overwatch, Vainglory, and Clash Royale. “We are bringing to Los Angeles an exceptional esports franchise to become our local team,” said Robert K. Laity, CEO of the TCL Chinese Theatre. “The esports world deserves a local fan base in addition to a global following in much the same way that other sports like basketball, football, and baseball have strong and close affiliations with fans in major cities across the US. Los Angeles now has its newest team to follow and support.”
  • Mexican soccer team Club America will be the first Mexican sports association to join the world of e-sports. They haven’t yet announced what games they want to compete in, but my money is on competitive FIFA.