In a rare moment of extended commentary from Valve the company’s representative Erik Johnson stated at a roundtable debate that the developer would consider relocating The International to outside the United States.
As reported by PC Gamer, Johnson stated: “We’re gonna run the event no matter what. Ideally we’d run it here [in Seattle] because it has a bunch of advantages being close to our office. But the event’s going to happen. So yes, if it became too difficult, we’d find a way.”
He added: “Any pressure on visas getting into the United States is worrisome for us.”
The roundtable lasted over three hours and took place at Valve’s home; the company studio in Bellevue, Washington. It featured both Erik Johnson and Valve President Gabe Newell and a range of topics were reportedly discussed, but it was the fact that the esports event with the largest prize pool could be leaving the States was the most notable takeaway.
Donald Trump’s well publicised travel ban has caused a number of issues within esports despite its short lifespan. A number of players have now been affected though the ban is currently on hold after Judge James Robart issued and led a restraining order blocking it.
With the future uncertain at this point, it’s a major cause of concern for Valve in regards to both esports and its employees. On the latter point Newell stated: “We have people who work at Valve who can’t go home. They’ve been here for years. They pay taxes. But you know, they can’t leave the country. So, like, there’s some event outside the country, and for the first time we say ‘Wait, they can’t go because they can’t get back’. That’s a concern for us.”
Our feature ‘The hindering blemish of visas in esports’ touches on the travel ban and its impact thus far on esports, as well as the wider issue of securing visas for esports pros, which is another point Newell touched on in the extensive debate. The next obvious question for Dota fans is where they’d move the event to?
As far as Europe is concerned, Germany would doubtless be on the shortlist (after all it started out life in Cologne) whilst (despite our biases) the 02 Arena in London could be a suitable venue for the seventh TI.
Esports Insider says: The issue of visas in esports full stop is a troublesome issue. Trump’s travel ban brings a whole new level of understandable concern and anger. That Valve’s leadership is already considering moving the competition to another continent is a tragedy for US Dota fans, especially when this situation would have been farcical to most in Seattle at the last TI.