Valve has abruptly fired the host of its Dota 2 Shanghai Major tournament, James "2GD" Harding, along with the production company responsible for broadcasts of the games. Company chief Gabe Newell confirmed the dismissal of Harding on Reddit, adding that "James is an ass" and not someone Valve will be working with again in the future. As to production of tournament broadcasts, Newell hopes Valve will be able to find a new partner to replace KeyTV before the main event kicks off on March 2nd.
Dota 2 is Valve's most popular Steam game, generating massive revenues off in-game purchases and now supporting four major tournaments per year, each commanding prize pools in the millions of dollars. The Shanghai Major will hand out $3 million among the 16 participating teams, with the winners collecting $1.1 million. Not bad for a week's worth of pointing and clicking, but even as Dota rivals the prize pools of professional sports, it continues to lag badly in terms of professionalism and production quality behind the scenes.
As the host of the English-language broadcast and panel discussions, Harding was in charge of steering the conversation between matches and keeping viewers entertained during moments of downtime. He opened the first day's show by injecting the word "cunts" into his introduction (right at the beginning of the video above) and delivering a protracted and awkwardly received masturbation joke. In a subsequent explanation of events in Shanghai, Harding clarifies that he was fired mid-broadcast after making another off-color joke in a later broadcast.
Mistakes were made
Harding's return to the Dota hosting chair followed a long hiatus from the game and was widely welcomed due to his enduring popularity after serving as the regular host of The International, the premier Dota 2 competition. In the wake of his dismissal and Gabe Newell's public disparagement, Harding has found a lot of support from within the gaming community, many of whom are equally upset at Valve for the shoddy production of the tournament broadcasts.
The early matches in the Shanghai Major have been plagued by technical issues, interrupting games with lengthy delays and delivering a choppy, uneven experience for the audience. In-game audio problems have been matched by malfunctioning microphones for commentators and analysts, and the general feeling has been one of disarray. Commentator Owen "ODPixel" Davies sums it all up with the following tweet:
Valve evidently didn't feel Harding's crass humor was in line with the image the company wants to project, however it's the production troubles that are likely to cause bigger headaches for Newell and co. This is far from the first Dota 2 tournament to suffer from inadequate facilities, support, or production polish. It was hoped that when Valve introduced the current Majors system, starting with a tournament in Frankfurt late last year, things would improve and everyone would be able to enjoy some unspoiled, high-class gaming competition. Unfortunately, it seems like Valve and Dota just haven't evolved to that point yet.