Trump's Travel Ban Could Have Chilling Effect On Esports Event
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Moving Time? ‘The International’ For Dota 2 Could Leave US In 2017 Because Of Travel Ban

The International Dota 2 Travel Ban
This year’s The International, the biggest annual tournament in Dota 2, isn’t necessarily taking place in the US.

The recent travel ban — via an executive order from President Donald Trump — could result in the TI7 moving to a location outside the US. That ban is currently on hold after a federal court ruled the order should not be enforced, for the time being.

The tournament has taken place in Seattle’s Key Arena for the past few years.

Visa uncertainties linked to the ban are affecting players and other members of the esports community. Because of this, game publisher Valve is considering finding a new spot for the event.

“We’re gonna run the event no matter what”

At a recent round-table discussion at Valve’s studio in Bellevue, Wash., CEO Gabe Newell and Erik Johnson, Valve’s spokesperson, commented on how the travel ban affects the company.

The two main affected areas hiring and esports, which is directly connected to the annual The International event. Johnson stated that “any pressure on visas getting into the United States in worrisome for us.”

Visa uncertainties are a common occurrence in the esports community. There were a couple of situations in the past where players had troubles obtaining visas during certain events. As Newell pointed out, because esports is such a nascent industry, it’s already difficult for some players’ work status to be recognized. And the fact that some of them are minors makes the situation even worse.

“If you’re an opera singer, it’s pretty easy to get a visa. Like the State Department kind of understands who these people are. If you’re a Nobel Prize winner, they kind of know who you are. When you’re an unemployed [teenager] without strong ties to this country, it’s more challenging.” said Newell.

Because of the issues the travel ban brings to the organization, Valve is reconsidering this year’s TI location. The company said that moving the event to a location outside the US is also an option.

“We’re going to run the event no matter what,” Newell said. “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.”

If it would come to that, a potential spot for the TI 7 could be Cologne, Germany, the place where TI was born.

The International among the most well-known Tier 1 esports events

Dota 2 is one of the top titles in the esports industry. And when it comes to one main event for an annual championship, The International serves that purpose. The event will take place for the seventh consecutive time this year, and it has grown tremendously since its introduction in 2011.

Attendance, coverage, and the prize pool have skyrocketed within the 7-year period. Last year, for example, the grand final attracted almost 6 million spectators. The prize pool has also reached a new record high, amounting to $20.8 million.

Events like The International are key for esports

While the esports industry is still expanding, events like The International are important for spreading awareness and popularity of competitive gaming. As one of the most successful events of Valve, it’s obvious that the company is willing to do everything possible to continue with this tournament.

Even though the travel ban is currently on hold after a federal judge issued a restraining order blocking it, the White House is still fighting this decision.

Whatever comes out of the case will directly affect the future of this year’s The International. Fortunately enough, Valve likely will make the event happen, no matter how the executive order unfolds.

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Dejan Zalik
- Dejan has been involved in gaming for over 10 years. Moving from classics like Diablo 2, Lineage 2, and Warcraft 3, he found his passion in Dota 2, which he’s been playing ever since. He writes for various esports-related publications and also enjoys reading about the industry.