Chinese esports organisation Newbee’s Dota 2 roster has been permanently banned from all Valve and Perfect World events, following a Dota 2 match-fixing scandal that occurred in May of 2020.
The players and team were already banned from participating in events by several tournament organisers immediately after the scandal. These included Mars Media (Mars Dota 2 League), ImbaTV (co-organisers of the Bucharest and Kuala Lumpur Majors) and CDA (CDA-FDC Professional Championship and the DPL-CDA Professional League).
Despite the strong stance from these companies, Newbee were still not officially excluded from Valve or Perfect World tournaments. This new ban is the real nail in the coffin for the team, as it will disallow them from participating in any of Valve’s Major tournaments, including The International, and is effectively a blanket ban from the Dota 2 competitive scene.
CHINESE DOTA HEROES BECOME VILLAINS
This is a significant fall from grace for Newbee, whose 2014 squad won The International in a convincing 3-1 victory over Vici Gaming. Xiao8, who played the offlane role in that TI-winning-squad, was one of the first to accuse the current Newbee squad of match-fixing.
While streaming the Chinese qualifiers for the Starladder minor, game 2 of Newbee vs Avengersls caught Xiao8’s eye. Avengersls made some incredibly obvious mistakes, causing them to throw away a large lead and hand Newbee the victory. The mistakes were so obvious to Xiao8 that he is quoted as saying that if the game wasn’t fixed, he would “eat sh*t on stream”.
A LOOK AT DOTA 2 MATCH-FIXING
This isn’t the first instance of match-fixing in the Dota 2 competitive scene. Solo, the current captain of top CIS team Virtus Pro, famously bet against his own team on esports betting websites when playing under the RoX.KIS banner. For a meagre $322, they threw the game to a tier 3 Russian squad called zRage and in-so-doing, birthed the most well-known meme in the Dota 2 competitive sphere. Interestingly, the Rox.KIS organisation’s initial ban from all Starladder events was completely removed once Solo took sole responsibility for the infamous ‘322’, and his personal ban was quickly lowered from a permanent one to only being for a single year.
Whether or not Solo was coerced into taking the blame in order to lighten the sentence of his organisation is another conversation altogether, the more important question for Newbee fans is going to be whether or not we can expect the same sort of lenience from tournament organisers with respect to their team.
While this of course remains to be seen, to my mind, it seems incredibly unlikely Valve and Perfect World will step these bans back. This is as much a precedent to be set as it is a response to a specific incident, with both companies taking this opportunity to make a statement about Dota 2 match-fixing.
FROM A VIEWER’S PERSPECTIVE
I think as Dota 2 players and viewers of the competitive scene, we can all agree that Dota 2 match-fixing is an egregious act and something we want purged from the game completely. Having said that, the waters get muddied slightly when we consider that Solo has become one of the top players in the CIS region, on arguably the best CIS team in Dota 2 history. He could have been removed from the scene entirely over a measly $322 — money which possibly says more about the economic struggles of tier 2 and 3 esports teams than it does about the state of match-fixing in esports.
That being said, Newbee is far from a struggling, low tier organisation, with approximate total earnings from tournaments sitting at $13.5 million according to Liquipedia, and most of the Newbee players having individual salaries and tournament earnings that exclude them from the kind of sympathy that other, smaller teams could be afforded under the same circumstances.
Something that is important to note is that while these bans are extensive, they do not appear to extend to the Newbee esports organisation as a whole, meaning that their secondary team, Newbee.Young, can still participate in tournaments as usual.
All in all, this decision by Valve and Perfect World should set a firm precedent against Dota 2 match-fixing. I think most would agree that in an ideal world there would be some level of pragmatism in the punishment of players and organisations engaged in similar activities. At this juncture though, the more realistic approach is always going to be a blanket ban in the hopes of discouraging further wrong-doing.