Kyiv hosts the most stunning Dota 2 major ever. Here’s how it went

At the beginning of June 2021, Kyiv hosted the second Dota 2 Major. It is one of the three largest championships where teams receive points for passing to The International, the main event for Dota professionals. The Ukrainian company WePlay Esports organized the Kyiv Major. AIN.UA’s chief editor visited the location, saw the stage live, and tells why this article’s title is not just words. We also talked with a WePlay Esports representative and learned the figures and interesting facts.

The winners of the tournament PSG.LGD team received the prize of $500,000.
Photo: WePlay Holding

WePlay AniMajor 2021

We learned that the new Major would take place in Kyiv from WePlay’s first teaser. It was a natural next stage in the company’s development. In 2020, Ukraine hosted one of the Minors — WePlay! Bukovel Minor 2020. The championship immediately set several viewing records, and all participants and viewers highly praised the visual side of the event.

Photo: WePlay Holding

In May, WePlay Esports made an official announcement about holding the second major in Ukraine. The theme of the event was anime, hence the name of the event —WePlay AniMajor 2021. The company undertook to recreate the atmosphere in all its tiniest details.

Due to covid restrictions, the championship was held without spectators, but I managed to get in. I have never seen anything like it. Stages of this magnitude have never been created for Dota 2 championships, be it Major or even The International. Check it yourself: just put the photo of the AniMajor stage next to, for example, the last TI’s. It was a totally new level of entertainment.

The stage for AniMajor was about 30 meters long and over 11 meters high. It’s the height of two statues of the characters Monkey King and Juggernaut from Dota 2. There were also dozens of led panels that helped to recreate the theme of the event. To erect such a “colossus,” they had to occupy the entire 9th pavilion at the capital’s VDNH (Exhibition of Economic Achievements). I saw something similar only at Sensation White festivals. I’m impressed.

11-meter giants are the figures of the characters Monkey King and Juggernaut.
Photo: WePlay Holding

The enormous stage is only part of what helped to recreate the atmosphere. The anchors wore special costumes, discussed matches in Japanese cafes or on the roofs of themed houses. Before the final, the famous Japanese DJ Tokyo Machine, who was also specially brought from Japan, played his DJ-set. For the first time at such a tournament, two locations were used at once: the main stage of AniMajor and the second, decorated in the same style, at the WePlay Arena in the adjacent pavilion. The entire entourage is complemented by video content that was displayed on and off during the whole event.

Event’s Economy

The Head of Business Development at WePlay Esports, Valentyn Shevchenko, told AIN.UA that the company applied to the major at the beginning of 2021. As part of the application, the creative team proposes ideas, a visual solution, describes how everything will happen and look. This year also added information about the safety of participants during the pandemic (more on this below).

Valentyn Shevchenko, Photo: WePlay Holding

The problem is that the Valve company, an owner of Dota 2 and a sponsor of all major tournaments, doesn’t rush to approve applications. It became known that WePlay Esports will hold the second Major a month before the official dates. “At that moment, our team stopped sleeping,” Shevchenko jokes. But there is a shard of truth in every joke.

The entire ten-meter stage was actually built in just three weeks. Dozens of people from the company and many contractors worked on it. Why was it so hard if, in theory, it was enough to put 10 computers, a large screen, and slightly decorate the stage around? “We immediately set the bar for ourselves that we are working to the limit: from creativity to visual design. Now, in fact, no one does that, ”explains Valentin. During the conversation, we sit behind the stage on the boxes from the equipment scattered all over the place. All this is necessary to provide a colorful picture.

Photo: WePlay Holding

An obvious question arises: how much did it cost? Shevchenko refuses to give the exact figure but admits that the stage and design cost over one hundred thousand dollars, and it was only a fraction of the costs. Tremendous work has been done where no one sees it: tournament organization.

Second studio. Photo: WePlay Holding

Eighteen teams came to Kyiv from different parts of the world. The organizers even had to book a charter to return four teams from Asia home. They also hired talents for the English broadcast. About a hundred people had to be accommodated and fed for two weeks. Each team also needed a place for training, logistics around the city, proper nutrition, safe communication with the press, etc. All while every step is subject to covid restrictions: the personnel was constantly tested, all players were in a safe area and contacted only with those who had a negative test because even one sick participant could disrupt the tournament. “We also had to lay a new internet cable in the hotel because the previous failed, ” Shevchenko jokes again.

They didn’t given the total cost of the event but admitted that AniMajor cost over $1 million.

The Valve company doesn’t provide the financing. Moreover, Valve allocates only half of the prize pool. The organizers provide the rest. According to Shevchenko, they managed to make money due to the tournament’s popularity – it was broadcasted in 9 languages. Studios worldwide buy rights to broadcast for their audience in a language they understand (the studios themselves sell sponsorship and make money on it). “It made up a significant part of our revenue,” explains the top executive of WePlay Esports. The rest is sponsorship contracts.

Photo: WePlay Holding

Who knows, perhaps in the future, Ukraine will become a country that will host the main Dota 2 championship — The International. Two of the most spectacular majors took place in Kyiv, the best minor — in Bukovel. The strongest esports organizers and studios in CEE are all local as well. It seems that only the platform is missing. “We will build our own Olympic Stadium if we need,” retorts Shevchenko. Looking back at the two 11-meter statues created specifically for the two-week tournament, there is no reason not to believe him.

Photo: WePlay Holding