The TI9 Battle Pass release date has been confirmed ahead of The International in Shanghai, but 2019 is a year like no other in many ways, and for Valve this is definitely the case. What has been for years a means of funding the biggest prize pool in esports has become at least a tad political with the award of TI9 to China, and in the wake of recent headlines around the Chongqing Major and other Chinese events there is a danger the decision could backfire.
Traditionally, the Battle Pass contains cosmetic items that allow fans to support their favourite teams, and of course the event itself, but social media talk has contained a good deal of debate as to whether supporting TI9 is supporting Chinese influence over esports, and Dota 2.
We’ve already seen the aforementioned controversy over Chongqing divide opinion, and Chinese influence on esports growing as companies from that part of the world pour cash into the growing scene.
There has been light speculation that TI9 will not be as good from a Western point of view anyway, with time zones not favouring those viewers, but there is a chance fans in China will make up any shortfall. It would be amusing to see North American fans complain after years of the tournament being in NA, but not that surprising, as esports fans often fail to empathise with their fellow fan even if they are experiencing the same thing.
China is long overdue a TI, if the venue is going to become truly international, with many of the world’s best players hailing from there and a number of TI-winners flying the Chinese flag, and the fans will still spend to keep the show on the road. Equally, with all the factors involved, it is going to be tough to attribute any change in prize pool to a single thing, but there is no doubt that the run up to this TI has been fraught with controversy and that a lot of fans are worried about the growing influence of Chinese money on the game.