Dota 2 is already one of the biggest video games and biggest eSports in the entire world. But it's not everywhere, and, while many highly talented people are competing right now at the Dota 2 International tournament, many more are languishing in areas such as Kazakhstan where the infrastructure for Valve's signature MOBA is absent.
If Almeo eSports has its way, Kazakhstan won't be one of those for much longer. With a self-funded prize pool of $30,000, Almeo eSports has organized an open tournament to be held in his home country of Kazakhstan, called the Almeo eSports Cup for Dota 2. By partnering with various sponsors and contracting with other agencies, there will be no entrance fee, and any team that qualifies for the LAN finals will have their entire travel expenses covered, including airfare and hotel.
"We have everything ready, except the teams," said Abilaykhan "Abi" Seksenbayev, development director at Almeo eSports.
Given that the tournament is open to all, anyone can register a five-man team on esports.kz, which ends on August 20th. After registration, and a quick confirmation by the Almeo eSports team to ensure that you're not a bot, you'll be ready to participate in the online qualifiers, which start on August 25th.There are 80 teams already registered, but more than 2,300 players. Seksenbayev said their forums are currently populated with so many incomplete teams looking for one or two more players in key positions. Sekensbayev and his team have been organizing smaller tournaments in Kazakhstan for several years now, and he truly believes they have genuinely talented, pro-level Dota 2 players in the country just waiting to break out. He personally knows 10 fully complete teams who just don't have the organizational support required to jump to the next level.
"The problem is, there are no high-quality tournaments in Kazakhstan so that teams can hone their skills and practice," Seksenbayev said. "We have maybe three or four professional teams with sponsors, but the sponsors often cancel their contracts because the teams don't show results. But are they gonna show results if there are no high-quality tournaments?"
Kazakhstan doesn't have tournaments of The International's caliber, but the Almeo Cup will go a long way.
Even if the sponsors do stay on, they might not cover travel because the tournaments are too small to provide a big enough return on investment, Seksenbayev said. He hopes this tournament will represent Kazakhstan's potential and inspire more companies to invest in eSports events.Already, the Almeo eSports Cup will have relatively high production value. They have partnered with Starladder, who will provide broadcasters and panelists, including English, Russian and Chinese languages, with the hope that they could get Spanish-language broadcasters as well. The best part, Seksenbayev said, is that they won't run into any travel visa issues that have been plaguing U.S.-based tournaments since popularization of eSports. This year, Kazakhstan is hosting an inter-governmental expo, so the government made it so anyone traveling to Kazakhstan and not staying for longer than 30 days only needs a passport.
AdmiralBulldog (far right) was denied access to the U.S. because of travel visa issues. That won't be a problem with the Almeo Cup.
"One of my people got rejected three times for a U.S. visa," Seksenbayev said. "So we won't have to worry about that."
Almeo eSports has ambitions beyond this tournament, and even beyond Dota 2. They're hoping to host a Valve tournament once they've established themselves, and they want to break into other eSports, including Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, League of Legends, maybe Overwatch and many, many more.
For now, though, the goal of Almeo eSports is to show that they are serious and that Kazakhstan has high-quality Dota 2 players. With the online qualifiers right around the corner, they're are inching ever closer to that goal.
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