The Dota 2 Shanghai Major is the subject of a community outcry after panel host James ‘2GD’ Harding was let go after the first day and a half of the tournament.
Harding announced the news in a tweet, prompting a slew of anger and speculation on Twitter and Reddit. Much of this was directed at Perfect World, who operate Dota 2 in China. Harding then clarified in a follow-up tweet that the decision had, in fact, been Valve’s.
Until 2015, Harding was a regular presence at official Dota 2 events. He didn’t appear at The International 2015 or the Frankfurt Major, however, meaning that the Shanghai Major represented a return of a sorts—a return that has been prematurely cut short. He is known for his willingness to push people’s buttons in order to get a laugh, and this is the basis of his popularity among parts of the Dota 2 community.
The exact reason for his firing hasn’t been officially explained, but it doesn’t appear that there was a single inciting incident. Harding’s first day as host was irreverent, sometimes openly mocking of certain pro players, and included off-colour humour and language. Any of these things—or all of them in aggregate—could be the reason, but nothing in particular stands out as the likely explanation. We’ve contacted Valve for comment. Harding himself plans to write more substantially about the issue tomorrow, describing this is as a “very very odd situation.”
It’s certainly unusual for a personality to be let go from an esports event without explanation and without an obvious inciting incident.
Prior to this controversy, the community was already unhappy with the production quality of the Shanghai Major. There have been long waits between games as well as audio and video issues on the stream. This isn’t unheard of in the group stages of a large event, and there’s plenty of time to resolve them before the playoffs begin in earnest, but it compounds a sense of disappointment that is readily apparent from Reddit and Twitch chat.
This is a shame, because the Shanghai Major had a very exciting first day. The surprising rise of MVP Phoenix sets this up to be the best Dota 2 event since, well, the last Major. Given the quality of the games so far, it’d be sad if Dota 2’s second Major is remembered instead for the drama it inspired.