While many developers will talk about treating digital sports like 'real' sports, only Valve have fully realised that a real sports culture needs real sports fans. More than simply watching and playing games, sports fans idly think about matches, have favourite players, identify with teams, and will tell everyone who'll listen that they know better than teams' managers. Dota 2 already sells virtual team flags to wave, virtual wizard shirts officially endorsed by famous players, and virtual sticker albums to collect pictures of your favourite boys. Now Valve are having a real crack at another sports culture staple, fantasy leagues.
Like a fantasy football league, Fantasy Dota lets fans join up with their chums to draft a dream team. Fantasy captains each 'play against' another captain each week, which means Dota tracks how well their team's players perform in actual real tournaments then whoever's have done best 'wins the match.' Points are meted out based on metrics from kills and deaths to heals and stuns.
Each league can hold up to ten players, who each pay £0.59 for a ticket (check the Community tab within Dota 2). One's included with the Compendium, so if you're a big Dota fan you're probably already set up to be the amazing professional team manager you know, deep down in your heart of hearts, that you would definitely be. You can be in as many leagues as you fancy, too. Season One will run from May 19 to July 28, and players can already set up their little leagues and start drafting.
This isn't the first Fantasy Dota, but it's certainly Valve's first big serious attempt at the idea. They experimented in February with the Dreamleague tournament [Edit: and during last year's International, readers remind me], but they more experiments. They only tracked matches from those tournaments, meaning players were often idle and it was all a bit slow. This new launch follows every tournament, and Valve plan to follow with a second fantasy league season "shortly after" its big tournament The International ends in July.