The end of the year is, for many but certainly not all, a time of gift giving. Dota 2-themed merchandise makes a lovely holiday present—but does your favorite game really have you covered?
An image from inside the Secret Shop at The International 5, courtesy of Valve
Up front, lest I be accused of just shilling merchandise, I want to point out that it’s far too late to buy and receive any of these before the holidays. This is purely an exercise in window-shopping.
That said, Dota 2-themed merchandise is a fantastic way to represent your favorite esports brand—both the game itself and your favorite team or organization. I wanted to look at what Dota 2 gear is available, and which organizations have the best options available.
Valve’s traditionally released new merchandise each year around The International, with Secret Shop offerings ranging from collectibles such as Dotakins and Micro Plushes to clothing including pajamas, shirts and leggings to glassware and pillows. There’s been a fair amount of variety over the years.
Now, I was letdown by this year’s options at The International 8 as there weren’t a lot of new choices. The rubber patch toque (I’m Canadian: it’s a toque, not a beanie!) is quite warm; it has a lot of weight to it. The new playing cards are subtle, and the reds could use to be brighter, but overall are high quality. The new set of Dotakins are adorable, of course, and the clothing is a lot of t-shirts with designs from a variety of talented community artists. The few unique options we’ve the years—underwear, pajamas, ties—have been well-done, but we didn’t really see any new additions this year. I’d like to see more of those in future years!
I would argue that the Dota 2 options from Valve aren’t as robust or varied a collection as what’s available from Valve-competitor, Blizzard, in their store. Compared to Valve’s once-a-year-blowout, Blizzard updates their store several times a year, cycling in and out new products. Still, there are certainly plenty of options for Dota 2 fans, depending on availability.
But what about if we go beyond just what Valve has in store?
I googled major teams for each of the regions to see what they offered their fans.
I found a few things:
First, it’s challenging to get out-of-region gear because of huge shipping costs. I don’t see a way around this because shipping is what it is. Especially for smaller organizations, just trying to give their fans something to wear to represent them, I cannot imagine there’s any way for them to negotiate better shipping costs.
Once you move past the shipping costs, I wasn’t surprised to find the teams with the most established organizations tend to have the most merchandise available. These organizations usually have rosters for other esports, meaning a larger fanbase to purchase merchandise.
The usual selection includes hats, jerseys, t-shirts and hoodies. But some teams do go above-and-beyond.
Fnatic is a good example of a team with lots of variety. They have branded backpacks, keyboards, mice, mugs and other options sprinkled in among several different clothing options. There are very few organizations that branch out beyond the typical hats-and-clothing selections. Virtus.pro’s another organization that does it well. The latter, however, is missing the ball by not having a cute stuffed “Boris.”
Seriously, teams that aren’t hopping on the stuffed mascot bandwagon (I’m pretty sure this is all of them) are missing out.
I think Evil Geniuses leads the pack with their variety of clothing designs. They’ve gone for clever nods to the community on t-shirts and hoodies rather than a broad selection of goods. This is smart because we’re a community of meme-lovers.
The smartest team merchandise may be Natus Vincere’s line of yellow hoodies. Why? Because they have the fastest brand recognition of any team in Dota 2. While so many teams go with dark colors or emblazon their logo on a black hoodie, Natus Vincere embraced their iconic yellow and put out a line of sweatshirts in that glowing shade. It only takes a glance to spot Navi fans in a crowd.
North American team Forward Gaming also sports some unique colors: pink, teal and white. Unfortunately, the organization still hasn’t released their line though they teased that they will be selling some merchandise at some point.
Several of the tournament organizers and broadcast studios have options as well. Though at the time of writing, Moonduck’s website was down, they do have a range of clothing with their unique logo on it.
ESL provides a hub for purchasing merchandise, including some ESL-One-branded clothes.
Beyond the Summit can be counted on for merchandise of the typical hats-and-clothing variety, tied into their various events. You may find yourself picking up something not related to Dota 2 from them simply because the designs are so good.
What’s the bottom line here?
Dota 2 organizations, whether teams, broadcasters or tournament organizers, do an ok job of making merchandise available to fans. Some of them standout above the rest whether due to smart branding, breadth of options or clever designs.
And truthfully, we Dota 2 fans have often focused our efforts on digital merchandise. The compendiums, battle passes, and various collections of skins for heroes, couriers, wards and such have received a huge portion of our money. Millions are spent each year as fans try to acquire as many digital goodies as possible.
What I’d like to see in the future is a centralized way to purchase team-gear for all the teams at The International. It’d be awesome to be able to pick up shirts and jerseys, socks, pins, keychains, anything related to the competing teams so we can see the stands filled with fans decked out in the colors and logos of their favorite teams.
Realistically, that seems like a level of logistical coordination that Valve will always pass on, but I can dream!