Valve says it's carefully monitoring the Trump administration's crackdown on visitor visas to the United States, adding that the company will take its annual Dota 2 tournament, The International, out of the country if necessary.
Speaking at a press event today, Valve's Erik Johnson said that any new restrictions on visitor visas will likely have a negative effect on the popular tournament. The International was launched in 2012, and took place in Germany. But ever since then, it's been held on Valve's home turf of Seattle, Washington.
The International attracts the world's biggest Dota 2 competitive players and teams, lured by massive cash prizes. Last year's tournament posted a record-breaking $20 million prize pool, and was won by Chinese team Wings Gaming.
Johnson said that visa restrictions are already a problem for the tournament, adding that senior politicians in Washington state had “pulled strings” in order to legally get players through the complex system.
Valve chief Gabe Newell said that the newness of esports can pose problems. "Opera singers and Pulitzer Prize winners don't have a problem because [border officials] know what they are looking at," he said. Esports players are often young men with no ties to the United States, and little in the way of resumes.
Newell said that if visa rules became too onerous, The International will have to be moved out of the United States. He expressed dismay that some Valve employees, born outside the United States, are currently afraid or unable to visit their home countries, for fear of not being allowed back into the country.
We’ll have more from our chat with Gabe Newell in the days ahead.