Esports is having some pretty glaring growing pains to end this week.
Valve has fired James “2GD” Harding, who was hosting the English-language stream for the Shanghai Master event for the publisher’s multiplayer online arena battler Dota 2. On Thursday, Harding noted that he was dismissed by Valve from the position. Today, Valve founder Gabe Newell took to Reddit to confirm that he had fired harding while also calling him an “ass.” This comes as fans have complained throughout the event about the quality of the production, which continues through this weekend on Twitch. Unexplained disruptions and connectivity errors have marred the experience for the hundreds of thousands of people who have tuned in to watch. This led to Newell revealing that he is also firing the production team in charge of the Shanghai event — and he wants to replace them before the main event begins next week.
Esports is one of the fastest growing aspects of gaming. Millions of people consider themselves fans of both playing and watching games like League of Legends, Dota 2, and World of Tanks. This has led to those games making hundreds of millions of dollars from in-app purchases as well as fueling the surrounding esports business that is responsible for $325 million in 2015 just from sponsorships, ticket sales, and other related revenues. Industry intelligence firm Newzoo predicts this sector will grow to $463 million in 2016.
Of course, to keep that momentum, companies like Valve want to ensure that their premiere events go well. And the Shanghai Major, set up to act as the equivalent of a Pro Golfing Association Tour Major, is one of the pillars of the Dota 2 season. It has $3 million in prize money up for grabs.
That’s a serious business, and it’s probably why Newell decided to deal with Harding and the Shanghai production team publicly.
“James. We’ve had issues with James at previous events,” Newell wrote on Reddit. “Some Valve people lobbied to bring him back for Shanghai, feeling that he deserved another chance. That was a mistake. James is an ass, and we won’t be working with him again.”
Again, it’s unclear what specific event prompted the firing of Harding, but it seems to have to do with inappropriate behavior and commentary. For example, he kicked off the Shanghai stream by talking about how his hotel room did not have any pornography channels.
We’ve asked both involved parties for more details, and we’ll update this post with any new information. But if you want conspiracy theories, however, the Dota 2 forum on Reddit is always at your disposal.
It doesn’t end with that. Harding responded to Newell on Reddit with a comment of his own.
“This is why my statement is taking some time,” wrote Harding on Reddit. “It seems more personal than professional. So I will respond. Just for the record, Gabe, I don’t think you are an ass. But I don’t think you are right about me (well maybe you are a bit of an ass for calling me an ass, but let’s find out what others think shall we?). Brb”
Esports is dramatic.
Of course, Newell didn’t only have comments for Harding.
“As long as we’re firing people, we are also firing the production company that we’ve been working with on the Shanghai Major,” he said. “They will be replaced, and we hope to get this turned around before the main event.”
The Valve boss posted these messages less than an hour ago. But the Shanghai event is rolling along with new matches happening throughout the evening … presumably with the same production team who all just found out that they lost their contract.
Let’s watch and see what happens next: