Dota 2 developer Valve Software announced on Sunday (3 October) that The International 10 (TI10), this year's iteration of the game's annual world championship tournament, will no longer have a live audience for the main event and that all purchased tickets will be fully refunded.
In a statement on the official Dota 2 blog, Valve said that they their decision was brought about by the continued rise of COVID-19 infection rates and the subsequent introduction of new restrictions in Bucharest, Romania, where TI10 is set to be held.
"To ensure the safety of all players, talent, and production staff participating in the event, we have decided to refund all ticket sales for The International 2021," said Valve.
"We wanted nothing more than to welcome fans live to the event, but we can no longer do so in a way that allows us to prioritize the health and well-being of both audience members and participants. Those who purchased tickets will be issued a full refund automatically."
Valve's announcement also follows five confirmed cases of Chinese players testing positive for the virus just over a week before the start of the tournament.
The infected players include Du "Monet" Peng, Lin "Xxs" Jing, and Ye "Borax" Zhibiao from Team Aster as well as Thiay "JT-" Jun Wen and Jin "flyfly" Zhiyi of Invictus Gaming. Multiple members of the support staff for both teams have also produced positive tests.
Invictus Gaming and Team Aster are among the five Chinese teams — alongside PSG.LGD, Vici Gaming, and Elephant — that qualified for TI10. All five teams have been bootcamping near Bucharest and are staying in the same hotel.
While PSG.LGD, VG, and Elephant have since confirmed in their respective Weibo pages that all of their players and support staff have produced negative tests, both Valve and TI10 organiser PGL have not yet made any statements on the situation surrounding the COVID-positive players.
In a post on his personal Weibo page, Invictus Gaming CEO Liu Ming that he even sent an email to Valve on the night of 30 September where he proposed solutions that could allow COVID-positive players to still compete in TI10 while remaining isolated. However, according to Liu, the developer has not yet given any reply.
TI10 is set to begin on 7 October and will run until 17 October. With multiple players testing positive just over a week before it starts, there is growing concern over whether the tournament can be safely and successfully hosted even if no live audience will be present during the main event from 12 to 17 October.
TI10 features 18 of the best Dota 2 teams in the world competing to claim the title of world champions and the lion's share of the event's over US$40 million prize pool.