Elephant, the Dota roster formed just a year ago, will no longer compete as a team.
All the players have been released following a season of below-par performances from the squad that was expected to make waves within the Dota 2 eSports world.
The players who came together intending to be the best team in the world caused quite a stir when they left their former teams to form China's new 'super squad' in 2020. Following lengthy discussions and significant contractual agreements being completed, the new-look roster came together last October. Still, they've since struggled to meet the promise that many predicted on the world stage.
In local events, Elephant did show signs that better things were to come raising hopes of fans across China, but as soon as they headed into the regional competition, they found their opponents a little too much of a test. They failed to get out of their locality during the 2021 Dota Pro Circuit, only finishing fifth in each regional league, which meant they didn't qualify for either of the majors.
The beginning of the end
However, there was a glimmer of hope when they headed into The International 10 via their performance in the regional qualifier, but when it mattered, their performance was lackluster. Elephant finished in 13th place, barely even making it to the main stage competition. It was a disappointing showing in the eagerly anticipated tenth iteration of The International tournament, which was huge for Dota 2 and eSports in general. The 2020 competition was canceled due to the pandemic, so it had brought a real heightened sense of excitement from fans to see the competition come back in 2021. That was evident as The eSports Observer noted that the final of the event was the most viewed Dota 2 event in history. The prize money on offer was also significant, with a Bwin Sports piece on eSports suggesting prize money for The International topped $40m in 2021. But whilst the attraction of the money on offer is a massive lure for gamers, it doesn't mean the big bucks head the way of even the most prominent players, and every so often a team falls by the wayside, wanting, and this was certainly the case for Elephant this year.
The International is a tournament that every Chinese team strives for victory in, proven by the number of teams from the Far East that have featured in the final fight for the title each year. It seems that Elephant's loss was the last straw. Despite lengthy discussions with the players, almost everyone is now a free agent, allowing them all to find new teams to represent in the upcoming 2022 edition of the Dota Pro Circuit.
What's next for Elephant?
There are no plans from the organization that put the team together to re-enter the competitive world of Dota 2 gaming, as they put out the following statement via social media on Weibo. "In the past year, we did our best to and provided as much financial support as possible, but as a team that basically relies on the love of its fans, the gap between ideals and reality led the company to finally decide to disband the team. Sorry to disappoint everyone."
It remains to be seen which teams such as Eurus, Somnus, Yang, and fy will join ahead of the Dota Pro Circuit, but it will be interesting to see if they can reproduce their form, which originally brought them together to try and unify their talents following TI9 in 2019.