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Valve revokes Major status for Galaxy Battles II

Galaxy Battles II lost its Major status in a decision announced by Dota 2 developer Valve Corporation on Thursday. Michael Hanson for ESPN

MANILA, Philippines -- Fallout Gaming's Galaxy Battles II, the first planned Dota 2 Pro Circuit Major of 2018, is part of the circuit no more, Dota 2 developer Valve Corporation announced Thursday.

Valve said in a statement that it has rescinded Galaxy Battles II's spot in the circuit due to new regulations regarding esports competitors in the host country, the Philippines.

"We at the Galaxy Battles Management respect the decision made by the Valve Corporation," a statement from Galaxy Battles Management said. "Rest assured, the event will go on as scheduled."

However, the event, which is set to take place from Jan. 15 to 21 at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan, will no longer award top-placing teams with Pro Circuit points, which are used to qualify for the game's largest tournament, The International. With a prize pool of more than $24.7 million in 2017, The International 7 featured the biggest pot in esports history.

Under the new Pro Circuit format, players earn points for top finishes in Minors and Majors deemed eligible by Valve. Galaxy Battles II's previous Major status meant it offered 1,500 Pro Circuit Points alongside a prize pool of $1 million, with Valve covering half of the pool.

"This [the decision to revoke Galaxy Battles II's pro circuit status] is based on what we feel are unreasonable infringements on the privacy of the players, as a condition to enter the country," Valve's blog post said. "The tournament itself may still proceed, but without any involvement of Valve or the Dota Pro Circuit."

While Valve did not cite specific regulations that caused problems, the Philippines requires athletes looking to compete in local events to procure licenses from the Games and Amusement Board. As esports professionals are considered athletes by the country as of late 2017, they are subject to the same license requirement. Among the steps needed to procure a license is mandatory drug testing by the GAB or, in an exemption made for Galaxy Battles II, certified agencies in the competing players' respective countries of residence.

The full details of GAB's esports rules and its involvement with Galaxy Battles II were released earlier today.

"This has been the rule in GAB for many years now," the organization said in a statement, "and is applied to all professional sports, including basketball, boxing, golf, cycling, billiards, soccer and so on. All sports promoters, organizers, managers [and] athletes are made sufficiently aware of these requirements."

The tests screen for THC, the hallucinatory chemical in marijuana, as well as methamphetamine.

"We encourage teams and its individual members to abide by the laws of every country they are competing at," Galaxy Battles Management said in a statement. "Our company feels that this regulation is a step towards the right direction to legitimize esports. We are currently working hard to promote a stronger and healthier gaming community."

Valve said it is currently in talks with tournament organizers to "try to find a way to run a Major with the invited and qualifying teams, including the Pro Circuit points that would have been available in Galaxy Battles 2018."

It is currently unclear how this development will affect attendance for the Galaxy Battles II. However, Virtus.pro, one of the season's early leaders in Pro Circuit points, has already withdrawn from the event.