One of the recurring problems in Dota 2's competitive scene is less-than-optimal services rendered by the companies Valve partners with. That might seem odd for one of the world's most profitable companies, but it's the Valve way to outsource just about everything it can when it comes to Dota 2. As a result, there's not a lot of oversight, which might help explain the current imbroglio over this year's "Secret Shop," entrusted (per usual) to the merchandiser WeLoveFine.
Some context: The Secret Shop is part of the hype leading up The International, serving up limited edition gimcracks and gewgaws that include everything from hats (physical and virtual) to backpacks to skinny ties to pint glasses. Not all of the merchandise is particularly interesting, but I'll admit a special fondness for last year's Faceless Void boxers briefs, which featured a toothy grin encompassing much of the, uh, package region ("like Teeth for dudes," as one friend put it).
Long shipping times and lost orders have long been part and parcel of the Secret Shop experience, but this year's woes have (justifiably) attracted more complaints than usual. A brief sampling:
- Ridiculous shipping prices for anyone outside the United States. One Reddit user reported that a $25 mug would cost $113 to ship to Australia.
- No shipping whatsoever to several countries, including Pakistan and Albania, both of which have significant Dota 2 communities.
- A near total lack of clothing designed for women, outside of a tank top and a pair of leggings. (Doubly frustrating for a community that purportedly hopes to see more women taking part in it).
- Promotional photos that don't actually seem to match up with what's for sale
- No options for taller than average men
It's pretty rare that Valve actually issues a mea culpa, but, yesterday, the company announced they'd be suspending The Secret Shop until further notice, citing the difficulty in handling global distribution. Admittedly, that's not an easy task, and certainly not a cheap one. But,as Valve wrote on its Dota 2 blog, "Our goal has been to give easy access to the great number of Dota fans possible so they can show their affiliation with the game we all love. The way it is currently set up makes it really hard to do that, and until we can fix it, we shouldn't have such an offer on the table."
Kudos, I say. It is unfair and exclusionary for some regions and demographics to have better access to this tradition, and could very well have driven a wedge between Dota 2 fans during what should, in theory, be a celebration of the game and its community. Valve hasn't yet offered a timeline for reopening the site, but until then, The Secret Shop will be taking its name quite literally.