Deadlock Under Fire as Valve Accused of Poaching Pros for Testing in Other Games

Valve’s highly-anticipated game, Deadlock, has faced criticism from the popular multiplayer game franchise Smite. Professional players and content creators from Smite have accused Valve of purposely trying to recruit top players from other competitive games, including their own, before Deadlock has even been officially announced.

The concept of Deadlock has been well-established for some time, as numerous leaks from playtests have provided insight into the gameplay mechanics. This third-person MOBA includes lane minions, diverse character classes, unique abilities, and a progression system.

Nevertheless, Incon, a former Smite professional who now creates content, disclosed that he, along with other Smite professionals and creators, had been granted early access to Deadlock. As per his statement in a recent video (, it seems that Smite is not the only game from which they are recruiting players.

The discussion begins at 36:00.

“According to Incon, Valve is making a bold move by directly targeting Smite. They are actively trying to win over players and have reached out to competitive communities and content creators of similar games in order to get them to play their game.”

“A Twitter group has been created with a wide range of Smite pro players and content creators. Each member was given a code and invited to play the game, with the goal of receiving feedback and suggestions for improvement. They were also joined by other members of the Smite community, making for an enjoyable and collaborative experience.”

“Their target audience includes both competitive players and content creators, as they seek to involve them in the process of a highly anticipated game that is expected to have a significant impact.”

Incon expressed his belief that Deadlock is poised for success upon its launch and that there is little possibility of Smite 2’s player base competing with it. This is particularly evident if Deadlock is released before Smite 2 has a chance to improve from its current state.

In early 2024, I had the opportunity to playtest Smite 2 and, although it showed potential at the time, the development process has been slow. Currently, the game is still in its early Alpha stages and only offers infrequent playtest weekends instead of having servers available 24/7.

Incon argues that while Smite 2 has yet to be officially revealed, Deadlock is already in a more advanced stage of development. Furthermore, he provided more insight into the gameplay of the game than most leakers have disclosed thus far.

“The gameplay of this game is similar to that of a hero shooter, like Paladins or Overwatch, but with mechanics inspired by a MOBA. It’s like playing Overwatch on a Smite map, where you have objectives, a jungle, and a Fire Giant (similar to Baron in LoL or Roshan in DOTA 2). You can still customize your character with builds, just like in traditional MOBAs,”he clarified.


Deadlock will have a big neutral monster to kill, sort of like DOTA 2’s Roshan (pictured above) according to Incon

“Those who have experienced the game often express their enjoyment and surprise, saying things like, ‘Wow, this game is so much fun!’ and ‘Wow, I’ve never come across anything quite like it before.’ It presents a unique gaming experience that can be compared to Smite, out of all the other games available.”

During the conversation, Smite professionals and content creators were seen discussing Deadlock in Incon’s Twitch chat, indicating that they have already had the opportunity to try it out. Venenu, a seasoned Smite pro and previous world champion, shared his thoughts on the matter.

“I am definitely hooked on DL more than Smite 2. The development progress of the game is also much faster, with live updates and everything. In fact, I’ve already put in over 100 hours playing it.”

Given the expected size difference between Deadlock and Smite 2, it would not be surprising to see content creators move to the larger title in pursuit of, as Incon phrased it, “job security”.

At a time of great vulnerability for HiRez, Smite 2 is not yet at a stage where it can be constantly available to the public. Meanwhile, Smite 1’s player base continues to decline as the game is in the process of transitioning.

If Incon’s assertions are accurate, Valve’s involvement in attempting to strengthen the competitive following for their upcoming game, even before it has been officially revealed, may ultimately lead to the downfall of HiRez. As HiRez is most likely relying heavily on the success of Smite 2, this could be the deciding factor.

With the transition to Smite 2, the entire esports league is essentially without employment. It comes as no surprise that these players are seeking new opportunities and do not have high expectations for the sustainability of Smite 2’s scene.

Despite Smite’s esports scene having lasted for 10 years, the SPL is now defunct. Additionally, while a Smite 2 LAN has been announced, the professional scene is a mere shadow of its former self.

A couple of days following Incon’s stream where he discussed his current knowledge about Deadlock, HiRez President Stew Chisam shared a lengthy tweet ( expressing his concerns about the tactics used by their competitors.

Although he did not mention Valve specifically, there is no other game platform currently developing a high-profile multiplayer game that would directly compete with Smite. In response to people mentioning Deadlock as the main focus of his post, Stew directly replied.

Nevertheless, it’s important to approach this with some skepticism.

“One of our major partners, who contributes a substantial portion of our revenues, is blatantly focusing on our content creators and pros in their development of a competitive game. While we understand and anticipate some level of competition in the business world, we believe that all is fair in love and war.”

“This is not typical targeting; it involves creating private group chats exclusively for our game’s key content creators, allowing us to directly target them and make this a central aspect of their strategy.”

Chisam described the competition against Deadlock as “asymmetrical,”with Valve having a significant advantage. This is especially evident as Valve has not taken any action to remove the Deadlock leaks, even though NDAs were put in place for the playtest, allowing for natural hype to build for their game.

“Stew explained that, being a platform, they have access to valuable information such as the identities of all players who have played our game, their spending habits, growth patterns over time, the success of the game in different markets, and even the other games our players engage with.”

“The company has the power to determine the on-platform visibility of every game, making it the most effective means of promoting a game by 10 times. I am not making any accusations, and in fact, I believe this partner is more skilled at this than its competitors. However, one can easily imagine how tempting it would be to use their influence to heavily promote in-house content on the platform.”

Venenu, the Smite pro who previously commended Deadlock, also expressed disapproval towards Stew’s opinion and argued that Smite was not the only group of competitive players chosen for playtesting. He argued that Stew’s portrayal of the “partner”in question was not entirely accurate.

“As per my understanding and the experiences of other professional players and creators, we were not recruited from Smite. Instead, we were approached by a third party and invited to try it out,”he clarified. “There are also players from other competitive games who have been playing it for a while, even before us Smite players joined in.”

Although Stew has retracted his accusations against their “partner”, he still believes that the overall business practices of games on a platform like Steam can have negative consequences for smaller developers attempting to establish themselves in the competitive multiplayer market.

Despite everything mentioned, if this new information is indeed accurate, it suggests that the player base of Deadlock is larger than what was originally assumed. It is probable that experienced players from other games have already been playing it for some time.

Despite Venenu’s previous claims that he would choose Deadlock over Smite 2 after trying out both games, it appears that a third party may have influenced his decision. While it is unclear if this third party intended to poach players, it seems to have resulted in players choosing Deadlock over Smite 2. However, it is important to note that there is a significant difference between players being deliberately poached and players simply moving on to a game that they believe will provide a better gaming experience.

Despite the lack of an actual release date for Deadlock, the recent events have shown that the development process is well underway and an official reveal could occur at any moment.

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