Chinese Dota 2 team Azure Ray announced on Monday (2 October) that they have entered partnership with Honkai: Star Rail, the smash-hit space fantasy RPG by Chinese developer HoYoverse, as they prepare to compete in The International (TI) 2023, this year's Dota 2 world championship tournament.
In a post on Azure Ray's official Weibo account, the organisation said that Honkai: Star Rail will be the team's sponsor for TI 2023.
While the post did not elaborate on what the partnership entails, it is expected that Honkai: Star Rail will appear in some form on the jerseys of the Azure Ray players as they compete.
"Board Astral Express to Seattle with us and show off your skills this summer! May this journey lead us starward!," a translation of Azure Ray's post read.
Azure Ray were only formed back in early May as a trio of legendary Chinese Dota 2 players — Lu "Somnus" Yao, Yang "chalice" Shenyi, and Xu "fy" Linsen, came out of retirement in a bid to qualify for this year's Dota 2 world championship tournament.
Rounding out the squad were former Ybb Gaming standouts Lou "Lou" Zhen and Jiang "天命 (pronounced tiān mìng)" An as well as veteran coach Zhang "LaNm" Zhicheng.
Azure Ray earned their spot in TI 2023 by winning the tournament's Chinese regional qualifier back in August. They will be the second Chinese team in Dota 2's marquee event, joining directly-invited squad LGD Gaming.
With three legendary players on their roster, Azure Ray are expected to be among the contenders to claim the Aegis of Champions in TI 2023.
TI 2023 will be hosted from 12 to 29 October in Seattle, the United States and will feature 20 of the best Dota 2 teams in the world will be fighting to claim the coveted Aegis of Champions and the lion's share of a growing prize pool.
For everything you need to know about TI 2023, check here.
Azure Ray-Honkai: Star Rail shows growing influence of HoYoverse games
While Honkai: Star Rail has been making waves in the casual gaming scene since its release back in April, it and other HoYoverse titles like Genshin Impact have also been making its presence felt in esports.
Aside from Honkai: Star Rail's newly-minted partnership with Azure Ray, there were also a couple of notable incidents this year where HoYoverse games have crossed over into the esports scene.
In January, Chinese Dota 2 superstar Wang "Ame" Chunyu surprised his fans when he posted a video of himself cosplaying as the Genshin Impact character Childe.
A few months later in May, a VALORANT pro player forced his team to forfeit an official match because he was too busy playing Honkai: Star Rail shortly after the game released.
If you're a Dota 2 player intrigued by Honkai: Star Rail after their partnership with Azure Ray and want to begin your own interstellar journey, you can check out our beginner's guide to get you familiarised with the game's various systems.
Honkai: Star Rail also has its version 1.4 update coming up on 11 October, featuring three new characters in Jingliu, Topaz, and Guinaifen as well as the launch of the game's PlayStation 5 version, among others.