A Game Of Numbers
In less than a month, the biggest annual e-sport event of the year will return, and looks to set a new record in terms of prize money up for grabs.
Valve’s annual Dota 2 tournament, The International (TI), is going on its seventh year now and seemingly has no stop in its momentum. Over the past four years, Valve has utilized crowd sourcing to help increase the tournament’s prize pool dramatically. For The International 6 (2016), the prize pool was at a staggering 20.7 million dollars (USD), The International 5 boasted $18.4 million as its prize pool, and also saw it won by TI5 Champions Evil Geniuses in a moment fittingly referred to as the “6 Million Dollar Echo Slam.”
Valve’s ability to tap into the large Dota 2 player-base to help finance these huge tournaments isn’t anything new. This is a practice that has been done by the Bellevue, WA company for 4 years or more now, and it in turn has been echoed by various other game developers looking to help keep their e-sport competitions afloat as well.
Players of Dota 2 who buy the in-game item called The International Battle Pass help contribute to the overall prize pool for the teams competing. This though isn’t the only perk players get, as they are able to access a large amount of TI7 Battle Pass exclusive in-game cosmetics, a fantasy game mode consisting of the players that will be attending The International 7, and even a single-player game mode with a unique campaign. As the days tick down until The International kicks off on August 7, new waves of cosmetics are also released and made available to players provided they reach the prerequisite level with their Battle Pass—a method that can be done either through purchasing levels directly, or completing challenges set by Valve.
For this year’s iteration of The International, the prize pool has already passed the $20 million mark, with it at the time of writing less than $100,000 shy of its 2016 record-setting prize pool. As teams begin the final stretch to prepare for the Seattle, WA showdown, it’s very likely that TI7 will feature a new record for an e-sport prize pool, although it may not be that much higher than 2016.
The 2017-2018 Competitive Season Shakeup
In addition to the Battle Pass being within arm’s reach of a new record, Valve also recently announced a major shakeup to how the competitive Dota 2 scene will look after TI7.
Following 2015’s The International, Valve announced they would be running “marquee tournament events” around the world to help lead up to The International. The series debuted with four seasonal events, a Fall Major (in Frankfurt, Germany), a Winter Major (in Shanghai, China), and a Spring Major (in Manila, The Philippines) building up to The International, which takes place in the summer. Following some issues with this format, Valve opted to reduce the number of Majors for the 2016-2017 season to just two, one in Boston, Mass. and one in Kiev, Ukraine in advance of the main event.
However in a recent blog post on the official Dota 2 site, the development team at Valve announced they will be doing away with the Major system, and instead adopt a new system that more closely resembles their Majors & Minors tournament format in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
“For the next year we will be taking a more organic approach to growing the competitive ecosystem, working more closely with third-party tournaments. Instead of the previous Major system, we will be selecting many third-party tournaments to directly sponsor,” the post reads. “Additionally, players competing in these tournaments will earn Qualifying Points which will be the sole factor in determining invites to The International 2018.”
Essentially, Valve is stating that it will be dividing tournaments they help sponsor into two tiers: Majors and Minors. The Majors will have to have a prize pool of $500,000 with Valve contributing $500,000 more to the prize pool. The Minors will need to have a pool of $150,000 with Valve again matching that prize pool with their own investment. In addition, both Majors and Minors are expected to have at least one qualifier from each primary region of Dota 2’s competitive scene (North America, South America, South East Asia, China, Europe, and the Commonwealth of Independent States) as well as a LAN finals component. Valve is also being more hands-on with the third-party tournaments run by various organizations (BeyondTheSummit, ESL, PGL, etc.) by helping schedule these events so no conflicts arise. This could be beneficial, as it will allow lesser-known teams to help build up talent, earn fans and so forth: something that is vital to maintain a healthy competitive scene.
Valve also announced that it will continue to use roster locks for each stage of the season, with any qualifying points earned by a player allowed to be retained if they switch teams. Valve did clarify though that “to allow for teams recruiting new entrants to the competitive landscape and to facilitate sometimes necessary roster changes between lock periods,” only the top three players on each team will be counted towards their team’s overall Qualifying Points.
Valve also stated a leaderboard system for both individual players and team showing their respective qualifying points will be introduced, making it easier to track who is doing well and will most likely earn a spot in next year’s International.