The prize pool for Dota 2’s most prestigious tournament has reached an all-time high of nearly $30 million. The International's main event will take place in Shanghai, China, in late August.
Dota 2’s premier tournament The International made its name on the staggering prize pool it is able to generate. Beginning in 2011 with a prize purse of $1.6 million, the event has grown to new heights every year since. Though that $1.6 million does seem rather minuscule by the event's standards now, it was unheard of back then. The International has pushed the boundaries of esports prize pools every year since its inception. Reaching $30 million now would mark an approximately 1800% increase over the last seven years. With just under 40 days left for the pool to continue growing, the 2019 prize is expected to pass $30 million any day now.
To esports outsiders, these numbers may seem unbelievable. How can a video game tournament raise millions of dollars? In 2011 and 2012 the tournament's prize was $1.6 million, but that all changed in 2013 when Valve introduced the Battle Pass. This clever in-game purchase allowed fans to access new content and exclusive rewards while Valve took 25% of the income and added it directly to The International's prize pool. Now, Valve puts up the same $1.6 million that they always have and the fans do the rest- crowd-funding their way to millions upon millions of dollars.
The Battle Pass is available for purchase in three levels, the first costing $9.99, the second $29.35, and the third $44.99. Players can also level up their Battle Pass after it's been purchased, again for a fee. Purchasing higher levels grants a player access to more in-game content and rewards, which provides a worthy incentive to spend more. After all, you're only helping The International. These multiple opportunities for fans to spend their money means more for the tournament's end prize. New fans are discovering Dota 2 every day, which has contributed to the prize pool's consistent rise every year. This year's pool has already increased by about $5 million over last year's, and doesn't appear to be slowing down any time soon.
The International serves as Dota 2's largest and most prestigious proving ground. The months-long intensive from the qualifiers to the grand final has turned a dedicated few into superstars of the game. This tournament has broken many hearts, as well as produced some overnight millionaires. That million-dollar price tag only adding to the intensity. The International's qualifier stage is now completed, meaning all 18 teams will be watching as the pool increases, dying to get a piece for themselves.