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 Dota 2  tournament prize pool surpasses that of the U.S. Open
Dota 2 tournament prize pool surpasses that of the U.S. Open
June 25, 2014 | By Alex Wawro

Valve is setting a remarkable record for eSports prize pots with its Dota 2 International prize pool, which is poised to surpass $10 million today.

That's more than what's awarded during professional sporting competitions like the U.S. Open golf tournament ($9 million) or tournaments for competing eSports like last year's League of Legends Season Three World Championships ($2.05 million); it's also far more than the nearly $2.9 million in prize money awarded during last year's International.

The lion's share of that money comes from crowdfunding; The International's initial $1.6 million prize pool increases by $2.50 every time someone purchases a copy of The International Compendium, the interactive virtual sportsbook Valve sells as a complement its upcoming tournament.

As the prize pool hits certain milestones, new Compendium features -- exclusive in-game chat emoticons for Compendium owners, for example -- are unlocked.

Owners can also level up their Compendiums by completing in-game challenges or simply buying Compendium points, and 25 percent of those purchases also go to The International's prize pool.

The company debuted the $10 Compendium in advance of last year's International as a means of monetizing interest in the tournament, and advertised the 25 percent cut for the prize as a way of redirecting some of the community's passion for the game back to its premier players.

Sixteen teams of said players are expected to compete at this year's International, which takes place July 18-21 at Seattle's KeyArena. The winners will take home the largest stake of the prize pool -- last year's winning team took home $1.44 million, roughly half of the total prize pot -- with the seven runners-up taking home progressively smaller prizes in accordance with their performance.

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Samuel Green
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Something I want to get an industry opinion on... do you think any other company could pull this off? Valve has a lot of goodwill points to do something like the Compendium (they're getting $7.50 off every purchase, which people seem to forget)... and they're trusted enough by players to deliver a top-notch event (TI3 was the best esports event of all time).

It's nice to see this and think "wow, esports is HUGE.. it's going to be a big new thing" but I wonder if anyone but Valve could pull this off. Is it just an anomaly or a huge shift in the way games are seen, interacted with, and monetized?

Tuomas Pirinen
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Riot can, and is doing it. League of Legends is ahead of Dota in eSports stakes already (number of players, not yet in prize money). And I am sure Blizzard will go for it big-time with their MOBA.

Samuel Green
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Riot is ahead in user numbers and money spent. They're not ahead in innovative spectator features, production quality, monetization, or just good ol' fashioned game design.

Miku Kim
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Sorry, bur Dota surpassed League when it comes to eSports Months ago. Yes, LoL has more Players, but the amnount of Players has nothing to do with the Quality of the Game. TI4 is $650.000 away from being bigger than ALL League of Legends Tournaments Up2Date.

Joshua Waugh
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People buy the compendium because of its value, not because of Valve's goodwill. It's not like it's shady for them to profit from this either. They're a company and they're just trying to monetise their free to play game in a way that makes sense.

matthew hager
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While you cannot take away from how successful this crowd-funding campaign has been I can't help but feel that if they continue to do this for ever International that it will kill the Dota 2 competitive scene overall because every other tournament will be irrelevant in terms of stakes and prize money.

What Blizzard does with the World Championship Series every year is much more successful because it ties the entire year together and culminates it with a huge final tournament.

Now for Dota 2 only the international matters because they have more money in this one tournament than all of the others in the year combined so what reason is there for players and fans to care about those other tournaments?

Samuel Green
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Well they only get an invite if they're a successful team who is playing regularly. Also, the prize money for other tournaments is really increasing, partly because of the increased exposure of Dota 2 through the International.

There's a tournament on this week in Frankfurt (ESL One) with a $150k+ prize pool. That's not a tiny amount of money and it's based on regional competitors too.

Emyl Merzoud
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It's like the World Cup. Most people who watch it don't care about other tournaments, but the World Cup is the big one. The one that everyone watches. It's the same thing with the International.

One big event doesn't make the others meaningless. In fact it probably gets more people interested in watching more e-sports.

matthew hager
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@Samuel $150K prize pool is typical as is tiny compared to 10+ million, why would players care about winning that when they would make 100 times more winning the international.

@Emyl the world cup comparison is flawed because what makes it special is it is a national team competition where as the other soccer events are all club and league based, the international is the same teams that compete in every other event it is special because it is played for so much money that the teams that wins will be the highest earning team for the entire year even if they don't play at any other events.

By having one huge event that is not related to anything else going on in the scene it make the other events worthless, who cares about winning 50,000 in event 12 of the year when another player just won more than 1,000,000?

The main problem is not the money however, rather that Valve does not integrate the event within the rest of the events in the year. If teams were earning points throughout the year in other events that lead to them qualifying for the international that would be fine because then there would be incentive and higher stakes for all the smaller events as teams and fans watched to see who would collect enough points to then qualify.

Joshua Waugh
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You're only invited to the International if you're a stable team who has proven their ability in other tournaments. It is in every player's best interest to compete as often as they can and as well as they can to secure a chance at the main event of the year.

The winnings from tournaments, plus salaries from their team/sponsors (and possibly ad revenue from twitch) is enough to allow these players to make a living doing what they love. Nobody is going to stop playing throughout the year just because TI has such a monstrous prizepool.

Samuel Green
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"$150K prize pool is typical as is tiny compared to 10+ million, why would players care about winning that when they would make 100 times more winning the international."

Because only 1 person can win the International. Because you need to be proven in non-International tournaments to get an invite to the International. Because eSports athletes are incredibly underpaid already and beggars can't be choosers. Because professional competition is training for The International (one reason China was crushed in Dota last year is because of a lack of professional games to train in). Because pride.

Plenty of reasons to play in other tournaments. And they all do in practice. TI4 is big but it's hardly the only option for eSports organizations. If they did that, they'd get nothing.

Tyler King
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@matthew They care about winning those tournaments because only a handful of people are going to make money off of the international. Everyone else who is trying to make a living off of this has to win other tournaments, get sponsors, get fans watching their streams etc...

Currently the US Open allows 154 people to qualify per year. The prize pool as noted is currently around $9 million. So there are 2 questions that are important to think about here. 1) How many people try to qualify, and 2) once qualified how much do top earners make compared to the rest?

1) 10, 127 golfers registered to try to qualify. I don't know all the details on those trying to qualify, but I'm sure many of them make their living off of golf. Whether it be tournaments, coaching, running clubs, etc... MANY of them make their living off of golf. But like mentioned only 154 actually get a chance at that massive prize pool.

2) In 2013 only the top 70 actually got paid out any money. MANY of those that did actually make money made well under $100k. The lowest being $16k. Here is the exact payout:

So why do golfers care about other tournaments? Because they have to. The top spots are generally taken by all the same people everytime. So if any of those other 10k+ golfers want a shot at making money doing what they love. They need other tournaments.

Francis Yuan
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While this idea has some merit, it is not yet a problem. Quite the opposite actually. Valve's annual investment of $1m into the scene has helped pave the way to bigger and bigger tournaments, as a kind of prize pool cold-war between every major e-sport organization that runs DOTA2.

The DOTA2 scene has generated $1m in prize money in June alone, and while June was a very busy month in competitive DOTA2 (because no one wants to walk in The International's shadow), I think this kind of pace will be sustainable for the foreseeable future.

As that link notes, to put it into perspective, the entire scene in 2012 generated only $378,591 (discounting The International) in prizes, an increase of 300% and counting.

Moreover, I think Valve were taken aback by the comependium's overwhelming success, compared to the previous one. Given the second set of hurried and lackluster stretch goals, I think they neither planned for nor wanted this much cash to suddenly enter their coffers, because it obligates them to pump it back into the game and they don't have the manpower to do it. I think they have a pretty good idea of what's going on and, come this time next year, they'll probably be a bit more cautious with the rewards so that they don't wind up eclipsing the rest of the scene.