Is 40 million too much of a stretch for The International

Dota 2 the international
Image credit: Valve Corporation

The Dota 2 Battle Pass and Valve are aiming to reach $40 million for this year's edition of The International. Will the community meet the goal? Should it?

Dota 2 has been out for almost a decade and for that time the game’s popularity has gone up and down. If there’s one thing that’s consistently successful it’s The International (TI). The latter is the most prestigious event for the year and gathers only the best teams from various regions. The prize pool last year reached $34,330,068. To this date that’s still the biggest reward in any single tournament in the world of esports. How are Valve gathering so much money? The Battle Pass.

Gaben currency
Image credit: Reddit

The $40 million mark

The Battle Pass introduces multiple new features into the game and also rewards hard earners with exclusive skins which can’t be found on the market. 25% of all sales on the Battle Pass go directly to the prize pool of The International. This year, the goal Valve have set is $40 million. There’s also an achievement in the Pass which grants players 20 extra levels if the pool gets to $50 million (but we highly doubt that). Will $40 million be a challenge for Valve? Probably not. Let’s take a look at how the prize pool has increased over the years.

  • The International 2013 - $2,874,380
  • The International 2014 - $10,931,105
  • The International 2015 - $18,429,613
  • The International 2016 - $20,770,460
  • The International 2017 - $24,787,916
  • The International 2018 - $25,532,177
  • The International 2019 - $34,330,068
  • The International 2020 - ???

The 25% rule hasn’t changed but the numbers sure are different. As you can see, the biggest leap in prize money was between 2018 and 2019 where the gap is almost $9 million. In the case of 2020 we’re talking about an increase of less than $6 million.

Ti graph dota 2
Image credit:

The graph above shows clearly that this year’s prize pool is going well above expectations. There are a few reasons for that.

Dota 2 has seen a significant increase in its player base since the start of 2020. That’s most likely the result of the coronavirus pandemic as many people were left home to play video games.

Dota 2 players charts
Image credit: Steamcharts

This year’s Battle Pass is good – it brings a lot of new features and returns all the good ones from previous years. Furthermore, it allows exclusive to not one but two personas and three arcana skins. That’s quite the incentive to spend money on it.

Last but not least, Valve have been very communicative with the players lately. The company implemented some changes to the Pass and made it easier for players to level up. Recycling was also brought back as it was missing before the last update.

Should the prize pool increase each year?

At first glance, the obvious answer might be “Yes”. When we think about it seriously, it’s a solid no. There’s no way the game can support this annual tradition as sooner or later it’ll fail. That is unless Valve start adding more money out of their pockets (something we can’t be sure they aren’t already doing).

A bigger problem arises though. Over 86% of the total competitive Dota 2 prize pool comes from The International (at least it will this year). Majors and Minors came to $6.5 million, so if the prize pool hits $40 million (which it will) it’ll be an even greater percentage. That’s not ok at all. Dota 2 and Valve have been criticized for putting so much importance on a single event. Sure it’s the equivalent of the World Cup in Dota 2, but such a difference is abysmal. We’ve seen teams get formed just for a chance to make it to TI which will disband a week after the event. The tier two scene, can receive much more funding and make it easier for aspiring new players to thrive.

Thankfully Valve are planning some Major changes to the pro scene for the next season. The company will incorporate regional leagues, remove Minor events and limit the number of Majors. The question of The International still remains though. Will it continue to amass huge amounts of cash or is there going to be a change there too. For now, it remains unclear as even the fate of the current TI is uncertain due to the virus restrictions. Perhaps Valve will give us an update later this year.

Stay tuned for more Dota 2 updates and make sure to check out EarlyGame for more content.