Dota 2 The International 2021 Prize Pool – Are millions misused?

The Dota 2 International is the premier event for the game. This is the culmination of the entire competitive scene, finding the best team out of the whole game. The TI10 prize pool reflects this too.

Prize funds for this event has grown and grown, regularly setting new records. Dota 2′ premier event is still unbeaten industry-wide in terms of financial earnings. However, the growing prize pool isn’t a positive for everyone. There are some problems with Dota 2’s competitive scene, and the ever-growing international prize pool is a big part of this.

The international Dota 2 Championship

Throughout its history, The International’s prize pool has grown bigger and bigger, reaching the ~$40 million mark this year. While the game’s player base and popularity has grown, it hasn’t exactly kept pace with the inflating prize pool. This is slightly worrying considering the way in which the  International 2021 prize pool is raised. This is how it has grown over the years:

  • The International 1: $1.6 million
  • The International 2: $1.6 million
  • The International 3: $2.8 million
  • The International 4: $10.9 million
  • The International 5: $18.4 million
  • The International 6: $20.7 million
  • The International 7: $24.7 million
  • The International 8: ~$25.5 million
  • The International 9: – $34.3 million
  • The International 10: – $40 million

Where Does the International Prize Pool Come From?

In spite of raising more and more for the TI10 prize pool, the source of the prize is mostly from crowdfunding. Valve has gotten increasingly broad in its scope for this. The funds for The International 2021 Prize pool aren’t provided by sponsorships. Instead, a very lucrative crowdfunding campaign is created specifically for fans of the game. This means that the growing prize pool for Dota 2 is really just down to the continued dedication of their fans.

Valve sells in-game cosmetic items, in-game features, and fantasy tournament involvement with portions of the takings going towards the International prize pool and teams themselves. This has allowed them to raise huge sums, and make plenty themselves along the way. The Dota 2 community seems to view increasing the prize pool for the event as a necessity and a point of pride. This gives plenty of motivation for the ever-swelling prize pool.

However, while Valve’s methods for crowdfunding have expanded, their cut is the same. Valve hasn’t reduced the way that the crowdfunding is broken down.

What’s the point?

In spite of raising more and more money for the biggest Dota 2 event of the year via its crowdfunding model, Valve clearly has a problem with maintaining the game’s player base, which seems to be dropping like a rock. The community is shrinking at a rapid rate, although the game is arguably getting better. In light of this, what’s the point of raising such an enormous amount of money for just one event, if the esport’s popularity and appeal to the new generations is a complete failure?

The ti10 2021 prize pool, 40 million dollars, is a massive amount that could be used to fund the prize pools of 40 Majors of $1 million each, or 100 Minors of $250.000 each.

These events could be organized regionally and help support the local professional scene in places like Europe, CIS, Southeast Asia, China, North America, South America and who knows where else. No doubt, such a massive amount of big tournaments would help the community grow. Instead of shrinking, it will go a long way in supporting the current pro players and attracting lots of new ones to the scene.

The international Dota 2

Dota Compared to Other Games

Other highly successful esports, such as League of Legends, are much bigger than Dota 2 and yet they don’t worry about not having astronomical TI10 prize pool-sized awards for their World Championships. In 2021, the League of Legends World Championship has a prize pool of ~$2.2 million. That’s 18 times less than The International 2021, even though the game has 10 times more players (100+ million). This gap is growing too, the International was only 5x the LoL prize pool in 2017.

Dota 2’s huge prize pool concentrates all of the spoils for the games at the very top. While it’s natural that the top teams command the biggest prizes, the difference is becoming shocking. Smaller Dota 2 communities and competitive scenes are having some major trouble in keeping the cash flowing for teams to stay active. It is clear that competitive Dota 2 below the top tier is in need of help.

The International and its top tier can’t be maintained without the wider esports structure. The International itself would lose significant prestige and impact without a wider community. So why does Valve continue to neglect every portion of the league outside of it? It probably has something to do with how much they themselves make from crowdfunding the prize pool for the event. However, the long-term effects of continuing to neglect smaller Dota is going to cause problems.

Benefits of the Prize Pool

The large prize pool for the International isn’t all bad. Of course, there are major advantages to this prize pool. It definitely keeps the game competitive. With more and more competitors popping up, these huge prize pools keep players and fans interested in Dota. It also helps avoid a mass player exodus to a similar, newer game, like what happened with Overwatch when Valorant launched.

These are pros to the larger prize pool for the International. However, there are also significant downsides to the ever-growing pool. Or more specifically, to the way that Valve is handling it.

The International Isn’t a Long-Term Strategy

Offering massive rewards to a very small number of teams and players might be good for the show in the short run. Yet, it’s definitely not a winning strategy in the long run. The best strategy in the long run is to make the table wider and allow more people to play the game competitively.

Big regional tournaments with high prize pools that offer exclusivity to local teams and serve as qualification events for even bigger, international tournaments. That would be the way to attract more players to the scene and give a lot more people the chance to go pro.

Whether you agree or disagree, please let me know what you think. What’s the strategy that you would use if you owned Dota 2 and wanted to grow its player base?