Early this morning, the prize fund for the upcoming Dota 2 International esports tournament crossed the $ 10 million mark. Remarkably, just $ 1.6 million of the prize fund was provided by Valve; the rest was contributed by members of the Dota 2 community who were eager to get their hands on some in-game items, and to support their favorite teams and the nascent esport as a whole. With a prize fund of over $ 10 million (and still another three weeks to accrue an even larger pot!), The International 4 is now larger than The Masters golf tournament. Viva la esports!
The $ 10 million prize fund is even crazier if you consider that only 25% of Compendium sales went towards that total. Each Compendium (an interactive digital guide that accompanies the tournament) costs $ 10, but only $ 2.50 from each sale was added to the total; the other $ 7.50 filled Valve’s coffers. If we remove the $ 1.6 million that Valve originally contributed to the prize fund, this means Dota 2 players actually paid $ 33.6 million to boost the fund by $ 8.4 million. Valve pocketed the remaining $ 25.2 million. Not bad for a free-to-play game developed by a company with around 300 employees (that would be a take-home bonus of $ 84,000 each, in case you’re wondering).
At this point, considering Dota 2 still has a relatively small player base compared to League of Legends or console kiddie games like Call of Duty, you’re probably wondering how – how did a free-to-play PC-only game raise $ 10 million ($ 33.6 million!) for a bunch of relatively unknown esports players, mostly kids from Europe and Asia? The answer probably lies in engagement. There is something about Dota 2 — the way it relies on five people (often strangers) working together to beat five other people — that seems to bring the community together, to galvanize its collective resolve. If you ever visit the Dota 2 subreddit, you will very quickly notice that the Dota 2 community really, really wants the game to succeed — both on a casual level, and in the worldwide theater of competitive esports.
There will be some roadblocks along the way to the global recognition and respect, of course. Most notably, it still isn’t really feasible to pick “esport champion” as your chosen career path. Yes, the winners of The International 4 (TI4) will walk away with millions of dollars – but if you lose, there aren’t really any other annual tournaments that will net you a livable salary. As a result, there are lots of Dota 2 players (mostly young people) who spend their entire lives practicing, but will probably never make a cent.
For more information about Dota 2, its growing popularity, and how it’s legitimizing esports, read our story from last month.