If you had said 30 years ago that video gaming was set to become one of the biggest sports on the planet, you probably would have been laughed out of the room. Yet, here we stand in a world where eSports has become genuinely big business, with Newzoo predicting revenues in 2017 are set to reach $696 million. We have talked elsewhere on the site about how seriously competitive gaming is now taken, as well as how the industry does compare to more traditional sports, so it seems unnecessary to go over old ground. Instead, we are going to spend some time looking at the mind-blowing sums which competitors are now playing for in eSports’ biggest game. An online battle arena game created by Valve Corporation, Dota 2, is quite simply the most lucrative game in eSports in terms of prize money. More than $100 million is thought to have been dished out to players at tournaments in the last few years, with the biggest competition of all being The International.
A key date in the calendar
First held in Germany in 2011 with a prize pool of $1.6 million, the tournament has grown massively since then and the money at stake has never been higher. It is now undoubtedly a key date in the eSports calendar, with leading bookmakers offering odds on who will ultimately prove to be victorious. Last year’s prize pool of around $20.7 million was the largest ever in competitive gaming history, with the winning side – Wings Gaming of China – securing more than $9 million for coming out on top. However, remarkably, this figure looks set to be surpassed this year. As of June 28th, the prize pool for The International 2017 stood at more than $19.7 million and, with a good month still to go until the tournament is held at Seattle’s KeyArena in front of thousands of fans, it is hard to bet against it setting a new eSports record. But just how does the tournament generate such a mammoth pot of prize money?
While Valve kicked off this year’s pot with a donation of $1.6 million, the rest of the pool is generated by adding 25 per cent of all sales of The International Battle Pass to the mix. For the uninitiated, the pass gives fans access to a host of exclusive content and in-game features. It can also be bought at different price levels, with the features that gamers can access depending on the amount they pay. This year, arguably the headline aspect of the pass is the launch of a new multiplayer campaign. Siltbreaker is a co-operative adventure which Valve says takes place in “the blackest depths of Dark Reef”. The campaign is being released in two sections, with Act I: The Sands of Fate already being available and Act I: A Vault in the Deep following next month. The campaign is specifically designed to offer play with three friends or queue-met allies and together you will face a host of monsters, traps and other excitement that you have to tackle as a team. It also offers players an opportunity at the exclusive Desert Sands Baby Roshan.
The only reason?
So while Siltbreaker is undoubtedly a major draw for those buying the pass, can it really be credited with single-handedly boosting The International prize pool? Well, not exactly. It is worth bearing in mind that the pass offers access to other features too. For example, players can also earn Battle Point Tributes to add bonus tokens to wagers, with the boosters being available in 250, 500 or 1,000 token amounts, while new Team Quests and Prestige Towers are also included in the package. There is also the chance to win extra Battle Points by correctly guessing the final prize pool and fans will receive a digital companion featuring all of the details for the upcoming International event.
A new level for eSports
When you take all of the other features into account, it is hard to say outright that the new multiplayer campaign is the primary driver behind the incredible prize pool being raised for The International. What the International Battle Pass and its ability to boost the coffers to extraordinary levels does ultimately prove however is that the popularity of Dota 2 is as high as ever. It very much looks like eSports’ most lucrative game is on its way to a whole new level.