With the highest prize money in any sporting tournament (Dota 2 is considered an eSport), any self-respecting online gamer would be waiting in anticipation for the world’s biggest Dota 2 tournament, The International 4 (TI4).
For the uninitiated, Dota 2 is a multiplayer online battle arena video game and the stand-alone sequel to the Defense of the Ancients (DotA)Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos and Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne.
The International is an annual tournament for Dota 2, now in its fourth year, where the global top Dota 2 teams battle it out to be crowned the best in the world. In its first two years, Valve (the organiser) contributed US$1.6 million as a prize fund, with US$1 million going to the winning team. This year, it’s gone much bigger.
Hosted at Seattle’s Key Arena, the finals this year will feature top Dota 2 teams battling it out for an enormous prize. Last year, Swedish pro team Alliance took home US$1.4 million after beating rival Na’Vi in a best of five.
It’s serious money, an enormous live event and an even larger spectacle online.
Where does all this prize money come from?
In the third tournament, Valve introduced a crowdfunding strategy to increase the prize purse. Known as the compendium, the company made the interactive digital guide for the tournament that costs US$10, with US$2.50 of each sale going towards the prize fund.
This boosted the prize fund by around US$1.2 million, to US$2.8 million and now for the fourth instalment, the prize money is now US$10,450,043(as of July 7, 2014). This means more than 4 million users have bought the compendium this year.
Will you spend US$10 on a virtual item for a game? Most online gamers will answer yes to be part of this eSporting movement without a single thought.
At the time of writing, there are about 8,790,622 unique players, and with 50% of these players willing to spend money on the game’s tournament, it proves that online gaming has truly made it mainstream.
This has allowed Valve to almost quadruple (from US$2.8 million to US$10 million) the prize money in its second year of introducing the compendium.
However, not everyone gets to take part in the tournament, only teams of pro-gamers that have been sponsored will be invited to join the tournament.
Ultimately, though, the popularity of these tournaments are not driven by the players but by the spectators.
For those who want to breathe in the atmosphere at the venue, they are required to purchase tickets. There are three pricing tiers to select from to watch the tournament. The general admission is priced at US$99, while floor seats cost US$199.
The VIP package, meanwhile, is a hefty US$499 ticket that includes floor seating, meet-and-greets with VIPs, invitation to the after party, and access to the six days of playoffs that take place on July 8, before the Championships Event itself.
Roughly 10,000 tickets were sold in under an hour more than a month before Valve’s The International 2014.
For those who have missed out on the tickets, they are still available on eBay for US$500!
If that’s too hefty a price, online streaming sites like Twitch has allowed worldwide broadcasting of the event, making the potential live viewership for eSports events higher than other sporting events like baseball, football and basketball in the near future.
At last year’s championship, the viewership doubled the 2012 record at a simultaneous online viewership of over one million spectators.
There’s a lot of money in eSports
In The International 1 and 2, the winning teams walked away with US$1 million, respectively, and Valve upped the game in the third tournament last year, and the champion saw the prize money increased to US$1,437,190.
Orange Esports, a Malaysian team, got their hands on some of the money in the second and third tournament, at 7/8th place in 2012 with the prize money of US$25,000, and the third place last year, with US$287,438!
This year, Dota 2 broke its own record of US$2.8 million with US$10,450,043, the champion of TI4 will be walking away with more than US$4.8 milllion (46%)!
The astounding increment in the prize money also means winners of other places in the competition will still be taking home huge amounts money!
Here’s a breakdown:
Is this a new career path for Gen Y?
The rise in the popularity of eSports like Dota 2 and League of Legends (LoL) has many youths dreaming of becoming a professional gamer to get a piece of the growing prize money pie.
Even with the advent of technology, it still isn’t really feasible to pick professional gamer as your chosen career path. Although it’s progressing to be more mainstream we haven’t yet come to a point where the opportunities are as wide as other professional sports.
Yes, the winners of TI4 will walk away with millions of dollars – but if you lose, there aren’t really many other tournaments that will give you sustainable income. However, this doesn’t change the trend of many people who play video games in the hopes they’ll make it big in the eSporting scene. Like any other sport, they could spend their entire lives practising but still not make the cut.
The rewards are high but the risk is even higher though it’s obvious that it’s quickly becoming a viable career path like any other sport.