Esports has traveled a long and thorny road from the underground to a full-fledged industry. Competitive video games have outlived pre-flood computers and arcade machines. Not only the technical parameters of platforms have evolved, but also the games themselves.
In the early days of esports, real-time strategies like StarCraft and Warcraft, Quake-like shooters and fighting games dominated. Over time, MOBA games were added to the list of classic disciplines, creating a real revolution in the eSports industry. Dota 2 deserves a special mention.
Dota 2 is a game created by Valve based on the custom modification Warcraft 3 Defence of the Ancient. The “sequel” to Dota became a full-fledged game and captured the minds of millions. The key role in the popularity of Dota 2 on the Long Сorner was played by the esports component. Valve made a bet on esports, and realized it thanks to The International tournament – a legendary event that became a whole series. The championship was in 2011, The International 2023 will be held this year, bringing Dota 2 and esports fans back to their screens.
On the eve of the Long Run, the main esports event of the year, we decided to talk more about The International. We will discuss the esports phenomenon of The International, analyze the success of the first tournaments of the series, and fantasize about the future of the biggest esports tournament in the near future.
Record-Breaking Viewership and Global Reach
The International is a global event, so it’s not surprising that it gathers a lot of fans of esports. Even people who are far from Esports pay attention to a tournament of this scale. Scale is what it’s all about.
The first The International offered participants of the tournament fabulous at that time money – 1,000,000 dollars. Before that, competitive computer games couldn’t even come close to such a Milestone, and the maximum prize was 600,000. However, big money did not guarantee the lightning-fast success of The International. In 2011, the tournament was held in the pavilions of Gamescom, with a limited number of spectators. Everything changed the moment Valve announced that they wanted to hold The International on a regular basis.
So, The International was held in 2012, and then in 2012 and so on, until 2023. All this time the tournament became more and more popular, attracting more and more spectators. The International became a popular event on streaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube.
One of the most popular tournaments of The International series was the 2021 championship – The International 10. The tournament was held from 7 to 17 October in Bucharest. According to the escharts service, the tournament was followed by over 2,700,000 people at its peak, and that’s only taking into account the official channels on YouTube and Twitch. But there were also cable TV in some countries, Chinese streamer platforms and other services that were not included in the statistics.
Another aspect of success was the record prize pool. Over $40,000,000 was raffled off at The International 10. It is worth talking about it separately.
Economic Significance and Prize Pool Growth
The International is famous not only for its serious audience coverage, but also for its prize pools. It is a true Klondike of Esports, where huge sums of money are being spent.
We’ve already mentioned The International 10, which was a record-breaking event in terms of prize pools. In 2021, $40,000,000 was raffled off at TI. And Valve gave a classic 1,600,000. The rest was raised by Dota 2 fans.
Back in 2013, Valve introduced the Compendium system, which eventually became Battle Passes. Players bought them from the Dota 2 in-game shop and 25% of each purchase increased the total prize pool at The International.
In 2013 the prize pool reached over $1,200,000, in 2014 that figure rose to $9,331,105 and in 2015 it was $16,829,613. Next up was The International 2016 and a prize of $19,170,460 and starting in 2017 the prize pool passed $20,000,000, reaching the $40,000,000 mark in 2021.
Prize pool records have been set every year up until last year’s The International 11. The tournament in Singapore drew $18,930,775, which remained an undeniably huge figure, but smaller than back in 2016.
The decline in prize money can be explained by Valve’s policy of releasing Battle Passes, which appeared in the Dota 2 client later and lasted less each year, as well as community fatigue.
At The International 2023, the prize pool is at risk of being even smaller than the previous year, as Valve has completely abandoned the old Battle Pass model.
Influence on Competitive Dota 2 and Esports at Large
The big prizes at The International had an impact on the competitive scene. Moreover, rather in a negative way.
The fact is that the only goal of teams throughout the year is to go to The International. This is where laziness and unwillingness to play in tournaments other than The International comes into play. A great example of this approach is OG, who won The International 2018 and then missed all tournaments for six months. Surprisingly, it turned out to be a competent distribution of forces that allowed OG to win two tournaments in a row.
After 2019, the trend shifted a bit and teams started to spend more time on the season. The same Spirit that won The International 2021 worked hard throughout the year and deservedly became TI 10 champions.
In the 2023 season, the Gaimin Gladiators are showing a real work ethic. They play every big tournament without ignoring the competition. As a result, 5 cups for the year, including three wins at Major championships.
Esports as Entertainment
Since The International has become the undisputed flagship of Dota 2 and, to some extent, Esports, a tournament of this level is obliged to give fans a spectacle. Valve has been doing that with The International with mixed success.
The first tournaments of the series, held in Valve’s hometown of Seattle, had the atmosphere of a real esports festival. Key Arena was packed with different areas, souvenir shops called Secret Shops, and other little things that created a festive atmosphere.
Valve has been obsessing over the opening ceremonies, doing themed shows. For example, in 2016 The International featured a famous American composer – Lindsey Stirling – who performed a number as a character from Windranger.
Since The International is the center of attention for Dota players, Valve always makes big announcements here. Here Dota 2 developers showed their Artifact KKI, here they present new heroes, which is a real holiday for Dota 2 with its development policy.
Legacy and Future Prospects
The International has a huge legacy, with no less impact and future prospects. The International 2023 should be a key tournament in terms of the series’ development.
The International 2023 will be the first time since 2013 that The International will be held without the classic companion to the Battle Pass championship. For the 2023 season, the main tournament of the year will return to the cradle of Dota 2 – Seattle – where it hasn’t been since 2017.
The International is a championship bringing back the love for Dota 2 and attracting new users to the game. We’re looking forward to seeing what Valve have to show this year and getting ready to support our favorite teams on their way to the coveted goal of the Aegis of Champions.