Valve’s Dota 2 broke the world record for largest pay-out in e-sports history yesterday, and check the date, this isn’t an article from 2015. Or 2014. Or 2013. As of writing, the prize pool is sitting at $18,685,516, beating out last year’s International prize pool of $18,429,613. And we still have almost thirty days left to go. Bet with comfort that will break 20 million. With this record, Dota 2 is now number one through eight on the all time highest victory pots in e-sports history (TI 2016 not included in source).
For those unaware of how this is obtained, Valve adds 1.6 million dollars to the pot at the start of International season. Anything additional to the prize pool comes directly from the Battle Pass, which used to be referred to as the Compendium. Purchasing a Battle Pass allows you access to quests and goals, tournament brackets for prizes, wagering, community challenges, weekend Battle Cups, the Arcana vote, Immortal Treasures (Special cosmetics that add unique effects to your hero), and much more.
The Battle Pass costs $9.99 to start, and you can purchase levels for it or earn them in-game to rank up. A percent of the funds goes directly into the International’s pot. So as of writing, the community has contributed $17,085,516.
However, the topic becomes less exciting after a look at exactly how that massive prize pool is divvied up between the competitors. There are no minimum salaries in the Dota 2 competitive scene, unlike competitor League of Legends. This leaves many teams scrambling to pay their players, and can often leave to roster instability, and eventually, dissipation.
For instance, take a look at team New Element. An article published in 2014 detailed their descent in haunting detail. They were known for being a capable team that could win some major events. Certainly, they were not the New England Patriots of Dota 2, but they held their own. In 2013, they made the Dota 2 International qualifiers, only to be defeated in heartbreaking fashion.
After their loss, they pocketed almost no money on their return back to China. Within months, their home page for the website was abandoned, with no professional games posted since the International 4. They had seemingly been torn asunder. Even still, they were listed as the 10th best team in China, or 56th best in the world on Gosu Gamers.
Even for being that good, they brought in roughly $568 for the year. If they were playing a different game, say League of Legends, their total yearly salary would be about $8,000. Figures like this leave many teams scratching their head, wondering how they got to this destitute situation and why they would continue to support a system that is unfavorable to them. Parallels can be made to cities that host the Olympics; they spend oodles of money building up brands, stadiums, advertising, and basic needs for their competitors, only to be left dilapidated, torn, and broken.
There is a lot to be fixed to implement a healthy, sustainable environment that supports a higher number of self sufficient teams. The International qualifiers just ended, which means the real competition begins soon. Be sure to check back often for updates.