The International 10 was previously set to shatter the record for largest single-event prize pool in esports history, entirely thanks to contributions made by players through the TI10 Battle Pass. So where did all of that money go?
TI10 was delayed, but the delay was effectively a year long. Given how the TI Battle Pass has generated over $100 million in revenue for Valve in recent years, there’s no way that the publisher leaves that much money on the table. The trouble is that the 2021 TI Battle Pass could be coming out in the very near future, and the $40 million raised in 2020 is completely unaccounted for. So what is Valve set to do with all of that money? It’s worth taking a look at what possibilities are in play and what might end up happening to that enormous chunk of change.
While The International has been a monolith in the esports scene for over a decade, the event itself has proven to be a mixed bag for Dota 2 as a whole. This stems from the disproportionate amount of money that the event represents relative to the rest of the competitive calendar.
The sheer size of The International has seen almost all the wealth in the game get consolidated into a handful of top teams while everyone else is left struggling. As a result, multi-game esports organizations have largely pulled out of Dota 2 outside of China, fresh top talents go undiscovered, and even successful players can find themselves in limbo for years.
All these struggles are baked into Dota 2, and it absolutely didn’t help matters when The International simply didn’t happen in 2020. $48,043,520 in prize pool winnings was paid out to Dota 2. In 2020 without The International, that number sank to $9,310,053, a decrease of over 80%.
That leaves the lack of certainty surrounding that $40 million a major issue for the Dota 2 pro scene. Here are some of the possibilities of what could happen.
There’s a very clear answer to the question of what should happen with the $40 million from the TI10 Battle Pass. That money should be chopped up and injected into Dota 2’s league play and majors to create a more equitable pro scene where successful players can actually make a decent living. All Valve needs to do is take that $40 million from the TI10 Battle Pass and add an additional $8 million into league play and majors for the next five seasons.
Throughout Dota 2’s entire history, the only measure of success has been winning The International. Even OG, which won four Valve-sponsored majors, was long defined by its inability to follow through on its success at The International.
Today, a Dota 2 team that wins each regional league in the Dota Pro Circuit but flops in majors can end up earning less money than the average person in many developed countries. That doesn’t need to be the case. By redistributing the unused money from 2020 into the “regular season” of Dota 2, more legitimate pro-level players can make a living in the game.
There are basically three possible answers to the question of “what is happening to the $40 million from the TI10 Battle Pass.” The first and most obvious possibility is that Valve simply won’t pay it out to the pro players or will instead have the next battle pass not be attached to an esports event.
There’s absolutely no question that this would be an enormous disservice to the Dota 2 pro scene and a serious violation of the trust Valve has built up with fans over the years. Unfortunately, Valve doesn’t seem to care overly much about Dota 2 esports, Dota 2 players seem willing to accept most anything Valve does, and the company would most likely prefer to keep $40 million rather than give it away.
This isn’t necessarily going to happen, but if Valve release the “2021 Dota 2 Battle Pass” instead of “The International 2021 Battle Pass” are Dota 2 players not going to buy it? Many still will, and Valve surely knows it.
If Valve isn’t going to take advantage of the situation and pocket more money than it normally would, the simplest way to approach all this would be to just lump together 2021’s battle pass money together with the $40 million worth of TI10 Battle Pass money.
Part of The International’s appeal for Valve is that a $30 million esports tournament will inevitably garner a great deal of endemic media attention, as well as some non-endemic attention. The International 2020 and its $40 million would’ve been a big deal, but an event with potentially $75 million on the line would be tough for anyone to ignore.
That said, the issues that already arise from having so much money condensed into The International are already serious. Literally doubling down on it isn’t ideal, but this would be the easiest solution for Valve short of just keeping the money for itself.
At the moment, The International 10 is slated to take place in August 2021 in Stockholm, Sweden. No exact date has been announced for the event. Depending on global travel restrictions and safety measures, the event could be pushed back even further.