Home » DOTA 2 » Who does it best? A look at various esports scenes: Part V
Dota 2 Promo with game logo in foreground

How Dota 2 approaches its competitive esports scene.

It is an exciting time of the year for esports with many of the world’s biggest esports competitions just around the corner. As the world starts to catch on to what has been brewing in the competitive esports scene, esports prize pools are skyrocketing. The total prize money awarded is at just under $450 million USD ($447,228,607.18 as of June 25th) and threatens to surpass half a billion dollars by the end of 2018.

With that in mind, we take a look at the biggest esports in recent years and how their respective competitive scenes are operated in terms of the types of competitions they have, how they are qualified for and how often they occur to better understand what fans can expect from their favourite competitive esport titles. The video games discussed here make up 6 of the top 7 esports in 2017 in terms of the prize pools of their esports competitions, which will be listed from lowest to highest. See the first part, discussing Hearthstone and Overwatch, here.

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The biggest eSports of early 2017 - CS: GO, DOTA 2, LOL, Overwatch, Hearthstone, and HOTS in numbers

Early 2017’s biggest eSports – Overwatch, LOL, DOTA 2, CS: GO, Hearthstone, and HOTS.

Dota 2:

Sky view of the crowd and main stage at The International

A hyped crowd at The International

The last game in this series is commonly known as the biggest and the most difficult esport in the industry. Another Valve-made title, Dota 2 started off with the same roots as League of Legends in the Warcraft era of early MOBA’s, before the genre diverged into multiple titles (including LoL and later Heroes of the Storm). With millions of unique players during peak months, Dota 2 has a relatively humble but passionate player base but does show off prize pools that often eclipse every other game put together.

Dota 2’s largest tournament of 2017 – The International – had a prize pool greater than the total prize pools of any other game for the entire year of 2017. Dota 2 has given out over $144 Million since its inception in 2011, which is more than the all-time prize money awarded by all 5 other games covered in this article put together. It is truly spectacular how much money is in Dota 2: when you look at the highest earning players in esports, the top 40 players are exclusively Dota 2 players, and over 75% of the top 100 esports athletes made their money in Dota.

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This is in part due to Valve’s open competitive system that allows tournament organisers to host their own tournaments, in addition to a Valve-sponsored circuit, creating a thriving ecosystem of large tournaments, making it an ideal esports to bet on or even cast. The same system also helps CS:GO take out the place of 2nd most lucrative video game for professional gamers.

The International (TI)

A victorious Team Liquid raising the Aegis of Champions trophy at The International 2017 in Seattle

Team Liquid take home the Aegis of Champions at The International 2017 in Seattle

The International breaks records every year it is held, as the flagship tournament of the most lucrative esport in the world. The first International was held in Cologne, Germany to announce the launch of the Dota 2 beta, and offered a prize pool of $1.6 Million USD, which was much higher than anything the esports scene ever saw before, blowing them away. It returned the next year to Seattle – where it would stay until 2018 – with another prize pool of $1.6 Million USD. In 2013 things would change as Valve revolutionised esports forever by introducing crowdfunding to The International, growing that year’s prize pool to just under $2.9 Million USD.

The following year it would skyrocket to a little over $10.9 Million USD, then $18.4 Million. By 2017 the prize pool had reached a little less than $24.8 Million USD, with Valve only supplying the base $1.6 Million prize pool. What makes this even more incredible, is that this prize pool is funded by only 25% of player spending on the in-game Battle Pass/Compendium, meaning that players are spending close to $100 Million USD, but with only around 1 million unique monthly players on average, a testament to the dedication and passion of Dota players.

It is every player’s dream to reach The International, and one day win it, but only the best may do so. The top 8 teams in the Dota Pro Circuit standings have been invited to The International 2018 (15th – 25th of August) with the remaining 10 hailing from the many qualifiers. The system is composed of a Main Qualifier and two Open Qualifiers for each region. The two open qualifiers feature a single elimination bracket starting with a round of 1024 teams.

Depending on how many slots offered to each region, the teams that progress the furthest are invited to the Main Qualifiers, where they are joined by teams that are automatically invited to the qualifier. These teams then battle it out to determine the 1, 2, or 3 teams that qualify to the biggest tournament of all time. The International itself begins with a group stage of two groups, with the bottom team in each heading home, and the remainder progressing to the iconic double elimination bracket that holds many memories and famous moments for fans.

Newbee raise the Aegis trophy in front of an ecstatic crowd at The International 2014 in Seattle

Newbee raise the Aegis at The International 2014 in Seattle

Dota 2 Pro Circuit

Unlike CS:GO, Dota 2 has a slightly more defined season, with the beginning and end marked by The International. This season, which is intertwined with the main method of qualification for TI, is referred to as the Dota 2 Professional Circuit. The season is made up of tournaments organised by third-party organisers in accordance with Valve’s requirements, which are then branded as either Majors or Minors by Valve. Tournaments with over $500,000 USD prize pool are then sponsored for another $500,000 by Valve  and given the title of ‘Major’,  thus resulting in a minimum $1 Million USD prize pool.

Valve will also sponsor tournaments that meet their requirements and offer a prize pool greater than $150,000 USD, granting them another $150,000 USD and the Minor status. For the 2017-18 season, there were a total of 9 Majors and 13 Minors, adding up to a combined prize pool total of $13.5 Million USD. These official pro circuit tournaments also award the teams that place in the top 4 with Qualifying Points, which are used to determine the invites to The International. The top 8 teams on the DPC rankings will become automatically invited, while all other teams will need to fight through the qualifiers.

Table containing the top 8 teams in the DPC final rankings, earnings and points upon the conclusion of the season

The top 8 teams in the DPC rankings upon the conclusion of the season

Dota 2 has always been at the forefront from esports, punching far above its weight and always coming out on top, despite its relatively smaller player base. There is an outstanding amount of interest in its competitive scene, and players, casters, streamers, content creators and punters are taking advantage of it to make copious amounts of money. The passion and commitment from players, tournament organisers, streamers, casters and fans continues to be relentless, ensuring Dota 2 keeps going strong long into the future.

With so much activity and growth in the competitive esports scene, why not be a part of it? Give yourself the best advantage for competing in esports here. Even if you aren’t a player, you still shouldn’t miss out. You can get a slice of the action, straight from your home, by betting on the matches you watch. Prove yourself as a winner, and make some extra money here.


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3 years ago

There are so many video games on the market with a competitive, multiplayer focus that getting started in playing, or simply watching, professional video gaming may prove intimidating.

Lavius Seraphyn
3 years ago

Esports comprise many games, both popular and under the radar, in numerous genres.

Laxius Corva
3 years ago

esports are more than purely capitalistic ventures. Though gamers dig the idea of standing on stage holding oversized checks, the true reason for traveling to tournaments around the globe is to prove they’re the best in their titles of choice.