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The Dota 2 International is the global year-end tournament organized annually by Valve. Originally introduced at Gamescom 2011, the tournament has taken over mainstream media outlets due to its staggering prize pool, which is solely crowdfunded.

The International spans over the course of 10 days, with the first couple days being dedicated to group play matches and the rest being divided into the playoff portion. 

The recent International consists of two groups of nine, where each team will play two matches against each team to determine the overall standings.

The four teams atop each group will then get seeded into the Winners Bracket portion of the playoff bracket.

Then, the next four teams will be slotted into the Losers Bracket, and the last team in each group will be eliminated from the tournament.

Watched by millions worldwide each year, The International has risen to become one of the world’s best esports events and the premier Dota 2 tournament.

With over $33 million in prize money being given out this year, you may be wondering how we got here.

Let’s take a look at each year of The International and their prize pools. 

The International 2011



The tournament that kick started it all, the very first International was held at the annual German video game convention — Gamescom.

Being the first International, there was ample amount of excitement surrounding the event. It blew up when Valve announced the $1.6 million prize pool. This figure was unheard of at the time in esports. It was life-changing money for everyone competing in The International. 

At the end of the first International, CIS organization Na’Vi was the winner of the event, with Chinese team EHOME coming in second place.

This was also the kickstart of one of the world’s most popular Dota 2 players and personalities: Danil “Dendi” Ishutin.

The superstar player for Na’Vi has risen to become the face of Dota 2 over the years, and it can be thanked in large part to the first International. 

The International 2011’s prize pool was as follows: 

1st place: Na’Vi – $1,000,000 – 62.5% of total prize pool

2nd place: EHOME: $250,000 – 15.625% of total prize pool

The International 2012


The second International was the start of a six year trend where the Valve-organized tournament was held in Seattle.

This year’s International also produced one of the best Dota 2 plays of all time. Done by Dendi, “The Play” has become one of the staple plays in all of Dota 2:


The International 2012 final saw Na’Vi make a second consecutive appearance, but this time they ultimately fell short against IG.

The International 2012’s prize pool was as follows:

1st place: IG – $1,000,000 – 62.5% of total prize pool

2nd place: Na’Vi – $250,000 – 15.625% of total prize pool

The International 2013


The third International was yet again a final in which we witnessed Na’Vi. But again, they ultimately fell second to the winners, Alliance.

This year’s tournament was also the first year that Valve introduced crowdfunding, where fans could purchase the in-game Interactive Compendium.

25% of the revenue generated by the sale of it would go directly to the overall prize pool. At the end of the funding, the prize pool total was at a staggering $2,874,380 ($1,274,380 added), the largest to date. 

The International 2013’s prize pool was as follows:

1st place: Alliance – $1,437,190 – 50% of total prize pool

2nd place: Na’Vi – $632, 364 – 22% of total prize pool 

The International 2014


The International 2014 was the tournament that took over mainstream media. Since the crowd funding concept was implemented the year before, fans started to contribute more and more to the tournament.

For every Compendium sold, Valve would contribute $2.50 of each sale directly to the prize pool. At the end of the funding, the total prize pool of The International 2014 was $10,923,977 ($9,323,977 added).

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This was by far the largest esports prize pool tournament ever, and it shattered the prize pool of 2013’s tournament. 

The International 2014’s prize pool was as follows:

1st place: Newbee – $5,025,029 – 46% of total prize pool

2nd place: Vici Gaming – $1,474,737 – 13.5% of total prize pool

3rd place: Evil Geniuses – $1,037,778 – 9.5% of total prize pool

The International 2015


Much like The International 2014, 2015 saw a massive increase of the prize pool. This time around, it rose to a staggering $18,429,613 ($16,829,613 added).

2015 was also the first time a North American team lifted the trophy at the end of the tournament. Evil Geniuses were successful in becoming The International 2015 champions. Their roster consisted of 15-year-old Syed Sumail “SumaiL” Hassan, who quickly became one of the world’s youngest millionaires. 

The International 2015’s prize pool was as follows:

1st place: Evil Geniuses – $6,634,661 – 36% of total prize pool 

2nd place: CDEC Gaming – $2,856,590 – 15.5% of total prize pool

3rd place: LGD Gaming – $2,211,554 – 12% of total prize pool

The International 2016


2016’s iteration of The International was the first one where the prize pool eclipsed the $20 million plateau. At the same time, 2016’s tournament was one of the most forgettable ones.

None of the household names made a deep run into the playoff bracket, except for EG who was stopped before the grand final.

For eventual winners Wings Gaming, though, they surely will never forget this tournament. The total prize pool of the International 2016 was $20,770,460 ($19,170,460 added).

The International 2016’s prize pool was as follows:

1st place: Wings Gaming – $9,139,002 – 44% of total prize pool

2nd place: Digital Chaos – $3,427,126 – 16.5% of total prize pool

3rd place: Evil Geniuses – $2,180,898 – 10.5% of total prize pool

The International 2017 


The International 2017 was the last tournament held in Seattle, which marked the end of what seemed as the Dota 2 hub of the world.

This year of The International saw European mix Team Liquid rise to the top. This International was one of the most watched, and it was received as one of the best match wise.

Upon the conclusion of the funding from the in-game sales, the total prize pool of The International 2017 was $24,787,916 ($23,187,916 added). This was the highest esports prize pool ever.

The International 2017’s prize pool was as follows:

1st place: Team Liquid – $10,862,683 – 44% of total prize pool

2nd place: Newbee – $3,950,067 – 16% of total prize pool

3rd place: LGD.Forever Young – $2,592,231 – 10.5% of total prize pool

The International 2018


Last year’s International was the story of the underdog, with heavy hitters such as PSG.LGD, EG, and Virtus.Pro all seen as tournament favorites to take home the $25,532,177 USD ($23,932,177 USD added).

To the world’s surprise, OG won the event. Led by their all-star captain, Johan “N0tail” Sundstein, this was seen as one of the best esports underdog stories ever. 

The International 2018’s prize pool was as follows: 

1st place: OG – $11,234,158 – 44% of total prize pool

2nd place: PSG.LGD – $4,085,148 – 16% of total prize pool

3rd place: Evil Geniuses – $2,680,879 – 10.5% of total prize pool

The International 2019

This was the year when the community managed to break the $30 million prize pool plateau.

With the total prize pool reaching $33,470,440 USD ($31,870,440 USD added), and this year’s tournament being the first one not located in North America, this year’s playoffs may be the best yet.

The International 2019’s prize pool is as follows:

1st place: TBD – $15,227,305 – 45.5% of total prize pool

2nd place: TBD – $4,350,658 – 13% of total prize pool

3rd place: TBD – $3,011,995 – 9% of total prize pool

4th place: TBD – $2,007,996 – 6% of total prize pool

What was your favorite International?

Let us know in the comments below!


Top image via Liquipedia Dota 2

This article was written by Nick Farrell, an experienced esports writer who aims to provide insightful yet proactive articles daily. 

[Update] Esports Essentials: Why is the Prize Pool for Dota 2’s The International so Large? – ARCHIVE | the international prize pool – Vietnamnhanvan

Esports Essentials is a series intended as an introduction to esports for anyone looking to understand the industry.

UPDATE: The International 2018 prize pool has surpassed that of 2017. We have updated our story accordingly. 

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The International is the annual de facto championship that closes out the competitive season, and it does so not only with consistently vast viewership totals, but also the largest prize pool seen in any esport—by a wide margin. Yes, the Epic Games’ Database-Link-e1521645463907 commitment to $100M in Fortnite esports prize pools might be big news, but the International is still far and away the biggest prize pool for a single esports event.

That number has surged since The International began in 2011 (with an already large $1.6M prize pool), with 2017’s tournament reaching a peak of $24,787,916. Yes, that’s nearly $25M for a single tournament, with winners Team Liquid Database-Link-e1521645463907 walking away with a first-place prize of $10.8M. It’s an incredible figure, and one that Valve Database-Link-e1521645463907 has just topped again The International 2018.

Where does all of this money come from? Here’s a look at how commands such incredible competitive cash, and how the process and end tally has changed over the years.

What is the prize pool?


The International’s prize pool is the total amount of money awarded to competing teams at the event, with a share of the pool awarded to all 18 participating squads. The winning team takes roughly 47% of the total pool, with much smaller percentages awarded to the rest; second place drops down to just over 17% of the tally, and the share steadily declines from there.

Where does it come from?


Valve puts in the first $1.6M, which is no small amount of money for a major esports tournament. But that number rapidly rises thanks to the very people who might watch The International year in and year out: players.

Everything past the $1.6M starting sum is crowdfunded by fans via sales of an in-game Battle Pass, a digital compendium that Valve releases about three months prior to each TI. Valve takes 25% of Battle Pass sales and dumps them directly into the annual International prize pool, generating millions of dollars of additional reward for pro teams while amplifying the stakes for both players and viewers alike.


What is the Battle Pass?


It’s a particularly crafty way of building hype around The International by giving fans many, many rewards to play for… or even pay for, if they choose. This year’s Battle Pass sells for $9.99 and immediately unlocks bonus game modes, in-game treasure, new music and cursor packs, and digital packs of player cards that let fans collect and build their own fantasy teams – kind of like fantasy baseball or football, but for the gaming age.

In short, it’s a whole bunch of digital goodies for devotees. But it doesn’t just stop there. As Battle Pass owners play matches and interact with the compendium, they earn points and level it up, thus unlocking more and more items and perks.

Fans eager to boost their Battle Pass progress can pay their way up the chart, too. They can buy a level 75 Battle Pass from the start for $36.99, and then buy level boost chunks along the way: five levels for $2.49, 11 levels for $4.99, and 24 levels for $9.99.

As a result, it’s not so hard to imagine how Valve can amass more than $20M in crowdfunding for the prize pool. And remember, that’s just one quarter of the total Battle Pass revenue. The rest, of course, goes straight to Valve.


Graph provided by Dota 2 Prize Pool Tracker

How large will the 2018 prize pool get?


We don’t know yet. As of this writing, it sits at $24,962,375, which is a new record for both The International and for a single event in esports history. Depending on where the final total falls, the grand prize for the winning team could land somewhere in the $11-12M range, if not higher.

Valve also incentivizes the community to be extra generous with their purchases. If the 2018 prize pool total surpasses that of 2017, every Battle Pass owner gets 10,000 bonus Battle Points. And if the total hits $30M, they’ll net yet another 10,000 bonus Battle Points.

Funding via Battle Pass sales continues until the end of the final day of The International on Saturday, August 25, so there’s still plenty of time for the prize pool total to swell.

How has the prize pool grown each year?


Valve has been consistent with its own prize pool funding: its contribution has been $1.6M each and every season, and in 2011 and 2012, that was the entire prize pool. The compendium was introduced in 2013, with the added crowdfunding raising the tally to $2,874,381 during its inaugural tournament.

From there, the total soared and the Battle Pass became responsible for the lion’s share of the prize pool. In 2014, the pool vaulted up to $10,931,103, and then hit $18,429,613 in 2015, $20,770,460 in 2016, and $24,787,916 in 2017.

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The number of teams has grown from eight in 2011 to 18 in 2017, but the winners’ share of the grand prize has still escalated dramatically, from $200,000 per player in 2011 to more than $2M per player in 2017.

Credit: Valve

What are the pros and cons?


Every year, The International has broken the previous year’s record for the largest tournament prize pool in esports history, and the astronomical sum builds a lot of hype for the event. A $2M total prize pool is considered huge for the vast majority of esports competitions; only 20 tournaments in history have awarded $2M or more across all participants. As mentioned, in The International, each winning team’s share tops $2M .

Better yet, the Battle Pass engages Dota 2 fans in a seemingly significant manner. It provides incentive to play the game itself, creates excitement around the competition itself, and empowers fans by making them responsible for the vast, vast majority of the massive prize pool. These all seem to be positive things, although the push for in-app purchases and buying Battle Pass progress could rub some players the wrong way.

What’s the downside of the prize pool, then? As a recent Kotaku feature titled “The International is Bad for ” suggests, the tournament’s overwhelming prize pool makes other events seem miniscule by comparison. Plus, it could result in keeping player salaries down. That leads to roster instability, as players vie for what they think is the best chance to earn a spot into The International and claim some of the massive amount of cash available there. It’s impacting the overall ecosystem in unfavorable ways, the writer claims.

Valve has taken steps over the last year to try to grow and mature the ecosystem, but given how much buzz the prize pool creates around The International – and how much income that generates for the company – it’s hard to believe we’ll see this system dramatically change anytime soon.

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