The 2014 ICC world TWENTY20 offered a whopping $ 1,100,000 to the winning team in the Men’s category.
Somewhere on the other side of an Internet connection, a gamer is laughing – because the prize pool for the International just shot past $9,000,000. Yes, nine million US dollars – for an eSports tournament.
If you’re unfamiliar with it, the International is an annual Dota2 championship in which sixteen of the world’s best Dota2 teams are invited to sit down and slug it out over the digital battlefronts of Valve’s latest behemoth. The International is quite recent – it debuted in 2011 at Gamescom with an $ 1.6 million pool – and now it’s the biggest thing in eSports.
How did it get this far? One word: compendiums.
Valve, the company behind Dota2 (and Half-Life, and Team Fortress, and also the world’s biggest digital video game distribution platform, Steam) plays very smart when it comes to earning. They’re selling Compendiums – virtual booklets that, for a start, bring the whole experience of being a bystander to a new level. As you, the spectator, watch games being played, makes tournament predictions and so on, your Compendium levels up and you start earning rewards.
Each of these little booklets cost $10.
Valve tied this into the prize pool. 25% of all earnings from Compendium sales go into the International pool. Then they tied that into the game itself. As the prize pool grew, Compendium owners are treated to more and more rewards. As of now, they’ve got new loading screens, the ability to vote on the participants of an 8-player match in the International, special emoticons in chat, new music, new environmental effects, gameplay performance comparison tools, the ability to customize an in-game building – even some stuff for all players, such as a new game mode.
So by the time that prizepool reaches $10 million, which, by our predictions, it will – Valve will have made $40 million off just the online player / spectator community alone. This is entirely without calculating the profits of the event itself and actual merchandise.
Whoever said games couldn’t make money?