In just under two months Valve's prize pool for Dota 2's largest tournament, The International, has increased from $1.6 million to $10 million. Ten. Million. Dollars. That's over $8.4 million raised through crowdfunding and there is still over half of a month to go before The International 2014 begins July 18. Whichever team wins the tournament will instantly become the recipient of the largest single prize in an eSports tournament ever.
It starts with the International Compendium, a $9.99 digital booklet that provides multiple benefits to buyers. First, it's a source of information regarding the upcoming tournament itself, even letting players predict who will win qualifiers and the tournament itself. Second, it provides players with instant rewards and subsequent rewards depending on how high the prize pool gets. Basically, Dota 2 players with the Compendium get all sorts of loot that would otherwise cost much more than $9.99 individually. Third, they're supporting Valve and professional players. 75% of every purchase goes to Valve, which lets them give cool rewards and work harder on the game, while 25% of every purchase goes to The International's prize pool.
Contributing to the prize pool doesn't end at just the Compendium purchases, like it did in 2013. Now players can purchase additional points "Level Up" their Compendium. Every 100 points is a level, and every level means more rewards like a courier, weapons and amor. Earning points can be done by reaching certain goals, guessing tournament winners or collecting player cards by playing Dota 2 matches and so on. Mostly though, players just buy the points at a rate of around $1 for 200-240 points (depending on bulk quantity).
After a certain point, however, leveling the Compendium doesn't really provide much of anything. Meaning that a large number of Dota 2 players are leveling their Compendiums by buying points just to donate to the prize pool. Well, either that or because they want to level their Compendium sheerly for the sake of having a really big number. Imaginary internet points, it works every time.
How The International 2014's prize pool doesn't really matter in the end, I think. Valve's got this down to an art. It's that Valve put this system out there and fans so energetically embraced it, both for their professional scene and for the health and longevity of their game. This comes in stark contrast to League of Legends who, despite their outrageous success, has become quite closed off to their community in so many ways since they started so strongly. Well, you can at least connect with Riot via social media hashtags and internet memes, right?
Cheers to the Dota 2 community. $10,000,000 is pure, wonderful insanity and The International 2014 will be all the better for it.