Author Archives

Robert DellaFave

The International 2017 Dota 2 Fundraising Effort Surges Ahead Of Last Year, Likely To Pass $20 Million

June 27, 2017

The rate at which International Battle Passes and Levels are being purchased has ramped up considerably.

Following a lull, which saw Valve’s fundraising campaign for The International 2017 fall behind last year’s pace, the 2017 effort is now on tap to leave last year’s record-setting prize fund of $20.8 million in the dust.

And it was all thanks to one super-aggressive sale.

Where does The International 2017 stand?

The annual fundraising campaign for the biggest Dota 2 tournament on the planet has raised $19,667 305 as of today. This is well ahead of the pace set last year, at which point the campaign had generated $17,054,893.

As was the case last year, 25 percent of International Battle Pass and Levels sales go toward the prize fund for The International, which this year is slated to crown a champion at KeyArena in Seattle on August 12.

It’s worth noting that on Day 46, the 2017 campaign fell behind pace of the 2016 effort.

Part of the reason behind the changeover was the somewhat tepid reception of this year’s Collector’s Cache. In 2016, the Cache — which consists of a variety of goodies and generally inspires an influx of campaign contributions — resulted in the prize fund growing by roughly $1.4 million in a three-day span.

This year, the Cache was slightly less influential, with the prize pool growing by $1.3 million within three days of its release.

Other surprise announcements from Valve, including the reveal of a Kunkka Prestige Item and Quest Path, as well as the exclusive Siltbreaker: Act I Campaign, fell flat, barely generating any increased activity.

The release of the Immortal Treasure II on Friday fared better, but didn’t move the needle as much as it did last year. Immortal Treasure II inspired about $800,000 in contributions within three days of release, as opposed to $1.1 million in 2016.

[geoip2 region=’ROW’][show-table name=betway][/geoip2]

Weekend sale comes through

As much as the lackluster performance of the Collector’s Cache and Immortal Treasure II  set off alarm bells, the primary reason why the 2017 campaign briefly lagged behind its immediate predecessor was nothing more than a matter of timing.

To elaborate, on Day 45 of last year’s campaign, Valve went live with an exclusive weekend sale that enabled players to purchase a Battle Level bundle for $14.99. This represented a more than 60-percent discount compared to purchasing the contents individually.

Players purchased the pack in droves. On the first day of release, the prize fund spiked $1.1 million, compared to just $143,000 the day before.

Valve went a step further this year. On June 22, it unveiled a Battle Level and Treasure Bundle that represented a staggering 70-percent discount. The sale, which lasted until June 26, inspired a huge uptick.

When the dust cleared, campaign contributions spiked $3.16 million in just four days, compared to $2.38 million for last year’s sale.

The timing of this year’s sale was a bit earlier than expected.

Why? Because in 2016, Valve waited to go live with its weekend sale until shortly after The International roster was hammered down. Well, the 2017 roster isn’t expected to be set by June 29, after the Open Qualifiers (June 22-25), and the Regional Qualifiers (June 26-29) conclude.

Thus, it surprised that the weekend sale didn’t begin June 30.

In either case, The International 2017 campaign now has a clear path toward $20 million, as it’s nearly reached that figure by the campaign’s halfway point.

Step right up, and place your bets

Although we haven’t witnessed any esportsbooks post odds on the final International prize pool, a select few have begun offering futures bets on the eventual winner.

  • Bet365 has Evil Geniuses and Virtus Pro as the favorites at 3/1 on its esports betting platform. Both teams received a direct invitation into the tournament.
  • PaddyPower also has Evil Geniuses at 3/1, with Virtus Pro and OG tied for second at 10/3.

Given these tight odds, it looks like this this year’s International will in fact, be a hotly contested affair.

The International 2017 Dota 2 Campaign Comes Out Firing On All Cylinders

May 17, 2017

The fundraising campaign for The International 2017 has gotten off to a blistering start.

It’s only been 12 days since Valve unveiled this year’s Battle Pass, and already the annual crowdsourcing campaign for the Dota 2 event is flirting with the $10 million marker.

At the current rate, the campaign will not only surpass, but crush, last year’s high-water mark of $20,770,460.

But just how high will it go? Is $25 million out of the question?

A little bit of old, a whole lot of new

For this year’s campaign, Valve will contribute 25 percent of Battle Pass and Battle Pass Levels sales to the prize fund for the biggest Dota 2 event of the calendar year. It kicked off the campaign with $1.6 million in seed money.

This is little different than the model instituted by the game development and digital distribution behemoth in years past. However, the constituents of the 2017 Battle Pass have been altered significantly, and apparently to great effect.

New components of this year’s pass include:

  • Multiplayer campaign: Battle Pass owners will be invited to join up for a co-op campaign. Act I will be available later this month. Act II launches sometime in July.
  • Team quests: Also on the menu are team quests, whereby groups of players can receive rewards including extra Battle Points, Completion Rewards and style upgrades.
  • Gambling: Players will have more opportunities to earn Battle Points via wagering than ever before. Token wagering on matches, trivia games and a unique “Predict the Prize Pool” are all part of this year’s rollout.

Making an expected return are Immortal Treasures (there will be three in total), special seasonal effects, unlockable and exclusive rewards, and of course, The International Compendium — which acts as a digital companion for all things related to the event.

So far, this juxtaposition of old and new has paid dividends. The campaign raised a shade over $9 million from its onset on May 4 through May 15.

At the time of this writing, the current tally stands at $9,269,174 — although we’re quite certain that figure will be obsolete within hours.

[geoip2 region=’ROW’][show-table name=betway][/geoip2]

How is this year’s campaign stacking up?

It’s still a bit early, but there’s strong reason to believe that the final prize fund for The International 2017 will be the largest in esports history, and not by the smallest of margins.

According to tracking website dota2.prizetrac.kr, on Day 11 of the 2015 campaign, the prize fund was up to $7,557,339. And on the same day in 2016, it had just surpassed $8.1 million — $8,130,982 to be exact.

So far, 2017 is outpacing last year’s record-breaker by nearly $900,000, and the divide is growing with each passing day.

In 2016, total campaign contributions accounted for $19,170,460 of the prize fund, with 34.1 percent of those contributions coming in the first 11 days. Applying that percentage to this year’s campaign reveals estimated user contributions of $21.74 million.

Tack on Valve’s $1.6 million seed fund, and that figure grows to $23.34 million, or $2.57 million more than last year’s prize pool.

And that’s just the bear case

The aforementioned figure is a somewhat cautious estimate, for a few reasons:

  • The 2017 campaign will be notably longer than its 2016 counterpart, which ran a total of 89 days. There are approximately 100 days between this year’s campaign kickoff and the day  that The International 2017 champion will be crowned at KeyArena in Seattle (August 12).
  • Despite the campaign’s longer length, the prize pool is growing at a slightly greater relative rate compared to last year. To illustrate, on Day 10 of last year’s campaign, the prize pool swelled by 2.18 percent. On the same day this year, it spiked 2.41 percent.
  • Valve has shown a tendency to one up itself with each passing campaign. Last year, in addition to the launch of a Collector’s Cache, it hosted a one-off weekend sale that resulted in a sizable sales surge. We expect Valve to have even more tricks up its sleeve this time around.

Taking all of these variables into account, there is a path for this year’s campaign that results in a $25 million prize fund.

It’s admittedly not a likely one, but what’s nearly guaranteed is that The International 2017 will represent a historic victory for the esports community.

Beyond $20 Million: Can The International 2017 Set A New Record For Biggest Esports Prize Fund?

April 27, 2017

The picture for The International 2017 is rapidly coming into focus.

In late March, Valve confirmed that the world’s largest annual Dota 2 tournament would be taking place August 7-12 at KeyArena in Seattle. That’s where it has resided for the past four years. Tickets went on sale via Ticketmaster on April 4.

With the stage set, all eyes now turn to the prize fund. Traditionally, Valve seeds $1.6 million toward the prize pool, and then raises the rest via digital compendium or Battle Pass purchases, with a portion of the proceeds added to the prize pool.

Last year, the campaign generated a record-breaking $19.17 million, vaulting the total prize pool to over $20.7 million.

Can lightning strike twice, or was The International 2016 as good as it gets?

Growth of The International slowing

From the looks of it, the prize fund potential of the The International is nearing its apex.

The International began growing in 2013, which was the first year that Valve allocated 25 percent of compendium purchases toward the prize pool. But it wasn’t until 2014 that the mechanic really caught on, with the prize pool climbing a staggering 280 percent to $10.9 million.

2015 saw another large jump, up 69 percent to $18.4 million.

Last year, Valve adjusted its campaign model, replacing the Compendium, which had been a staple of the campaign from 2013 to 2015, with the Battle Pass. However, the differences between the two were somewhat nominal.

Popular features, like the Immortal Treasures and the Collector’s Cache, were carried over.

In 2016, the prize fund for The International grew by a scant 12.7 percent, representing the smallest margin of growth since Valve began adding player contributions to the prize pool.

Many variables at play

Based on historical trends, it looks as though the prize fund for The International 2017 will remain relatively flat year-on-year. If the stars fail to align, it could even be headed for a slight decline.

Still, there are a number of variables that lead us to believe The International could see modest-to-moderate growth:

  • In the lead-up to Valve’s campaign, Dota 2 will have momentum on its side, thanks to the currently running $3 million Kiev Major. The event will rank in the top 10 esports prize pools of all time.
  • The International 2016 set new benchmarks for viewership. According to TrackDota, over 5.7 million spectators watched the event across DotaTV and various streams.
  • The International is still the biggest event on the esports calendar, and not by a small margin. It’s responsible for the three biggest prize pools in esports history. The fourth biggest? The LoL 2016 World Championship, which clocked in at $5.1 million — or just over a quarter of the prize fund for last year’s International.

That being said, Dota 2 is a somewhat antiquated game, having been officially released on Steam nearly four years ago, and in the public eye for six. The product is clearly showing its age. The number of average concurrent players is significantly down over the past 12 months.

According to Steam Charts, Dota 2 averaged 548,413 players for March 2017, representing a year-on-year decline of 20 percent. The peak number of players was down nearly 300,000, from 1.248 million to 956k.

The last time Dota 2 peaked at less than one million players during a calendar month was in December 2015.

These statistics bore poorly for The International 2017’s prize pool. Campaign purchases are designed exclusively for players of the game. Put simply, there is likely a strong correlation between the number of players and the amount of Battle Pass purchases.

All this said, Dota 2 is hardly a “dead” game, with 12.7 million unique actives in the past month alone.

It may all come down to Valve

With variables working for and against The International 2017 campaign, the fate of The International 2017’s prize fund may boil down to how Valve runs its fundraising campaign.

Valve took an exceedingly aggressive approach to its 2016 campaign, surprising players with a multitude of special events, including a weekend sale that results in a major uptick in player purchases.

The Valve braintrust will probably need to keep its foot on the accelerator just to keep pace with the 2016 campaign. Should it scale back on its giveaways and special events, then a year-on-year decline becomes a much stronger possibility.

Reason being, this year’s campaign doesn’t look like it’ll be a particularly long one. In 2015, the campaign stretched nearly 100 days, compared to just 87 days in 2016 — which may explain away a portion of the less impressive growth.

At the time of this writing, there is only 108 days before The International 2017 concludes. Given that there has yet to be an announcement on when the campaign will begin, the assumption is we’re looking at a mid-May start — similar to last year.

With a tight campaign schedule, Valve better get its creative juices flowing, and fast.

The International 2016 Prize Pool Surpasses $20 Million As The Championship Rounds Begin

August 8, 2016

Beginning 10 a.m. PT on August 8 and continuing through August 13, Seattle’s Key Arena will play host to the biggest esports competition in industry history.

The International Dota 2 Championships will feature a prize pool of more than $20 million, making it the first esports event to eclipse the eight-figure barrier two times over.

The new record replaces the one set last year by the same event. In 2015, Valve’s annual crowdsourcing campaign, combined with the company’s own $1.6 million contribution, created a nearly $18.43 million prize fund.

Yet, now that a new benchmark has been set, the question remains: Will The International continue to set new high-water marks year after year, or have esports prize funds reached their apex?

Predictions vs. reality

Back in early June, we predicted that in a base case scenario, The International prize fund would come in at just under $20 million. With five days left in the campaign, the tournament has defied that expectation — but not by as much as we would have thought given the circumstances.

Data collected from International tracking site dota2.prizetrac.fr shows that this year’s campaign was only faring marginally better than last year’s at the 45-day mark. It was then that the 2016 campaign received a much needed boost via a cleverly timed Weekend Sale.

The International 2016 prize pool

Over the sale’s four day duration, the prize pool spiked $2.4 million. For perspective, the campaign had generated under $600k the four days prior.

In our predictions, we mentioned that Valve would have to make at least one surprise announcement for the campaign’s prize fund to reach our bull case estimate of $21.4 million.  The Weekend Sale certainly qualified, and by the 50-day mark, we began to question whether or not the bull case estimate was too conservative.

That concern has since been put to rest, as since the the Weekend Sale’s conclusion the 2016 campaign has followed a similar trajectory to last year’s. If anything, the release of Immortal Treasures III in late July was less impactful than anticipated, resulting in only moderately heightened sales for the first three days post-release.

The announcement of the Lockless Luckvase and Trove Carafe Immortal Treasures last week barely moved the needle, firmly suggesting that most campaigners were already satisfied with the amount of their contribution.

That said, last year’s campaign picked up a bit of steam in its final days. Assuming the same happens this year, our internal analysis shows that the final prize pool for The International will settle in at approximately $20.8 million when the three month campaign concludes on August 13.

That figure is more than half-a-million less than expected, despite Valve running a more aggressive campaign than even the most bright-eyed optimist would have anticipated.

The International growth slows

Declining year-on-year growth rates support the theory that The International is reaching its boiling point:

International Prize Pool

While it’s worth noting that this year’s campaign was nearly two weeks shorter, it’s unlikely the extra padding would have resulted in significantly increased contributions.

Reason being that players would have been more apt to space their contributions out if the campaign spanned say three-and-a-half or four months instead of three.

Other variables that suggest The International prize fund will level off:

  • Dota 2 is a somewhat dated game. Although its official release date was in July 2013, the game was available in open beta for nearly two years prior.
  • The campaign’s High-Water Mark challenge incentivizes players to set a new record each and every year, but not by so much that the next year’s goal becomes unattainable.
  • Other multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games are popping up in abundance. Assuming just one of these breaks into the mainstream, it stands to put a dent in Dota 2’s popularity.
  • Along the same lines, Overwatch, although not technically a MOBA, is taking the esports world by storm, and threatens to pull both viewers and top competitors away from the big three (Dota 2, CS:GO and League of Legends).

Viewership for The International tells a different tale

Yet, despite all the variables working against future campaigns, it’s impossible to deny the popularity of The International broadcasts on Twitch and other live streaming services:

At of the time of this writing, more than 425,000 viewers are watching Dota 2 channels on Twitch. By comparison, the maximum concurrent Dota 2 viewers for the entire month of July was less than half that amount.

More striking still: According to Twitch tracking site gamoloco, last year’s grand finale on August 8 only generated maximum concurrent viewership of 558,671 — just 24 percent more than what we’re witnessing midday during the quarterfinals round.

Suffice it to say, as the quarterfinals give way to the later championship rounds, last year’s benchmark should be blown away.

And Twitch isn’t the only way to watch The International broadcasts:

  • YouTube, WatchESPN and Steam Broadcasting are all broadcasting the entire tournament live. The Steam broadcast alone is averaging hundreds of thousands of viewers.
  • This year, Valve has introduced the Dota VR Hub, which as the name suggests, allows viewers to watch games and replays in virtual reality. It’s unknown whether how popular this viewing vehicle will be, as the system requirements for running the hub are exceedingly high.
  • Players that purchased a Battle Pass this season have effectively booked a ticket to watch the tournament in-game. Watching in-game affords viewers complete control of their viewing angle. Battle Pass owners can also make predictions on matches, with winners receiving battle points and prizes.

Still, heightened viewership doesn’t necessarily equate to increased sales. Although the spike in popularity should have Valve feeling comfortable with that next year’s campaign will at least be on par with the 2016 effort.

First place prize stacks up with major sporting events

If there was ever a question as to the popularity of esports and esports betting, naysayers needn’t look much further than the first place prize of The International compared to other major sports and gaming events:

First place prizes 2016 sporting events

Considering that Dota 2 teams are comprised of five members each, winning team members will receive a larger sum than the winner of the Daytona 500, and nearly as much as the PGA Championship victor.

Only the WSOP Main Event champ will take home significantly more.

Image credit: Dota2.com

The International 2016 Campaign Hits A Bump In The Road, But Prize Fund Still Cracks Last Year’s Record

July 26, 2016

History was made on Tuesday evening, when the The International 2016 set a new record for the largest esports prize pool in the tournament era.

At last check, Valve’s annual crowdsourcing campaign has raised just over $18,440,000, eclipsing the old record of $18,429,613 set by the very same Dota 2 tournament in 2015.

That said, the campaign doesn’t appear to have much wind left in its sails.

Battle Pass and Levels purchases have petered out dramatically over the past three weeks — and with only two weeks left before the campaign meets its end, a hint of uncertainty remains as to whether the prize pool can reach our original base case prediction of roughly $20 million.

The hangover effect is real

Confidence that The International 2016 prize pool would shatter expectations was at an all-time high three weeks ago.

At the time Valve’s weekend sale has just concluded. The sale, presented in the form of a Battle Level bundle, was the equivalent of a 60 percent discount, and resulted in over $2.5 million in campaign contributions over a five day span.

For perspective, the prize pool generated less than one-third that figure in the five days prior.

In the aftermath of the sale, contributions slowed. This was largely an expected result. Less expected, was just how much they slowed by.

Data collected from dota2.prizetrac.kr shows that in the past seven days, the 2016 campaign has averaged just over $61,000 per day. In fact, if it weren’t for a mild sales uptick sparked by the reveal of the Legacy of the Fallen Legion package on July 12, we wouldn’t be looking at a new record until around the weekend.

International 2016 Prize Pool Predictions

Granted, during a similar timeframe last year, sales were slow as well, but this year’s trail off was somewhat more pronounced.

The only clear explanation for this discrepancy is what is known as the hangover effect. In short, most of the remaining players who would have bought additional Battle Levels stocked up during the weekend sale.

Following the sale, there was a dearth of incentive to make additional purchases, and sales suffered as a result.

It was believed that the High-Water Mark challenge, which awarded Battle Pass owners with three Trust of the Benefactor rewards once a new record was set, would stimulate purchases as the fund grew closer to last year’s mark — but it simply did not happen.

One more opportunity for an uptick

The prize pool is expected to be the beneficiary of one more modest uptick before the campaign closes. That’s because the third Immoral Treasure has yet to be revealed.

Last year, Immortal Treasure III was released on roughly the 70th day of the campaign. Considering that this year’s campaign is on Day 69, coupled with the fact that the overall campaign length is shorter, Immortal Treasures III is expected to go live any day now.

In 2015, the third Immortal Treasure precipitated the smallest sales spike of any major reveal. Still, the impact should not be underestimated.

From the 70th to 75th day of the 2015 campaign, the prize fund grew by an average of $208,400 per day. Should this year’s reveal have even 80 percent of the impact — which given current sales trends feels like a fair estimate — the prize fund will quickly swell to nearly $19.3 million.

Factor in regular sales rates for the remaining days, and you have a final tally that just barely crosses the $20 million barrier.

Paddy Power betting lines adjust to reflect recent downwind

Bettors on U.K based sports and esports betting site Paddy Power apparently share the belief that The International 2016 prize pool is no longer well-positioned to shatter the $20 million barrier.

As of two weeks ago, the highest confidence intervals for the final prize fund were in the $20 – $22 million and $22 – $24 million ranges — both offering odds of 17/10.

The tide has since shifted dramatically, with odds for the $20 – $22 million ranging dropping all the way to 8/11. Along similar lines, the payout for betting on a final tally of $18 – $20 million has dipped from 4/1 to 13/5.

On the other side of the equation, the $24 – $26 million range has dropped modestly, from 4/1 to 11/2. Anything above $26 million is considered a long shot.

The International 2016 Prize Pool Now Firmly On Pace To Trounce Old Record

July 15, 2016

Just a few weeks back, doubts lingered as to whether The International 2016 prize pool would eclipse last year’s record-breaking mark.

Thanks to a clever, and somewhat unexpected marketing scheme by campaign runner Valve, those doubts have been quietly put to rest.

Weekend sale prompts massive uptick

In early June, we predicted that it would take a surprise announcement by Valve for the prize pool of the year’s largest Dota 2 tournament to shatter last year’s high-water mark of $18,429,613.

That announcement came on June 30, by way of an extended weekend sale on Battle Level Bundles that was so generous, it sparked the single biggest sales surge of any mid-campaign announcement in the campaign’s four year history.

Data provided by dota2.prizetrac.kr:

International 2016 Prize Pool

Players who participated in the event received:

  • 50 Battle Levels
  • 2x Immortal Treasure I
  • 2x Immortal Treasure II
  • 2x Collector’s Cache

The weekend package cost $14.99 total, representing a 60 percent discount. For perspective, under normal circumstances the purchase of 48 Battle Levels alone will set players back $19.98.

Prior to the blowout, the prize pool was ticking up at a rate of approximately $100k – $200k per day.

On Day 1 of the sale, it surged by just over $1.1 million. And by the time the final bell rang, the sale — which neatly coincided with The Steam Summer Sale — bolstered the prize pool by just shy of $2.4 million, in only four days.

As it stands, the weekend sale is proving the difference maker between a rather pedestrian campaign struggling to reach new heights, and one that at nearly $18 million with several weeks left to go, should easily eclipse the $20 million threshold.

No longer a question of ‘if’ but ‘by how much’

With a new record all but certain, the question becomes: “By just how much will The International 2016 prize pool beat out last year’s mark?”

In the past week, the campaign has averaged $85,000 in prize pool contributions per day. Extending that average out over the remaining weeks of the campaign, we arrive at an estimated $19.94 million.

However, there are two wrinkles that should push the prize pool higher than this figure. The first is the reveal of the Immoral Treasure III package.

Three weeks ago, Immortal Treasure II facilitated a nearly $900k two days sales surge. History tells us that Immortal Treasure III will spark a more subdued uptick than its predecessors, but still an impactful one nonetheless.

Also, we expect momentum to pick up over the next few days due to Valve’s inclusion of a new community challenge for 2016:  the High-Water Mark. Should the prize pool of this year’s International eclipse last year’s, players will receive a bevy of rewards, including three Trust of the Benefactor treasure rewards – each of which will offer a chance at ultra rare, limited-run items.

Already, the High Water Mark is impacting sales. Just last weekend, the prize pool was only growing by approximately $70k per day, but in the last two days it’s averaged $120k. Expect this growth rate to accelerate daily until the record falls.

Together, these two variables paint a picture of a $21 – $22 million final prize pool, which is more or less in line with our original bull case estimates.

That being said, it’s plausible that Valve has one final curveball in store for its contributors that could vault the final tally to as high as $24 million.

Paddy Power taking bets on International prize pool

Paddy Power, one of a growing number of online sportsbooks to offer esports betting odds, is now accepting wagers on the final International prize pool. The wager is categorized under Dota 2 TI 2016 Futures.

From this category, players can also wager on the outright winner of the tournament. Betway is also taking futures on the final outcome.

As somewhat expected, Paddy Power’s highest confidence intervals for the final prize pool are in the $20 – $22 million and $22 – $24 million ranges — both of which offer players betting odds of 17/10.

The $18 – $20 million and $24 – $26 million ranges are somewhat less expected, but far from long-shots, coming it at 4/1.

The International 2016 Prize Pool Cracks $14 Million, Remains (Barely) On Pace To Surpass 2015 Mark

July 1, 2016

The release of the Immortal Treasures II package last week sparked a short-lived sales surge of Battle Passes and Levels, propelling the prize pool for The International 2016 above $14 million.

Thanks to the uptick, the fund for the calendar’s most prestigious Dota 2 tournament still remains on pace to break the $18.43 million record set in 2015.

But the gap has closed considerably, and what initially looked like a runaway race has turned into a dogfight.

New record no longer a certainty

As of the time of this writing, Valve‘s crowdsourcing campaign has generated a prize pool of just over $14.25 million – approximately $700k more than what was collected 44 days into last year’s effort.

When we last checked in , the disparity was significantly larger – nearly $1.8 million. However, that figure was an aberration caused by this year’s early release of the Collector’s Cache.

In other words, the reason the 2015 effort has effectively “caught up” in the past two weeks is because current year-on-year comparisons account for the release of the screamingly popular cache in both years.

The chart below (data via by dota2.prizetrac.kr) illustrates this trend:

International Prize Pool - June 30

Notice that the release of the Immortal Treasures II package on June 23 resulted in a sales uptick, albeit a much smaller one, of its own.

On the day the treasure was released, the prize pool surged nearly $625k, and in the week since, the fund has swelled by $1.67 million. The latter figure represents a week-on-week growth margin of nearly 250 percent.

Impressive, but hardly enough to fend off the the 2015 campaign from reclaiming the lead.

At least one more reason to be hopeful

Campaign watchers can expect another sales spike in the coming weeks when the final Immortal Treasure package is released.

Historically, big reveals that fall near the tail end of the campaign have not performed as well as those that came before. To wit, last year’s Immortal Treasures III release was the least influential of the three, prompting just $210k in campaign contributions on its first post-launch day.

However, this year’s data shows that Immortal Treasure releases are having a more notable impact, so much so, that $500k in first day contributions do not appear out of the question.

There are two other wildcards that may or may not facilitate a sales surge:

  • As of Wednesday, the roster for The International 2016 is nearly set. Increased media attention and hype could very well translate into heightened Battle Pass sales.
  • One of the campaign’s stretch goals is the High-Water Mark challenge, which rewards Battle Pass holders with added treasures, pending this year’s prize pool eclipses the 2015 fund. It’s plausible that momentum will build as the prize pool inches closer to last year’s mark.

On the flip side, the 2016 campaign is considerably shorter than last year’s effort. It will officially end on August 11, 87 days after it began. Last year, players had 93 days to contribute to the campaign.

The International roster takes form

Now that The International qualifiers have concluded, 14 out of the 16 competing squads are known.

Six teams bypassed the qualifiers by receiving direct invites. They are:

  • OG
  • Team Liquid
  • Newbee
  • LGD Gaming
  • MVP Phoenix
  • Natus Vincere

More details here.

ESports aficionados will readily recognize the names of most of the eight qualifying teams:

  • Team Secret
  • Alliance
  • Wings Gaming
  • Vici Gaming Reborn
  • TNC Gaming
  • Fnatic
  • Evil Geniuses
  • Digital Chaos

Four wildcard teams will compete for the final two tournament spots. Last year, a wildcard team (CDED) went on to the finals, before losing to reigning champion Evil Geniuses 3-1.

Evil Geniuses won $6.6 million for its first place effort, but due to a team roster change during the Manila Major, were excluded from a direct invite.

The International Prize Pool Pushes Past $12 Million – But A New Record Is Far From A Sure Thing

June 17, 2016

Exactly one month after Valve went live with its annual crowd-sourcing campaign for The International 2016, enough Battle Passes and Levels have been purchased to send the prize pool over the $12 million mark.

So far, the fund for the annual Dota 2 tournament remains firmly on stride to crack the record of $18.43 million set last year.

Yet, whether or not the campaign actually succeeds in setting a new high-water mark remains largely in question, with the first clear picture not emerging until next week.

Year-on-year comparison not apples-to-apples, yet

Last year’s campaign managed to raise $10.22 million after 31 days, placing it nearly $1.8 million off the 2016 pace. On it’s own, these figures suggest that this year’s prize fund will easily coast by last year’s marker.

But as we observed in last week’s analysis, there’s more to the story.

Based on tracking data collected by Matthew “CyborgMatt” Bailey, it was only few days ago that the 2016 campaign was outpacing the 2015 iteration by over $2.3 million – a full half-a-million more than it is currently.

And from the looks of it, the gap is about to shrink a whole lot more.

That’s because the widely popular Collector’s Cache, which historically inspires a sales surge only outdone by the initial blast, wasn’t released until Day 36 of last year’s campaign, as opposed to Day 20 in 2016.

International Prize Pool

Note on the graph the influence of the 2015 Collector’s Cache – the prize pool ballooned nearly $2 million in the first four days after release, as opposed to just a $500k climb in the four days leading up.

Now, consider that on June 15, the current campaign generated just $112k, down from $189k four days prior. Even in a somewhat optimistic scenario, where the daily contributions stabilize, the 2015 campaign’s trend line will “catch up” with the 2016 line by Day 43.

That is unless Valve provides consumers with a little extra incentive, which seems inevitable.

Immortal Treasures to the rescue?

Last year, the introduction of two Immortal Treasures temporarily vaulted sales. They didn’t have quite the impact as the Collector’s Cache, but sales did increase four-fold immediately following the reveal of the first Treasure, and approximately two-fold after the second.

From the looks of it, Valve has a total of three Immortal Treasure bundles in line for 2016 – only one of which has been revealed. Therefore, it wouldn’t surprise to see two minor sales spikes in the coming weeks.

Factor in the High-Water Mark challenge, which grants Battle Pass owners three Trust of the Benefactor rewards should the final prize pool stamp out the existing record, and we’re still of the mind that this year’s prize pool will break new ground.

That said, it may take the combination of very attractive Immortal Treasures and a late-game surprise for the fund to push all the way past $20 million.

What does Valve stands to gain?

Besides prestige and heightened brand awareness? Money, and a whole lot of it.

Only 25 percent of Battle Pass and other associated sales goes to prize fund. The other 75 percent presumably goes to Valve for hosting the tournament.

Factoring in the $1.6 million Valve allocated to kickstart the campaign, the digital distribution company has already made just under $30 million from this one vehicle alone.

Not bad for the first month of a nearly three month long campaign.

The International 2016 Prize Pool Surges Forward – Will It Surpass $20 Million?

June 9, 2016

Just over three weeks since Valve began its annual crowdsourcing campaign for The International 2016, the prize pool for the year’s largest Dota 2 tournament is on pace to cruise by last year’s record of $18,429,613.

As of the time of this writing, Valve has raised over $10.9 million – a figure that includes the company’s own contribution of $1.6 million. By comparison, last year it took an entire month for the campaign to raise $10 million, and 35 days to raise what the current campaign has generated in 23.

Yet despite the optimistic start, there is still an argument to be made that this year’s campaign will struggle to surpass last year’s tally, let alone reach the $20 million that appears to be the unspoken goal.

Predicting The International 2016 prize pool

In our analysis, which was aided by public data made available by Dota 2 analyst Matthew “CyborgMatt” Bailey via his tracking website, we examined a multitude of variables that could impact the final prize pool.

Namely, the following factors were all taken into consideration:

  • Previous year trends
  • Business model amendments
  • Campaign length
  • Dota 2 playing trends
  • The influence of forthcoming announcements by Valve

Using these variables, we envisioned three possible scenarios for the final prize pool of The International 2016.

International 2016 Predictions

Bear case

In the most conservative scenario, the rate of contributions will parallel those of 2015, with two modest spikes occurring when Valve introduces new Immortal Treasures as part of its Battle Pass (25 percent of Battle Pass sales contribute to The International prize fund).

Based on this simplistic model, the pool will top out at $17.3 million, or $1.1 million less than last year’s fund.

This initially strikes as odd, as the 2016 iteration is currently on pace to beat the 2015 total by a fair margin. However, there are two factors working against the 2016 campaign:

  • This year’s campaign is noticeably shorter, as there are just 87 days from the time the campaign started on May 16 through the conclusion of The International on August 11.
  • Current year-over-year comparisons aren’t valid. This year’s sales already account for Valve’s release of the widely popular Collector’s Cache. In 2015, the cache wasn’t rolled out until Day 35.

Base case

The most realistic case factors in an additional variable: the change in active Dota 2 players since 2015. Since the Battle Pass only benefits individuals who play the game, it follows that the bigger the Dota 2 community, the bigger the potential market.

Data suggests that as of July 2015, Dota 2 was averaging approximately 550k concurrent players. That figure has swelled dramatically in the past 11 months, with current statistics indicating a concurrent player average as high as 700k, and daily peaks approaching 1 million players.

That represents a 27 percent increase, with Dota 2 now accounting for roughly 10 percent of Steam activity – an increase of this magnitude bodes remarkably well for the 2016 campaign.

What’s more, the base case also accounts for a pronounced surge once the prize pool draws in on last year’s mark. The reason? Valve has promised to sweeten the pot with extra goodies, including a chance to win limited-run prizes – but only if the prize fund eclipses last year’s high-water mark. More on the Battle Pass details here.

Yet even with these beneficial factors accounted for, we derived an estimated prize pool that still came up just short of $20 million.

Bull case

Should Valve release above average Immortal Treasures or make a surprise announcement, we would expect larger sales spikes than in the base case.

Also, the shortened time frame may work to the campaign’s advantage, as there will be a heightened sense of urgency to start “leveling up.”

This leads us to our bull case – the only scenario where the prize pool exceeds $20 million – potentially topping out at as high as $21.4 million.

What others are predicting

In their thoughtful and comprehensive analysis, SwissDC has the final prize pool at $18,561,889. They cite the limited time frame in which to buy compendiums and current sales trends as the reasons behind their conservative prediction.

Reddit users are predicting final tallies that range from just slightly more than last year’s total, all the way up to $25 – $26 million. Interestingly, some users have taken to discouraging players from buying Battle Passes once the prize pool reaches $20 million, as it will become too difficult to set a record (and subsequently receive the high-water mark reward) in 2017.

One common thread among all the predictions: What Valve does between now and August will have a significant bearing on whether The International combatants divvy up a $20 million plus prize fund.