The biggest prize money tournament of the esports year – by a wide margin – is the Dota 2 championship The International.
Each year since the event was inaugurated in 2011, several teams get to bypass the qualifying tournaments and receive a direct invitation.
This year the six teams who will not need to take part in the regional qualifiers are:
- OG—Founded in 2015, so this will be its first The International. Widely regarded as the best Dota 2 team in the world. They won the Frankfurt Major in 2015 and the Manila Major in 2016.
- Team Liquid—Picked up a 7th/8th place finish in the 2013 International. This year its results have improved dramatically and now reckoned to be the world number two behind OG.
- Newbee—The Chinese team won The International in 2014.
- LGD Gaming—Best finish was third in the 2015 International for $2.2 million in prize money.
- MVP Phoenix—Finished 7th/8th last year and became the first Korean team to win the group stage of a Valve event at the Shanghai Major in February 2016.
- Natus Vincere (Na’Vi)—Won the 2011 The International, and took second place in 2012 and 2013.
Some big names are missing from the invitation list
In previous years more than six teams were invited. This year, some notable names such as Fnatic, Evil Geniuses, Vici Gaming Reborn and Secret didn’t make the list.
Secret and Evil Geniuses were involved in a team roster change during the Manila Major which made them ineligible to be invitees. Evil Geniuses won The International in 2015, bringing home a massive prize pool of $6.6 million.
— Kemal Sadikoglu (@ksadikoglu) June 9, 2016
The Manila Major gave a foretaste of the teams’ current form
The teams that were invited all performed well in the Manila Major which finished on June 12.
OG beat Team Liquid in the final, with Newbee and LGD taking third and fourth place. MVP Phoenix tied for 5th and 6th place with Fnatic and Na’Vi tied in 7th/8th place with Vici Gaming Reborn.
Fnatic and Vici Gaming will now need to win through the qualifiers to get their invitations. They are currently ranked 4th and 7th in the Dota 2 team rankings, so in the absence of their main opposition, they must be favourites to appear as successful qualifiers.
Open qualifiers and Wild Cards
The other teams that will take part in the event will come from regional qualifiers to be held in Southeast Asia, China, the Americas and Europe. The winner and runner-up of each event will qualify.
This is the first year when open competition has been allowed. Previously all 16 participating teams were invited directly to the event
There are two further slots open to Wild Card teams. The Wild Card slots will be made up of third place finishers from the qualifiers. These teams will be invited to Seattle where this year’s The International is being held, and will play off to determine which teams get the Wild Card entries.
Valve should get the largest ever esports prize pool
The International is organized by the Valve Corporation which runs the competition as the culmination of a long marketing campaign. During the run up to the event, 25 percent of the value of sales of Battle Passes and Levels are directed into a prize fund for the event.
This year’s prize pool is on track to surpass the record $18.43 million raised last year.
ESBR noted that the money profile of the 2016 prize pool has been skewed by the early release of the Collector’s Cache, but the prospect of further sales increases spurred by the offer of Immortal Treasures and perhaps a surprise game offer could well lift the total to over $20 million.
A prize fund at that level is likely to generate more mainstream media stories that will raise awareness of the event and esports in general.
For Valve, the heightened media coverage will have a feedback effect, generating yet more sales both in-game and through its Steam platform. Valve’s reputation as the organizer of the world’s biggest esports events will be assured.
The enormous prize pool is likely to stimulate betting
The headline prize pool is inevitably going to attract a large audience, and this should feed through into the total amounts waged during the event.
The main action will come from Europe and Southeast Asia, although future editions could benefit from U.S interest if Nevada goes ahead with including esports betting in its gambling regulations.
The International will begin on August 3 and run until August 16.