[toc]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.
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.
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.
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.