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The International Dota 2 Championships Land in Shanghai with Record-Breaking Prize Pool

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Offering an unprecedented total of 33 million USD in crowd-funded prize money (that’s about enough to purchase 1.3 million jars of gamer girl bath water, for scale) the 2019 International Dota 2 Championships is the largest esports tournament in the world, and this year, its grand final is taking place in Shanghai, China. 

If you’re new to the game, breathe easy: here’s the low-down on the 2019 International Dota 2 Championships — and its reception in China. 

What is the Dota 2 International? 

The name is pretty self-explanatory. 

Dota 2: a hugely popular, free-to-play PC game boasting over 11 million active players per month developed and produced by American video-game company Valve Corporation. 

The International: name of the game’s annual international championship, wherein teams from across the world fiercely compete for lucrative prizes. 

This year’s tournament — you’ll hear those in the loop refer to it as Ti9 (The International, year 9) — is particularly noteworthy because of the size of its prize pool. The record-breaking 33 million USD trumps offerings at world championships for games such as Fortnite and League of Legends, despite both boasting over six times the number of monthly players as Dota 2.

pc: giphy

Dota 2’s immense prize pool blows that of other MOBA (multi-player online battle arena) games out of the water.

Who’s Playing?

18 teams from around the globe qualify each year. Here’s the list for Ti9, by region.

China Keen Gaming, PSG.LGD (interestingly, a partnership between a Chinese electronics firm and French football powerhouse Paris Saint-Germain), Royal Never Give Up, Vici Gaming

Southeast Asia Fnatic, Mineski, TNC Predator

The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Natus Vincere (Na’Vi), Virtus.Pro

North America Evil Geniuses, Newbee

South America Infamous

Europe Alliance, Chaos eSports Club, Ninjas in Pajamas, Team Liquid, Team OG

Each Dota 2 team, comprised of five professional gamers, is either invited and seeded based off their performance in smaller tournaments throughout the year, or qualifies to play in Ti9 through competitions which count as regional qualifiers. 

The bracketed competition format of Ti9 is similar to that of other big sports tournaments, like the FIFA World Cup. Check out the Dota 2 official rule page to see a detailed description of the system established for competing teams.

Technically, every single Dota 2 player, professional or not, plays a fundamental role in the tournament thanks to their contributions to the prize money…. 

Where’s the Prize Money From?

Yes, the giant winnings pot comes from Dota 2 players themselves. This year’s mind-blowing sum of 33 million USD is almost entirely crowd-funded, fueled by in-game purchase revenue from Dota 2’s immense community of players. 

The prize money is divided among the top competitors, with whoever finishes in first place looking set to scoop over 15 million USD.

Part of the willingness to part with so much cash is that Valve Corporation has done a great job of nurturing a close-knit gaming community through encouraging player engagement — even the professional teams are managed and coached by ex-players themselves, testament to the organic “by gamers, for gamers” culture surrounding Dota 2.

Perhaps this is also why Dota 2 has the best memes.

How Big a Deal is The International in China?

The arrival of The International in Shanghai may be giving fans headaches over whether to skip work to watch proceedings live in the city’s giant Mercedes-Benz Arena, but thousands seem likely to call in sick or take some time off.

The tournament comes at a time when esports is hitting the mainstream in ChinaPopular esports stories are on cinema and TV screens in the country this summer, while professional gamers have recently been officially recognized as athletes

Related:

Esports in China Hit the Mainstream with Movie Adaptations and Official Recognition

Dota 2‘s page on popular Chinese social media platform Weibo has millions of posts attached to it and the Ti9 hashtag has been viewed 1.2 billion times as we write this. The competition can therefore expect a warm reception in Shanghai — and across the country via livestreams — when the business end of the contest kicks off this week.

Watch live video from dota2ti on www.twitch.tv

Monisha Pillai
    Monisha is a senior at NYU studying media theory, Chinese culture and Mandarin. You can probably find her ordering boba five times a day or crying over Korean boy bands.