The International 2019 (TI 9), the center of the calendar for Dota 2 fans and the biggest tournament of the year for that game, is no stranger to big prize pools. In the past, the tournament has awarded winners more than $20 million along with The Aegis of the Immortal, TI’s trophy. This year’s tournament is no exception. With weeks to go, the TI 9 prize pool has passed $29 million. If it reaches $30 million, the pool will once again break records.
Dota 2, for those who don’t play the game, is the second most popular MOBA in the United States and possibly the most popular game of that genre in the world. There are over 150 unique playable characters in Dota 2 and each of them has at least a few viable strategies. All of them have multiple cosmetic items that you can buy with actual money. So the game is free to play but few who are into Dota 2 do not pay money to play.
The prize pool for TI 9 is special in that it is mostly funded by the community of Dota 2. Players purchase a sort of virtual program for the Tournament, called The Compendium, along with a special Battle Pass associated with TI 9. The Compendium unlocks various in-game challenges related to developing skills and rewards related to being swag in-game. Valve, publisher of Dota 2, also sells levels to upgrade The Compendium.
Now some may ask, why would anyone spend money to upgrade a virtual event program?
Well, as the compendium levels up it rewards its owner with a variety of in-game cosmetics for characters, special visual and audio effects, map reskins, weather effects all the way down to customizable chat wheels and cursors. All the things an MMR ladder troll needs to lord it over new players or just to add a bit of swag to the game. Apparently, swag is worth about $30 million to the Dota 2 community.
As of the writing of this article, the TI 9 prize pool is $29,431,287 and there are 39 days until the tournament starts.
Stephen Krusel, known as Sven Kroosl to some, has played video and tabletop games since 1987 and has written about the gaming industry since 2008. He has yet to be convinced that Final Fantasy Tactics is not the pinnacle of gaming.