Fueling Competition Through Increased Prize Pools
The International has always boasted a massive prize pool in comparison to other similar events of its time. The prize pool of the first installment of the tournament was $1.6 million. This was so exorbitant that many professional players at the time did not believe in the event’s legitimacy. Beginning with The International 3 in 2013, community funded prize pools were introduced. Players could buy an in-game item, The Compendium, for $10. Furthermore, players could spend money to increase its level offering more rewards the higher level achieved.
Valve contributed one quarter of all proceeds from compendium-related purchases toward the prize pool. As a result, every subsequent international following the first community funded installment in 2013 featured an even larger prize pool than the last. This trend continued until 2017 when it hit $24.7 million total. While the funding period for this year’s International is still not over, there is much skepticism that it will be the first year that the prize pool does not top the previous year.
The Compendium and other similar in-game purchases are a great way for free-to-play games to generate cash flow, and other free-to-play games are beginning to adopt the business strategy. For example, Fortnite: Battle Royale has been releasing its own compendium-esque purchase called “The Battle Pass” which DotA 2 also has for its minor tournaments. Both are similar in that they provide additional content for the user who might find the game repetitive and drab after playing too much.
This content comes in the form of challenges which can be completed for cosmetics. These allow players to obtain gear without having to pay for them individually. DotA’s compendium offers a myriad of additional content that players can explore such as the fantasy feature, in which players can craft a fantasy team of professionals participating in the tournament. They can then earn points to compete against friends, not dissimilar to the likes of fantasy football and such. Additionally, fantasy DotA participants can make predictions on group stage and main stage performances, tournament records, and the ultimate victor.
The compendium also features minigames. These minigames include Under Hollow, which is a Battle Royale-type game mode that is offered for a limited time to compendium owners, like a special event. Alternatively, there is Cavern Crawl, a game in which the player must navigate through a series of “unlit rooms” by winning games with certain heroes, meeting blocked paths and cave-ins along the way.
Is Valve Getting Lazy?
While there is much more content to interact with following the purchase of a Compendium, it has also created a whole host of problems for Valve and the DotA community as a whole. The most universal issue that community members face is that of missed deadlines by Valve. Treasures and cosmetics are either released late or given no time frame at all. Following a missed deadline by Valve, there is an extreme lack of communication with the community as to when the cosmetics will actually be released, further frustrating players.
Missed deadlines and lack of communication are very reflective of Valve as a company and especially present within their ownership of DotA 2. It has become increasingly noticeable in the recent years as more Battle Passes and Compendiums are released because it essentially allows Valve to leave the game on “auto-pilot”. They release a new battle pass and add some community-made cosmetics along with a few challenges and watch the money flow. Keep in mind that a massive three quarters of the money made from these purchases goes directly in the pockets of Valve. Additionally, when players are able to trade the items they have received they often use the community market, and Valve gets a small cut from every transaction made on that market, so they are essentially double dipping.
Ultimately, battle passes provide great content for players and add exciting new aspects of game play that are not often seen within DotA. However, they allow Valve to perpetuate its culture of silence and neglect towards the game many people cherish. As time passes and more of this type of content is released, it will be interesting to see if this situation becomes more severe. Will the increased cash flow allows for even more content to be created and allow better user experience? We’ll have to wait and see.
“From Our Haus to Yours”