From its humble origins as a mod for the popular game warcraft 3 to the behemoth of the MOBA genre Dota reshaped the history of ESports and online gaming. Now just days away from the biggest MOBA tournament ever it is interesting to check what is all that hype about, how it came to be, who is competing in it and most importantly what is all the craze with not only supporting but betting on the different teams, gaining the attention of mainstream media and pretty much all the sports betting outlets.
Where did it all start
After several small “test” tournaments starting after the lawsuit loss of Blizzard against Valve for the rights over the game, the Dota 2 gaming franchise saw potential to win big. So, in 2011 (time flies when you are having fun) at Gamescom, Valve did the first planned High value tournament event with a prize pool of 250000 dollars, inviting 18 teams to compete. The teams were chosen from the then called Dota Pro Circuit, which has mimicked the way the competing MOBA League of Legends organized its very own first tournament held the same year. While the viewing was not as large as many hoped, it taught Valve an extremely valuable lesson. If you want to be like greatest, you must become the greatest yourself. And the big dogs in sports have one thing in common – huge prize pool and cutthroat competition. So, the Dota team took a que from non-other than Formula 1 and reshaped their qualification structure, team branding and rosters, even meta-rebalance patches and started to behave like the entertainment sport from the racing tracks, all to create hype and media outreach. Year after year, the prize pool grew larger, first surpassing 1 million, later 10, to the point where we are now – the mindboggling 40 MILLION dollars. That staggering figure and the prize pools of the last few years elevated Dota 2 to the greatest in sports, namely Tennis, Formula 1 and some even say it’s the digital equivalent of the Football’s Champions League.
So, what is going on in Dota 2 Internationals 2021
First, it needs to be said that the tournament was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID Pandemic. This left the fans, teams and the eSports in general wanting. Thus, the stakes are exceptionally high this year. The qualification round points according to the official Dota website are 2700 points earned from Major Tournaments and 1150 points from the Regional Leagues. To earn points the teams had to place in the Top 8 in the Majors and top 6 in the Upper Division of the Regional Leagues. This created an almost yearlong cycle of tournament plays where every win was important. In the end Only the top 2 teams from each Region qualified in the final top 12 that will duke it out in Bucharest in a few days. The group stages will start at 07.10.2021 and the Main Event will begin on 12.10.2021.
Teams, top players, and standings
The teams that managed to secure a spot in this year’s International event are as follows: 1 Evil Geniuses 1,700 points 2 PSG.LGD 1,300 points 3 Virtus Pro 1,200 points 4 Quincy Crew 1,100 points 5 Invictus 1,100 points 6 T1 Gaming 1,070 points 7 Vici Gaming 950 points 8 Team Secret 950 points 9 Team Aster 800 points 10 Alliance 800 points 11 beastcoast 800 points 12 Thunder Predator 800 points The big outlier here is Virtus Pro, who are seeded as the third best team despite mediocre results in their Major Leagues performance. The reason for this is that they are the only team who won both regional league seasons. In addition, there are qualifiers where the region winners have one last shot at the Trophy. These are: Region Winner Europe OG China Elephant CIS Team Spirit SEA Fnatic North America Undying South America SG e-sports Now there is the rub. All these teams were considered top contenders yet barely managed to get a chance at the finals. OG are the defending champions and Elephant created a Super star team after acquiring pretty much the best players China could offer. Fnatic and Team Spirit are always teams to be reckoned with and offered a good show during the Majors. Yet despite all the lavish praise these 6 teams get, they barely managed to secure one last chance prior to the main event. Some renown teams who were expected to qualify but did not make the mark are: Team Liquid – You may know them from other eSports games like CS:GO and Starctraft. They were always seen as the heavy hitters in the Europe region, but roster drama, frequent change of playstyle among team members and poor performance against other “easy” teams led to their downfall this year. Tundra eSports – they started strong and took wins from pretty much all European top teams including the above-mentioned Team Liquid. Sadly, fell short in the end as team OG bested them in a nail-biting 2-3 score in a 5-game match. Team Nigma – anyone following the scene knows that these guys were considered top contenders among the fans. Ultimately, they failed short of delivering consistent high performance and never realized their potential. EHOME – The OGs of the Chinese Dota 2 scene, this team showed promise оn paper, boasting big names such as Yap Jian “xNova” Wei, who is seen as one of the top support players in China. However, they got crushed in the closed qualifiers in China. TNC Predator – just like in other mainstream sports, there are teams with celebrity status players, that just can’t work together. This broke the team and after the ensuing drama they failed to secure a spot in the SEA region.
Just like in most mainstream sports, Dota 2 is not truly a global eSport without plenty of player and team drama. The big shakeup began in China where Team Elephant managed to “ruin” other big team names like Vici Gaming and LGD.PSG by “stealing” their top players Eures, Yang and Somnus, as well as the legendary status team captain Fy. They also recruited the “most wanted” new star in the scene Redpanda and formed a superstar team worthy of envy. Despite all that, their start in the pro scene was not great. They lost some early games and had a no-show at two Majors. Despite all that the team managed to pull through and scraped just enough points and wins to be in the final qualifiers. On the other side of the continent Team Liquid had its own flavor of roster drama. One of the best talents in the Dota Scene and stand in in Team Liquid – SamuaiL, did not manage to showcase his skill and got booted from the team during the summer, despite the rest of the team falling short themselves. Boxi another Team Liquid member who took time off the game to be close to his family returned as a substitute but that did not help the team much. They failed to deliver in the regional qualifiers and were ultimately killed off by team Tundra. Fnatic is another example of player drama. Their disappointing performance during TI 9 led to change in their roster with Marc Polo Luis “Raven” Fausto joining the safe lane carry benching Nuengnara “23savage” Teeramahanon and Kam “Moon” Boon Seng joining the team to replace Abed Azel L. Yusop in the mid lane. Finally, Natthaphon “Masaros” Ouanphakdee replaced Daryl Koh “iceiceice” Pei Xiang in the offlane slot. All that shakeup did wanders for their Season one performance where they crushed the opposition. However, the victory was short-lived and the team began loosing momentum in the Singapore Major where they struggled against the top teams and were ultimately booted from the event, hoping to secure a placement through the final qualifications.
Big names means big money
Speaking about all these star players begs the question about their earnings. Well, Dota 2 is a multimillion eSport. Some players became millionaires in the span of a year. More than that, from the top 30 eSports players in earnings, 29 are playing Dota 2! The biggest earnings in the game belong to Johan “N0tail” Sundsetin playing for the team OG. He pocketed the whooping 6.98 million dollars through his Dota 2 career! At the bottom of the top 30 list is Chu “Shadow” Zeyu with 1.9 million. At the same time Zeyu is not in the roster of any team currently, as the competition and everchanging balance of the game demands fresh blood as well as strategical thinking from the teams. Speaking about teams the top teams by revenue are: 1. Team Liquid $37,605,927.52 2. OG $34,610,723.59 3. Evil Geniuses $24,676,338.49 4. Fnatic $16,396,446.33 5. Virtus.pro $16,113,141.26 Though most of these teams have tournaments outside of the Dota 2 scene, most of their revenue comes mainly from this eSport. The overall earnings are big enough to attract the attention of mainstream media and more importantly attract the attention of the biggest sports betting companies in the world.
The rise of eSports
According to Statista the expected net worth of the eSports sector is just over 1.08 billion dollars. Not counting for merchandise and sportswear this figure is very close to the big-league sports like tennis and basketball. That being said the huge fanbase the eSports scene boasts is an untapped source for advertising and product placement. What is more it is one of the few social groups yet to be introduced to the sports betting world. In the last 10 years the online sports betting market has skyrocketed from 200 million to 14 billion in 2020. That figure is expected to reach 200 billion by the end of 2027 mainly boosted by the eSports scene. This is a huge opportunity for both “expert fans” betting on the various events and a venue where a lot of big advertisers , betting companies and luxury brands want to place themselves and take mindshare off of the “zoomer” generation. Already we can see that the top 100 betting companies in the world all have bonus packages as well as various perks for people willing to bet money with them on eSports. That will guarantee that huge sponsorships, promotion of more and even bigger events will happen and puts pressure on competitive games like Dota 2 to exceed expectations, especially after 2020 where almost all traditional sports events were canceled due to the COVID outbreak. All in all, its exciting times for the fans of eSports.