As one World Cup ends and the other begins, I’m wondering how I managed to cope with The International 2014 Playoffs, where 123 games of Dota 2 were played over four days, starting at 2am our time and going for a solid 12 hours.
It was pretty mad.
Alright, so it’s not exactly the FIFA World Cup. But it might as well be: the total prize pool for this year’s The International Dota 2 tournament is going to get pretty close to US $11 million, making it bigger than the Tour de France ($3 million) and the US Masters ($9 million)1. Not bad for a game that’s free to play — and especially so considering everything bar the original $1.6 million has been contributed by players, representing a quarter of their total contributions to the game since May this year. To be fair, Dota 2 is the most played game on Steam by a long shot, but make no mistake — it’s making money, hand over fist, for Valve.
Ever since I started playing Dota 2, I wasn’t really sure what Valve were doing putting an emphasis on watching the game being played, as much as they did on actually playing the game. I’ll probably never understand why random pub matches can have hundreds of spectators, unless there’s some kind of video-game watching club on the internet somewhere that I’m not privy to. But after watching The International playoffs and soon, the main event, I now know that it’s about watching as much as it is about playing.