For the past decade, the biggest prize pool in esports was never a conversation. Valve’s Dota 2 has held the record for The International (TI) and it was never even close. TI began in 2011 with a prize pool of $1.6 million, at the time that was nearly unheard of. That same amount went up in 2012, and while Valve was still at the top, the move they made the next year would cement that fact.
Valve continued contributing $1.6 million but then they added a percentage of sales of the in-game battle pass to the prize pool. The next year they jumped up to nearly $3 million. The year after they topped $10 million. Even though that tournament happened in 2014 and esports has grown a ton in the past five years, TI 2014 still has a higher prize pool than any other non-TI tournament in esports.
And it just kept climbing. 2015: $18.4 million. 2016: $20.7 million. 2017: $24.5 million 2018: $25.5 million. Dota 2 was sitting pretty at the top and it didn’t seem like any game would be able to come for the crown, or even get into the castle.
Then Fortnite came along. With a prize pool of $30 million for the World Cup, suddenly Epic Games had the highest prize pool in all of esports. While that $30 million is technically split between the solos and duos events, the whole tournament takes place in the same weekend in NYC making it reasonable to lump the prize pools together.
But Fortnite’s reign didn’t last long, in fact, it never really began. The International’s prize pool can be tracked in live updates and the week before the Fortnite World Cup was set to begin, the tracker crossed the $30 million mark for the first time. So while the Fortnite World Cup will briefly hold the title, Dota 2 will take it right back just one month later when TI 2019 wraps up.
The added competition from Fortnite is a key reason why the prize pool is already 29 percent ahead of last year’s mark. Having the biggest prize pool in esports is a point of pride for the Dota 2 community and they weren’t going to let a newcomer like Fortnite change that. This year, they could truly set the record out of reach. They still have another full month to donate to the prize pool and usually August is one of the quickest growing times as the hype for TI builds.
We are in truly unprecedented territory in the world of esports and are nearing the upper echelons of traditional sports prize pools.
For comparison, Golf’s The Masters has a total purse of $11 million, The Indy 500 is at $13 million, The Tour De France sits at just $2.3 million.
Esports really only has some international soccer tournaments and massive tennis majors still above the mark being set by the Fortnite World Cup and The International.
It will be interesting to see how high the TI prize pool can climb in the next month. They will set a mark that will be tough for Epic Games to beat next year, but if anyone has the money it has to be the company behind Fortnite.
This feature was covered on the Esports Minute podcast by Esportz Network — available on all podcasting platforms.
Credit: Mitch Reames