The playoffs of The International 7 (TI7 for short), an annual unofficial Dota 2 world championship, had started on August 7 at KeyArena in Seattle, Washington.
Why is The International so important?
Even back in 2011, when Valve — the developer of the Dota 2 game — invited the 16 strongest teams from around the world to participate in their very first TI, the event was significantly outstanding, with its distinctively huge prize fund of $1.6 million. By that time, esports had been around for a while, but the prize money of other tournaments was more modest.
TI1 changed the minds of game developers, players and various brands. It is considered the starting point of modern esports history.
This year, attending playoff matches as a spectator costs upwards of $200-300; tickets for the semifinal and the final in KeyArena, which accommodates 15,000 guests, had already sold out a long time ago.
The game that costs a pretty penny
The $24 million prize fund, the biggest ever seen in the history of esports, is formed as follows. Valve provides only $1.6 million; the rest of the money comes from crowdfunding. When ordinary Dota 2 players purchase additional opportunities for their characters in the game, 25 percent of the money goes to the prize fund of The International.
Like many other esports disciplines, Dota is "a game of the moment." Literally two or three won matches can determine whether a team will be able go to The International at all. Many experts consider this approach wrong. A good example is Wings Gaming, an average Chinese team that got through to TI6, which suddenly dominated the tournament and won more than $6 million. However, within a year after the tournament, the team fell apart. It is highly unlikely that those players will ever repeat their successful performance of 2016, but that triumph made them some of the most successful esports players in history.
China and CIS dominate the tournament
The North American team Evil Geniuses, which bookmakers considered the main favorite of the tournament, didn't even reach the semifinals. For the first time in the history of Dota 2, Evil Geniuses ranked among the top four favorites didn't manage to get in the top eight.
Meanwhile, four out of five teams representing China continue to fight for the main prize of $10 million, and three of them will compete in the playoffs.