This text was originally posted by me on in this Reddit thread. I'm reposting it in this article because I believe the issue is important and the bigger audience it reaches, the better.
The prize pool of the Minors + Majors this season will be $6.5M. If TI10 hits $35M again, this means it will have more than FIVE TIMES the prize pool of the whole DPC season that builds up to it.
Moreover, 45% of the $35M goes to the first team. So, the TI winners take home more than TWO TIMES the prize pool of all teams who will take any place in any Minor or Major in the season before TI10 COMBINED (?!).
The top few TI teams are set for life, while everyone else who falls short regrets deeply they chose pro Dota as a career path. Seems healthy.
If this isn’t enough to convince you, here are three reasons why this situation is utterly terrible and can easily be changed:
If Valve’s goal is to grow the game through making headlines with "kid makes millions from winning a video game tournament" – it isn’t working! Kids these days want to play Fortnite and Minecraft, they don't want to play Dota even if the TI winners make a gazillion $ and their parents are impressed by the fact for a whole minute when they read their favorite news site.
While the first few TIs were an ingenious marketing tool, MOBAs are not a growing market anymore and breaking prize pool records for 20 years straight isn’t going to change that!
The DPC system isn't a promotional tool anymore. It's about sustaining a healthy environment so that people who love watching or competing can do so for as long as possible! Of course, keeping Dota healthy, interesting, and alive is in the best interest of Valve as well.
I have investors asking me every once in a while if "we can make our own team" (meaning T2/3 team). Even though it's a dream of mine and I'd absolutely love to give 5 players the space and financial security to try to break into T1, I cannot with a clear conscious say "yeah let's do it". The simple reason is that I know it will be a financial disaster (unless the team miraculously makes it to T1 which simply doesn't happen overnight).
All of this is pretty easy to change. Just having enough prize pool winnings to cover the living costs of 6 people can keep the team, org, and brand alive for very long until, maybe, in the long run, it finds bigger success, attracts sponsors, etc.
A big reason why people don't care about T2/3 Dota is that it currently consists of super random short-lived stacks. Consequently, watching T2/3 tournaments feels pointless (stacks will break apart anyway, so there is NO STORY TO FOLLOW). If there are legitimate T2/3 Teams with recognizable brands and players that stick together for longer periods of time people will start being interested in their stories. Alliance was a T2/3 team with unknown players with very little success for almost two years. The only reason they stuck together and made it into T1 Dota is that the org was able to foot the bill for these two years, and now the team is one of the most beloved ones in the west and there are many fans interested in their story!
Without the support of Alliance as an org, micke-, Qojqva, Boxi, Taiga, and Insania’s story wouldn’t happen, which would be extremely unfortunate for our scene. The stories that keep competitive Dota fresh and interesting are the underdog stories. And if the T2 scene is dead or dying, underdog stories will become rarer. [The successful underdogs this TI (Infamous, Mineski, to a degree Alliance and Na’Vi) were all teams who had financial support from an org so that they can dedicate all of their time on the game.]
There are very few orgs who are willing to foot the bill of 5 players + support staff for 2 years so that maybe they make it into the T1 scene. The only reason Alliance did this is because of Loda and Co.’s love for the game and the org’s position in the community (which makes it more attractive to sponsors than a new org). If the DPC prize pools go further down into the T2/3 scene, however, running a T2 team wouldn’t be as risky and expensive. More orgs would be willing to do it, and there would be more T2/3 TEAMS and BRANDS (not simply stacks) that stick together, grow, and develop their own stories and fanbase!
There are many viable solutions to this problem, and a lot of them don’t even require Valve to reduce their profits. They can just redistribute some of TI’s prize pool (ideally from the top placements) and invest it towards the bottom of the DPC system (as has been suggested by many people) - the deeper down the prize pools reach, the better, even down to the qualifiers themselves.
Making $10k as a team for reaching the qualifiers is enough to put food on the table and keep you playing and improving for another month or two. The T2/3 scene doesn't need to be rich, it just needs to have enough money not to starve and to pay the internet bill!
It’s quite possible that Valve agrees with these arguments and is thinking “if we’re about to redistribute the TI Battle Pass crowdfunding money, we cannot announce it retroactively, we need to announce it with the new Battle Pass” – i.e. the TI10 Battle Pass will fund the TI11 DPC season.
This is fine and all, but this way the T2/3 scene will be struggling for one more year. This is a big problem – in this year a lot of great players who have the potential to make it into the pro scene will quit because life will force them to find another source of income. At the same time, we are not gaining a lot of new try-hard players – our player base is growing older and more causal (some people even only watch Dota, don’t play), which makes the pool of new talented young try-hards shrink. In that sense, the gap between the T2/3 and T1 scene is slowly but surely increasing and in one year Underdog stories will be less likely than they are today. A competitive scene in which the same 10 teams dominate the majors and TI will become stale, so it’s in everyone’s interest to make sure this doesn’t happen.
The solution – don’t wait, make the change (or at least the announcement) now! This way players and orgs will be able to plan for it!
Thanks for reading! If you care about this topic, keep the conversation going!