The International: World’s Largest Esports Tournament Postponed

  • COVID-19 forces Dota 2 tournament to be rescheduled, probably to 2021
  • Most lucrative esports competition in the world was set for Sweden in August
  • Prize pool is crowdfunded through in-game sales, 2019 total was $34.3m
  • Some esports have gained greater visibility during pandemic
esports team
The largest esports competition of the year, The International, has been postponed because of safety concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. [Image:]

Likely pushed to 2021

Valve Corporation announced that it is postponing its flagship esports world championship tournament, The International. The largest esports event in the world pits teams from around the globe in Valve’s game, Dota 2. It was to take place in Stockholm, Sweden in August.

In a brief message on the Dota 2 blog, Valve explained the decision came after “extensive consideration of the global health emergency stemming from COVID-19,” adding that The International will likely need to be rescheduled for 2021.

we don’t expect to have enough confidence to communicate firm dates in the near future.”

There are no dates set at this point, as Valve continued: “Given the highly volatile landscape for local gathering restrictions, virus trajectory, and global travel policies, we don’t expect to have enough confidence to communicate firm dates in the near future.”

Sweden has been criticized for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, as it has not issued stay-at-home orders like other countries have in order to try to build herd immunity. Though Sweden’s confirmed infected count of 21,520 is well below many countries, its numbers have been on a sharp upward trajectory. At the time of writing, 12% of those diagnosed have died from the virus, compared to 3-5% for its Scandinavian neighbors.

$34.3m prize pool last year

Launched in 2011, The International’s popularity is unmatched in the video gaming world. Last year’s event at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai sold out 26,804 tickets in less than a minute. 8,268 Weekend Bundle passes sold out in less than half a minute.

The International’s prize pool, the largest in esports, is unique in that it is crowdfunded by Dota 2 players. Valve sells a special Battle Pass, which gives buyers special quests and other in-game content. 25% of the proceeds from the sale of the Battle Pass fund the tournament’s prize pool.

Last year’s prize pool was $34.3m, a 134% increase from the 2018 total. Valve raised funds for 110 days in 2019, generating nearly $300,000 per day for The International.

The International 2019 featured 18 teams who qualified for the tournament either via an eight-month Dota Pro Circuit (12 teams) or by winning regional playoffs (six teams). European team OG became the first back-to-back champ last year, winning $15.6m.

Pandemic not all bad for esports

Even though they are video game competitions, many esports events have been postponed or canceled in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Teams compete together in the same venue for most major events; along with the large crowds, live contests are not safe right now. Of note, the NBA 2K League, an esports offshoot of the NBA, has been postponed and the 2020 Pokémon Championship Series has been canceled.

it does not appear that Valve gave serious consideration to moving The International online

Others, like the Overwatch League, initially canceled in-person matches, but have since moved online. From reading the blog post, it does not appear that Valve gave serious consideration to moving The International online.

There is an upside to the pandemic for esports, though. Because esports are some of the only sports available to watch, the visibility of games and leagues have increased.

Rupert Svendsen-Cook, co-founder of London-based Veloce Sports, told Radio 1 Newsbeat that “it’s probably fast-tracked things by about two years for us.”

Professional sports leagues have also been embracing esports during the lockdown, be they serious competitions or just for entertainment.

Professional drivers have been participating in the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series, NBA players squared off in the first NBA 2K Players Tournament, and players in both the Premier League and MLS players competed in special FIFA 20 tournaments to benefit charity.

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