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Published: May 21, 2024

Written by: Barney

Without a shadow of a doubt, Dota 2’s The International is one of the biggest and most influential pieces in esports and modern gaming in general. The huge global event held almost every year for well over a decade now has become a cultural phenomenon and has attracted millions of viewers from around the globe. Hundreds of teams strive to take a spot in the tournament in an attempt to compete for glory, as well as a slice of one of the largest prize pools in all of esports.

Despite its growing popularity, however, many people might still be wondering about the various details around The International. For example, when was the first event held, how did it evolve over time, what’s the tournament’s format like, what’s the biggest prize pool, what records did the tournament break? While numerous questions can be delved in, in this article we will try to concisely answer some of the most often asked ones and also give a good overview of The International.

What Is Dota 2 The International?

Produced by Valve, Dota 2 is the 2013 sequel to Defense of the Ancients (DotA), a community-created mod for Blizzard Entertainment’s Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos. The game is played in matches between two teams of five players, with each team occupying and defending their own separate base on the map. With its focus on team effort, communication, and strategy, Dota 2 is one of the best esports titles out there.

The International acts as the final event of the Dota Pro Circuit (DPC), the professional league used in Dota 2 until from 2017 until 2023, although the event’s history dates back further. The event was conceived as a promo for the full release of Dota 2 (which happened in 2013) but since then it has been held almost every year in various parts of the world.

The International, commonly abbreviated as simply TI, pits dozens of teams that have fought their way through various regional qualifiers and tournaments. These best squads compete in a huge multi-day-long event with the winners lifting the coveted Aegis of Champions trophy above their heads and also going home with the lion’s share of the huge prize pool the tournament often sports. 

When Did The International Start?

TI started even before Dota 2 was released in 2013. The first The International was actually held in 2011 and was played on the first publicly released version of Dota 2. Taking place at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany, from August 17–21, 16 teams were invited to compete in it with Valve funding the event and providing the $1 million grand prize. The event gained substantial popularity and media coverage, in large part thanks to said prize pool, which was the highest prize pool of any single esports tournament at that time.

The final of this inaugural tournament was between Ukrainian-based Natus Vincere and Chinese-based EHOME, with Natus Vincere winning the series 3–1. NaVi took home the $1 million first-place prize while EHOME won $250,000. Meanwhile, the rest of the 14 teams split the remaining $350,000.

It’s safe to say that the tournament was a huge success in both its popularity and its intended purpose as a promotion for the upcoming Dota 2. It was not until 2013 that the game was fully released, but by that time, it already had an established and quickly growing player base and professional scene. 

How Many The International Tournaments Have There Been?

Since the first Dota 2 TI event was held in 2011, there have been a total of 12 such tournaments. Each one of them is usually named “The International” or just “TI” followed by the specific iteration, or the year it was held in. For example, The International 12 (also commonly called TI 2023 or TI 12) was the twelfth edition of the tournament, which was held last year. 

It should be noted that the 2020 edition of The International was not held due to the Covid-19 pandemic and accompanying lockdowns. That event should have been called TI10, but instead, that name was given to the 2021 iteration of the tournament. Furthermore, the first The International tournament held in 2011, does not carry a number at the end of it.

Where Was The International Held?

As we already mentioned, the inaugural iteration of the tournament was held at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany. However, in the following years, Valve decided to hoist the event in Seattle, USA, where the company’s headquarters is located. KeyArena became the most important venue for Dota 2 as that’s where most of the TI tournaments until 2018 were held.

What happened in 2018 was that Valve hosted The International outside of Seattle for the first time since 2011. The Rogers Arena in Vancouver, Canada was chosen as the venue for the event, and since then, every subsequent TI tournament has been held in a different city around the world. Here is a breakdown of where each event has been hosted through the years:

  • TI 2011 – Koelnmesse, Cologne, Gemrnay
  • TI 2012 – Benaroya Hall, Seattle, USA
  • TI 2013 – KeyArena, Seattle, USA
  • TI 2014 – KeyArena, Seattle, USA
  • TI 2015 – KeyArena, Seattle, USA
  • TI 2016 – KeyArena, Seattle, USA
  • TI 2017 – KeyArena, Seattle, USA
  • TI 2018 – Rogers Arena, Vancouver, Canada
  • TI 2019 – Mercedes-Benz Arena, Shanghai, China
  • TI 2020 – Cancelled, but was supposed to be held in the Avicii Arena, Stockholm, Sweden
  • TI 2021 – Arena Națională, Bucharest, Romania
  • TI 2022 – Suntec Singapore/Singapore Indoor Stadium, Singapore
  • TI 2023 – Climate Pledge Arena, Seattle, USA

The International Prize Pool

Ever since its first iteration, The International has carried the fame of the esports event with the largest prize pool in existence. With its $1,6 million in 2011, TI set a world record for the size of an esports event’s prize pool, and since then, almost every other TI has broken said record. The biggest prize pool any esports event has ever had was at The International 2021, with more than a whopping $40 million given out to the best-performing teams in the world. 

This record stands to this day as neither another TI event nor another esports tournament has managed to break it. Until 2022, each iteration of The International has surpassed the previous one’s prize pool. In fact, that year’s TI iteration featured a prize pool of just under half of the record, while the latest event in 2023, sported a “measly” $3.3 million.

A major reason why Dota 2 has often featured such large prize pools is the fact that they are essentially crowdfunded. Since 2013, TI’s prizes have depended a lot on the community itself. This is because the majority of the prize money came from the sale of an in-game battle pass called the “Compendium” as 25% of all the revenue made from yearly sales goes directly to the prize pool. In essence, the more popular Dota 2 and its battle pass are, the bigger the relevant year’s TI prize will be.

A couple of years ago, the game got a huge boost in popularity thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. As many people were stuck inside their homes, a lot opted to play and watch Dota 2, resulting in large sales of the battle pass as well, explaining TI 2022’s huge prize pool.

How Do Teams Qualify for The International?

Over its existence, the event has featured numerous ways for teams to get to participate in it. While the first TI in 2011 saw all the participants be invited directly by Valve, tournaments in the subsequent years saw a mixture of that and some smaller-scale events being held around the globe. The winners of those would be granted a spot in the coveted main event.

Things started to change in late 2015 when Valve started to sponsor a series of smaller-scale, seasonally held tournaments known as the Dota Major Championships. Their format was based on the tournament series of the same name that Valve also sponsored for their first-person shooter game, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. The International 2016 and 2017 were considered to be the cumulative Major of their respective seasons.

However, criticism from fans and teams over the lack of transparency and the unpredictable nature of handing out international invitations forced Valve to do away with this qualification format. Instead, the company introduced the Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) in late 2017. This was the main way for teams to get a spot in The International until Valve abolished the DPC in late 2023.

How Did the Dota Pro Circuit Work?

It originally consisted of three tours that featured “Major” tournaments and Regional Leagues from North America, South America, Southeast Asia, China, Eastern Europe, and Western Europe. Teams earned points based on their performance in their respective league. Only the top six teams playing in the upper division of a Regional League, as well as the top eight teams of a Major tournament, would get points.

Earlier tournaments in the season grant teams fewer total points, while the events closer to the International weigh more heavily. The top 12 teams with the most points at the season’s conclusion earn invites to that year’s International.

Additionally, teams would lock-in their roster at the start of a season. They would still be able to make changes during it, but they would get a 15% DPC point penalty occurring for every player change. Teams who make roster changes after qualifying for a Major will also have an additional 20% penalty added for a total of 35%.

The goal of the entire thing was for esports organizations to acquire enough points during the season to get into The International event held that year.

What’s the Future of Dota 2’s The International?

Now that the DPC is out of the picture, Valve plans to return to a tried and tested method of determining the participants for the upcoming TI 2024. “The sixteen participating teams will be a mix of open qualifiers, regional qualifiers, and direct invitations, similar to how invitations worked for the first few years of The International,” Valve said in a statement from March. “The invited teams will be announced leading up to the event, and chosen based on team performance during the year.”

This year also seems to be quite packed for Dota 2 esports as there are multiple major tournaments already announced and more on the way. There will also be many studio and arena tournaments in Europe, Asia, South America, and the Middle East. Valve said it will announce more information about The International 2024 in the following months. It will be interesting to see how the community responds to a qualification format similar to the earliest TI tournaments.

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