When the world’s best Dota 2 players meet in Vancouver, Canada, for The International 8, there will be a lot more than a trophy and world championship bragging rights on the line. Teams from around the world will be competing for a prize pool of more than $24.9 million, the largest ever awarded in esports history.

The International Dota 2
The International has become the richest event in esports, with Dota 2’s 2018 championship again breaking prize pool records. (Image: 71republic.com)

Record payouts are a regular occurrence at The International, as this is the seventh straight year in which the purse has increased for Dota 2’s most important annual event.

If you’re not familiar with the title, Dota 2 is a multiplayer online battle arena (or MOBA) game that is known for having a high level of complexity and a steep learning curve for new players. The game is a sequel to Defense of the Ancients, a mod for Warcraft III that was critical to the development of the MOBA genre, which includes other popular esports titles such as League of Legends, Heroes of the Storm, and Smite.

The International 8 is going on now, and concludes on Saturday. All matches can be viewed live on Twitch or through the Steam Broadcasting service.

Crowdfunding Fuels Massive Prizes

The secret to these enormous purses comes from crowdfunding. While The International was once primarily funded by developer Valve, that changed in 2013 when the company started offering in-game purchase through a tool known as the Compendium, with 25 percent of all proceeds going towards funding prizes for the marquee Dota 2 tournament.

While it has become harder and harder to break records each year – last year’s total of just under $24.8 million wasn’t surpassed until Sunday, while the tournament began last Wednesday – the crowdfunding technique has proven wildly successful.

As of Tuesday, the winning team this year is scheduled to make nearly $11 million, with the top six teams all earning more than $1 million in prize money. The bottom two sides in the 18-team field will take him $62,390 each.

Those relatively small awards went to China’s Invictus Gaming and paiN Gaming from Brazil, which finished last in their nine-team groups during the round-robin stage. The top four finishers in each group (eight total) moved to the Upper Bracket, while the other eight teams were immediately seeded into the Lower Bracket. Essentially, the final 16 are in a double-elimination tournament, with half of the teams starting with a loss while those in the Upper Bracket can survive one misstep.

Team Liquid Favored to Repeat

As of Tuesday afternoon, Bet365 listed defending champions Team Liquid as the +210 favorites to take home a second consecutive title. The European squad topped their group in the opening round, then defeated OpTic Gaming to move to the Upper Bracket semifinals.

That set up a meeting with China’s PSG.LGD (+260), the second choice in betting. While the loser of that match will remain alive in the Lower Bracket, the winner will emerge as the team to beat this year. PSG.LGD is notable for its connection to the traditional sports world: the PSG comes from French soccer club Paris Saint-Germain, which sponsors the Chinese esports organization.

Other top contenders include Evil Geniuses (+400) and VGJ.Storm (+800). While Evil Geniuses was still in the Upper Bracket at the time of this writing, VGJ.Storm finds itself in the loser’s bracket, needing to win five matches to make the overall finals.