What We Know About The International 2021

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The cancellation of one of the biggest esports tournaments in the world came as no surprise in light of COVID-19’s global impact, but nonetheless caused great disappointment among Dota 2 fans.

The annual International tournament was intended to take place in Stockholm this August – with an anticipated viewership of over 2 million and a prize pool to top least year’s life-changing $34,330,068.

Though the tournament is officially postponed indefinitely, the latest news and speculation indicates that Valve is aiming to host the 10th The International in August 2021 instead. This is what we know so far of the rescheduling plans, and of what we can expect of The 10th International. 

Stockholm will still host the event

Irrespective of when Valve can put an official date on its hugely popular tournament, Stockholm will maintain its hosting privileges. The International will take place inside Globen, or The Globe – a huge, globe-like structure in Stockholm which is famous for hosting major concerts and events. The prestigious venue is further testament to the establishment of esports as a popular and respected spectators sport.

In February 2020, prior to the official cancellation of The International 2020, Valve made an open call to cities around the world who wanted to apply to host the Dota 2 tournament in 2021. Belarus has been amongst those countries to apply. However, in light of the 2020 cancellation, it appears that we can also expect The International 2021 to be postponed one year, meaning The 11th International would instead take place in 2022. The host city is yet to be confirmed. 

The prize pool will be funded by 25% of Battle Pass sales

Valve has made the decision to release the Battle Passes this year, as opposed to a date closer to the 10th International in 2021. The release of the Battle Pass was nonetheless delayed by a few weeks because of in-office work restrictions posed on Valve in light of the pandemic. Valve confirmed in a blog post in April this year that 25% of the Battle Pass sales would go toward the prize pool for the 10th International, now assumed to take place in 2021.

Battle Passes, previously known as Compendiums, are items that Dota 2 players and fans can purchase to gain access to exclusive tournament and event features, plus a range of cosmetic items. In this sense, players support the esports industry while enjoying in-game benefits.

As usual, there will be 18 teams

The International is battled out between 18 teams, 12 of which will have received a direct invite based on results from qualifying tournament series known as Dota Pro Circuit. The other six teams can join after winning regional playoff brackets, and there is always one team from North America, South America, Europe, Southeast Asia, China and CIS regions. 

The tournament sees different best-of-three elimination rounds result in Grand Finals. Last year in 2019, OG took home the title and took the lion’s share of the $34,330,068 prize pool to split among them. Currently, the top ranking Dota 2 teams include TND Predator, OG, Vici Gaming and Team Secret. But a lot can change in one year – and predicting the winner of the postponed tournament in 2021 won’t be easy. 

Sponsorship opportunities still up for grabs

Esports has traditionally attracted a diverse number of advertisers, all looking to appeal to the consumer base of predominantly young males with either a love for gaming, or a keen interest in the spectator side of it. Energy drink brands like Red Bull and online casinos like PlayFrank have expressed interest in sponsorship opportunities in upcoming esport tournaments, and huge brands, like Alienware and Budlight, have already invested millions to have their logo featured in the player shirts and banners at tournaments. Given that The 10th International is postponed by one year, there’s plenty of more time for established and emerging brands to sponsor teams for the sake of highly targeted marketing. 

Exact date and prize pool has not yet been confirmed

There’s no official confirmation that The International will take place in 2021, and the exact prize pool won’t be known until the last Battle Pass has been purchased. Currently, the prize pool stands at a whopping $31 million – but with thousands of more Battle Pass purchases to take place in between now and The 10th International, will likely see that figure rise. 

Dota 2 Omega League tournament will step in as an alternative to The International this year

It’s not all doom and gloom. Stepping in for The International this August is the Omega League, hosted by tournament organisers WePlay! with a respectable $650,000 prize pool. Obviously the tournament will be of a much smaller scale, and will forego the exciting atmosphere created by the cheers of live viewers.

In any case, Dota fans will have at least one esport tournament to watch this month which will hopefully do something to subdue disappointment. WePlay! say they have kept the tournament as close to The International as possible, and have invited teams from all over the world to compete. 

Maksym Bilonogov, General Producer at WePlay! told Forbes: “We can’t recreate the true LAN setting with its atmosphere, shouting crowds, the banter between the players. Yet, we do everything possible to engage the viewers at home through the teams who were supposed to play at TI.”

The 10th International was cancelled for the health and safety of players and fans alike, but with a Dota 2 stand-in tournament in the form of Omega League, and a prize pool that continues to rise for when the esport event is eventually hosted, there’s still a lot for fans to be excited about.

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