The 2016 International Dota 2 Championships (TI6) crossed a crowdfunding milestone on Tuesday, surmounting the $18,429,613 achieved by last year’s International with more than a week to go before the main event. Traditional sports-humans everywhere must be quaking in their jockstraps. After all, the prize pool of the NBA Finals is a mere $13 million; the Masters, a golf thing, barely notches $10 million. And forget about the Tour de France, which at ~$3 million is practically the Iowa State Fair Corn-Shucking Contest of international athletic competition. Move over, athletes: esports’ day has come.
Of course, prize pool doesn’t tell the whole story. When you factor in sponsorships and advertising, golf and basketball each generate much more revenue than Dota 2. Plus there’s sheer cultural visibility, where traditional sports continue to enjoy a sizable advantage. Whether or not they watch it, everybody’s heard of golf.
Prize pool doesn’t tell the whole story.
But the fact remains that 90 people are about to be rewarded with a combined total of more than $18,429,613 for playing a videogame. That’s a lot of money. To put it in perspective, $18,429,613 equates to 103,000 Dragonclaw Hooks, 28,000,000 Bit of Boats, or 67,000,000 BZZ Pugna sets. It’s enough to purchase 470 BMW 3-Series automobiles, 95 average American houses, 3,600 average American horses, or one extremely luxurious yacht. It’s the equivalent of 2,700,000 Chipotle burrito bowls (barbacoa, but without guac), 335,000 tickets to Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California, or 15,000 purebred Welsh corgis.
Yet for everything that $18,429,613 is, there are a million things that $18,429,613 is not. It is not enough to pay LeBron James to play a season of basketball. It is not enough to launch a satellite into orbit. It is not enough to buy an even more luxurious yacht. It is not even close to enough to purchase Tuvalu, a South Pacific island nation with a population of 10,000, which has the dubious honor of being the country on the IMF’s list with the smallest nominal GDP ($43M). $18,429,613 is coincidentally also not enough to prevent rising sea levels from flooding Tuvalu by the end of the century. And it is definitely not enough to bring Harambe back.
What happens if next year’s prize pool falls short of this year’s total?
So what does it mean that TI6 has the biggest esports prize pool of all time? Does it mean Dota 2’s future is secure? Doubters might note that this is the first time since 2012 that the International’s prize pool has failed to vastly exceed the previous year’s. Momentum, at least in terms of prize pool crowdsourcing, is slowing. Dota 2 might be headed into a period of gradual, sustained growth. Or it might have hit its peak. What happens if next year’s prize pool falls short of this year’s total? Will the community shrug it off? Or will the fans go into a frenzy of doomsaying, finger-pointing, and imprecations?
Well. At least if there is eventually an outburst of gibbering panic, an explosion of fear that Dota 2 is destined to go the way of Tuvalu, we might get another top all-time r/Volvo thread out of it.