OG vs. The World. How esports’ greatest underdogs became esports’ top earners.
On August 25th, Dota fans witnessed history as defending champions OG became the first team to defend their hold on the Aegis of Champions at the ninth International. Silencing critics, OG turned their miraculous TI8 underdog story into a tale of the chosen ones as they dominated their way through the TI bracket, not dropping a single match. For that morning in Shanghai, OG not only cemented themselves as the best team in the history of Dota, but also as the highest-earning players for the entire year.
However, is it true to say that OG became the highest earning team of the year over the course of, essentially, just one tournament? Well, firstly, yes. Secondly, that’s thanks to Valve’s ingenious design for their premier Dota 2 tournament, The International.
Starting back with the third iteration of The International back in 2013, Valve introduced the Battle Pass. The Battle Pass allows players to invest money into exclusive TI-themed rewards and features which they can use in-game. 25% of the total revenue from the Battle Pass went directly to the prize pool for their respective TI’s. The contributions began increasing significantly each year, starting with $1.2 million for TI3, and ending recently with a whopping $32.7 million for TI9. This means that starting from TI4, every International has broken the record for biggest prize pool in esports, topped off by TI9’s $34,330,068 total prize pool. The 1st place prizing for TI9 alone, $15.6 million, was larger than the Fortnite World Cup’s Solo total prize pool of $15.2 million.
The International’s prize is the holy grail of esports, a huge amount of money that is, technically, obtainable by anyone. The entire draw of TI is that anyone can win it, whether you’re one of the most recognizable brands in the entire industry or an underdog team with a hunger to prove yourselves. In theory, any five players can walk in through open qualifiers, and take the grand prize on their own. Obviously, that’s a near impossible task, so hard that even the most decorated teams and players have yet to even close to lifting the Aegis. Winning The International is a career defining distinction. Winning it twice, you’ve just ascended above every other Dota player in the history of the game.
OG’s win wasn’t just entering some tournament, it was solidifying an almost mythological legacy, as they had to defeat new comers and literal Day-1 veterans alike to do what no other Dota team had ever done before. It’s important to note that, like TI8, OG were not the clear favorites to win the tournament outright. They had barely qualified through the regular season of the Dota Pro Circuit, acquiring just enough points in the final two majors to punch their ticket to Shanghai. However, once they arrived, they took the entire world by surprise and proceeded to absolutely dismantle the competition.
Watching OG play at TI9 was watching Dota at its best. Pure fun, fearless drafts and strategies, and crowd-pleasing moments throughout. Once they arrived at TI there was this incredible surge, their confidence and trust in each other as a team were unmatched. The worries of the DPC season were an afterthought, they were the best team there and they made sure everyone knew.
With their win, they immediately became the highest paid players on prize pool alone. Their win secured them more money than if they had won every major of the previous TWO DPC seasons combined. The amount of money Valve’s TI has been able to accrue for a prize pool is insane, but it speaks volumes about the importance of a game developer’s relationship with their community.
Looking to 2020, what’s next for OG? Well, OG has been making big moves as an organization. They picked up a CSGO team and created their own Dota B-team in OG.Seed, making their captain N0tail a coach for the upstart squad. So far, they’ve neglected to participate in the current DPC season, and it seems as though they’re content with focusing more on the organization’s brand and status within the esports scene. As the only two-time TI winners, no one will doubt OG’s place as the best team in the history of Dota. Whether or not they go for a three-peat is another story. It’s certainly possible, but OG has always been transparent about their philosophy of no one will be forced to play if they don’t want to.
OG’s time at TI9 is one of the most fun runs in any International. Not since Wings Gaming’s performance at TI6, has anyone seen such a wacky and unique approach to Dota. OG’s unique flavor of play made them the highest-earning players and team of 2019 and with that, they can look forward to expanding as a full brand in 2020.
Images via Valve/OG Esports