Millionaires in the making: Record-setting $20M esports purse

At over $20 million and climbing, the sixth International has the single largest purse in esports history. The International, Dota 2's premier tournament, is essentially an esports World Cup. Teams gather from around the world to compete for the top prize -- almost $9 million this year -- and TI6 continues the tournament's record-breaking tradition. How does Dota 2 developer Valve, and the Dota 2 scene, continue to increase its enormous payout?

In effect, the International's prize pool relies largely on crowdfunding. Each year since 2013, Valve has debuted an interactive Compendium, putting a quarter of the profits toward The International's prize pool. Through these purchasable in-game items, Dota 2 fans can support their teams and earn prizes.

What wonders do these Compendiums hold? They contain digital goods, like new cosmetic items and in-game effects, to allow owners to stand out in their matches. Later years added fantasy features, not unlike fantasy football or baseball; with these features, Compendium owners can set rosters for each day to earn points, create March Madness-esque brackets, and theorize who the standout players will be for bragging rights and extra digital goods.

Each year, the community around the free-to-play title has grown and potential contributors to the pool have increased. With every new feature addition and cosmetic release comes another spike in the prize pool's growth chart, and it's no surprise that TI6 is the biggest yet.

In a year when professional Dota 2 is at its most competitive and, arguably, most engaging, the numbers speak for themselves. Millions of active players, teams and fans engage with the year's highly anticipated capstone event from every region. With the Compendium, spectators have a chance to help build and grow the scene with every purchase. The International's prize pool isn't just an eye-catcher, but a reflection of the support of passionate Dota fans.