As the dust settles following a tumultuous Dota 2 Bali Major, eyes are beginning to turn to the Middle East for the second edition of the Riyadh Masters on July 17—and its whopping prize pool.
Up from $4 million USD last year, Riyadh Masters 2023 will feature a $15 million prize purse—by far the largest non-Valve-sponsored Dota tournament in history—with the Saudi Arabian tournament acting as a prelude to this year’s edition of The International in October 2023. The winner in the Saudi Arabian capital will walk away with a cool $5 million in cash, which has left fans divided over how this event stacks up to the entire Dota Pro Circuit.
For comparison, Gaimin Gladiators, who claimed victory in all three DPC Majors this year, has taken home $200,000 from each event—equal to a 13th-14th place finish in Riyadh next week. It’s a truly astonishing amount of money on offer from a first-time organizer and is equivalent to the early days of crowd-funded TIs.
While some fans cannot wait for the tournament to begin, others believe it’s a return to the “dark ages” of mega Dota prize pools taking over the main circuit. Some in a July 8 Reddit thread discussed the impact this event could have on the scene should it become a regular occurrence.
Many believe Valve’s new DPC model to be exactly what the Dota pro scene has needed: With how top-heavy TI has been in the past, there was no reason for teams to show up throughout the year as a massive payout from the pinnacle event could keep them operating. With Valve now investing money across multiple regions and tours, teams outside the top eight are beginning to find value in mid-season Dota instead of purely focusing on TI.
One fan described the player base as “spoiled,” indicating the DPC will be dishing out a combined $6.54 million in prize pool this year alone, even before including TI, Dreamleague, or Riyadh Masters. The problem, though—is playing through the entire circuit enough of a prize anymore?
Gaimin’s incredible triple-Major win this year has seen them win $600,000 and become only the second team in Dota history to win three Majors in a row. The first team to do it—OG in 2016—won over $3 million.
Putting prize pools aside, the most important element of the DPC is TI qualification through performances at both regional tours and majors. But Valve’s reported move away from the battle pass model and a possible change from crowdfunding TI might mean huge prize pools like those at the Riyadh Masters may carry more weight going forward.
It’s a situation likened to that in golf, where the Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour became the home for top professional players, mainly in part due to high signing bonuses and higher payouts per event during the tour.
Without knowing Valve’s plans for TI12 later this year, and given this is the first event of its kind in Dota, it remains to be seen just how much impact a tournament like the Riyadh Masters will have on the scene at large.
The Riyadh Masters begins on July 17, with TI12’s regional qualifiers set to begin a fortnight later in mid-August.