COMMENT: Dota 2's 2022 Battle Pass made US$290m, but what good did it do for the game?

2022 also saw the lowest prize pool for The International in half a decade

Dota 2's 2022 Battle Pass was a huge financial success for developer Valve Software, but the game itself, its esports scene, and its community felt little of it. (Photo: Valve Software)
Dota 2's 2022 Battle Pass was a huge financial success for developer Valve Software, but the game itself, its esports scene, and its community felt little of it. (Photo: Valve Software)

Dota 2's 2022 Battle Pass expired on 12 January after a run of over four months.

While it had a shorter duration than the Battle Passes of previous years, it was still a huge success for developer Valve Software.

With Valve giving players the Battle Pass for free last October, most players were content to grind levels for free by simply playing the game.

Of course, there were still whales that did not hesitate to dish out tons of cash to get their levels. Two Chinese players even spent around US$50,000 to get their Battle Pass levels to over 120,000 — the highest among all Dota 2 players.

According to Dota 2 analytics site, the 2022 Battle Pass earned Valve an estimated profit of over US$290 million from over 6.7 million players.

The sheer amount of money the 2022 Battle Pass earned Valve is enough to call it a success for the developer.

With that said, it may not be a good sign of things to come for Dota 2 itself, or its esports scene, moving forward.

But before we get into that, let's break down what made the 2022 Battle Pass so successful and compare it to its predecessors.

What's a Battle Pass anyway?

If you don't know what a Battle Pass is, it's a monetisation system for video games that rewards players with in-game items through a tiered progression system. Players can advance through this system simply by playing the game or paying up.

While the Battle Pass system is common among many video games today, it was actually Valve that introduced it to the industry through Dota 2 back in 2013.

To celebrate The International 2013 (TI3), Dota 2's annual world championship tournament, Valve released the TI3 Compendium.

It had pretty much everything you would see in a modern Battle Pass, as it gave players in-game rewards for playing the game and participating in the hype around the tournament.

More importantly, a portion of the sales from the TI3 Compendium added to the total prize pool for TI3. Thanks to this gimmick, TI3's prize pool grew from US$1.6 million to over US$2.8 million.

Valve would continue using this system in the years to follow, with the Compendium eventually turning into the Battle Pass. Because of this, TI would regularly set and break the record for the biggest prize pool for a single tournament in the history of esports.

TI10, hosted in October 2021 in Romania, still holds the record for the biggest prize pool in all of esports with a pot of over US$40 million. The tournament's most recent iteration, TI11 in Singapore, had a prize pool of US$18.9 million.

The drop in the prize pool from TI10 to TI11 is staggering, as the latter only managed to amass a pot less than half of its predecessor. It has everything to do with the 2022 Battle Pass and the 'changes' Valve introduced to the system.

The problem with the 2022 Battle Pass

The 2022 Battle Pass featured the usual fare of in-game rewards, most notably premium cosmetics for heroes like the Arcanas for Faceless Void and Razor as well as the Personas for Phantom Assassin and Crystal Maiden, among others.

Alongside giving players a free Battle Pass, Valve also allowed them to earn previously-released Arcanas for free.

Players would then get another chance to earn Arcanas and other rare rewards from the Candyworks system tied in with the 2022 Diretide game mode.

With that said, there were features in previous Battle Passes that were absent from the 2022 Battle Pass.

The most noteworthy ones are the lack of a third set of Immortal Treasures, a dedicated map cosmetic for TI11, and an Arcana Vote, among others.

Despite the absence of some features, the 2022 Battle Pass still raked in massive profits, although TI11 and Dota 2's esports scene apparently didn't see much of it.

Last year's Battle Pass was released in September, which was much later in the year than usual and only gave players two months to fund TI11's prize pool. For comparison, all previous editions of the Battle Pass were released in May.

As a result, the 2022 Battle Pass was only able to contribute around US$17.3 million out of its over US$290 million earnings to Dota 2's biggest annual tournament.

That isn't exactly bad, as many within the community have been asking Valve to reallocate the money earned from Battle Passes to the entire Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) instead of giving it all to TI.

With half of the 2022 Battle Pass' duration coming after TI11, Valve had every opportunity to divert a portion of sales from that period to the 2023 DPC season.

Giving more money to the DPC, especially to the lower divisions of competition, will surely help drive growth for Dota 2's esports scene.

With Valve's continued refusal to actively market and advertise Dota 2 to new players, esports has been the game's biggest draw. Unfortunately, that apparently did not happen.

Valve could even ignore Dota 2's esports scene and divert that money to the game's development and maintenance. But the myriad of bugs and broken features suggest the developer did otherwise.

Of course, that doesn't take away from the success of the 2022 Battle Pass. It still surely gave existing players tons of rewards and enjoyment, and even drew in lots of new and returning players.

However, only Valve seems to be enjoying the Battle Pass' financial success, with the game's esports scene and larger community having little choice but to accept the status quo.

Make no mistake, Dota 2 is by no means a dead game because of this, as it still remains the second most-played game on Steam.

But few would argue with you if you say the game, its esports scene, and its community is slowly having the soul sucked out of it.

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