The International 2019 (TI9) is the upcoming ninth iteration of The International, an annual Dota 2 world championship esports tournament. Hosted by Valve Corporation, the game’s developer, the tournament will begin with the group stage in August 2019, and conclude following the main event at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai.
The tournament followed a year-long series of awarding qualifying points, known as the Dota Pro Circuit (DPC), with the top 12 ranking teams being directly invited to the tournament. In addition, six more teams earned invites through regional qualifiers played in July 2019. As with every International from 2013 onwards, the prize pool is being crowdfunded by the Dota 2 community via its battle pass feature, with the total currently at over US$31 million, making it the largest for any single esports tournament in history.
Dota 2 is a 2013 multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) video game developed by Valve Corporation. In it, two teams of five players compete by selecting pre-designed in-game characters known as “heroes”, each with a variety of innate skills and abilities, and cooperate together to be the first to destroy the base of the other team, which ends the match. The game is played from a top-down perspective, and the player sees a segment of the game’s map near their character as well as mini-map that shows their allies as well as any enemies revealed outside the fog of war. The game’s map has three roughly symmetric “lanes” between each base, with a number of defensive towers protecting each side. Periodically, the team’s base spawns a group of weak CPU-controlled creatures, called “creeps”, that march down each of the three lanes towards the opponents’ base, fighting any enemy hero, creep, or structure they encounter. If a hero character is killed, that character respawns back at their base after a delay period, which gets progressively longer the farther into the match.
As with previous years of the tournament, a corresponding battle pass for Dota 2 was released in May 2019, allowing the prize pool to be crowdfunded by players of the game. Via battle pass, 25% of revenue made by it was sent directly towards the tournament’s prize pool. By July 2019, the prize pool had reached over US$30 million, surpassing the 2019 Fortnite World Cup for the largest esports prize pool of all time. At the time of event, Dota 2 featured 117 playable characters, called “heroes”. Prior to each game in the tournament, a draft was held between the opposing team captains to select which heroes their teams use, going back and forth until each side has banned six and selected five heroes. Once a hero is picked, it cannot be selected by any other player that match, so teams used the draft to strategically plan ahead and deny the opponent’s heroes that may be good counters or would be able to take advantage of weaknesses to their current lineup. The first pick in a match is decided by an in-game coin toss, and switches between each game in that match; the team that does not get first pick gets the option of which side of the map to play on, a strategic benefit.
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