Third Party Tournaments May 17, 2021

Dota Pro Circuit 2021: Road To The International

When it comes to Dota2, every loyal fan of this game recalls The International with awe in their hearts — the most important event of the year. This thrill comes not only from a great love for this esports discipline but also because of the impressive prize pool.

In 2021, the holding of the championship was in question, but fans' expectations satisfied — Valve announced the official dates for The International 10.

Image Credit: Dota2/Valve

So, put these dates into your organizers: The International 10 will take place August 5-15 in Stockholm, and the best of the best will compete for $40 million:

  • Aug. 5-8 — group stage matches;
  • Aug. 10 — playoffs;
  • Aug. 15 — the grand final.

It's not clear yet whether viewers will be allowed on the LAN, but Valve promises to clarify the situation in June. 

The International is an epic and massive event, but how do teams get on it? There is a series of events in the industry that is perhaps the most important for the long-term development of Dota2 — the Dota Pro Circuit. Initially, it is a system of majors and minors, distributed over the main regions of the game. It provides cash prizes and professional points to help teams push through the hardships to International.

Dota Pro Circuit

Valve launched a beta version of Dota2 in 2011. That same year, they held the first The International at GamesCom Cologne, where the game was first presented to the public. Then the prize fund was $ 1.6 million, but for the young gamers of the time, it was a huge sum. For five days, 16 teams from Europe and Asia fought for the championship title. Natus Vincere became the winner of the first The International.

Navi vs Ehome: Grand Final Highlights of TI1 2011 DOTA 2

 Days of this iconic esports event perfectly captured in the Netflix Free to play documentary

The International was a great success. But the fans did not want to live from «int to int», and demanded more events and activities that would fill the year of waiting.

So, to resolve the situation, in 2015 Valve added the majors — tournaments, in many ways similar to The International, but with significantly lower prize money.

Before the Dota Pro Circuit, Valve used to invite teams directly to The International and its official majors. This system was quite subjective and caused a lot of questions. 

The Dota Pro Circuit instead offers qualification points for placing high in specific tournaments. Teams earn points as the season progresses, and those with the most points get a direct invite to The International.

As a result, Valve moved away from organizing its majors, focusing funding on third-party tournaments, which essentially became the majors. Valve also announced the creation of majors — smaller tournaments with smaller prizes and less stringent criteria. Together, these new majors and minors are the Dota Pro Circuit.

The winners of TI in 2018 and 2019 were OG, who dragged over $26 million on their victorious shoulders. In 2020, The International was canceled due to the coronavirus.

In 2021, this system was changed. Minors were completely abolished in favor of regional leagues. In two regional leagues in each of six regions and two majors, teams will battle for qualifying points that will determine twelve direct invites to The International.

The six main regions of Dota 2 have two leagues with eight teams each, managed by tournament organizers from around the world. Each of these regions has an upper and a lower division.


  • winners go to the majors;
    losers to the lower division;

Lower division

  • winners advance to the upper-division;
  • losers are relegated completely.

Empty slots in the lower divisions are filled through open qualifiers. Each region has a certain number of slots for the next major, ranging from two to four. 

DPC leagues are divided into seasons, Lasts six weeks for each. Eight teams in each league compete in a round-robin system. During leagues and majors teams can earn qualification points for an invitation to The International.

The twelve teams with the most points will receive a direct invitation to The International 10. The remaining participants are determined in regional selections (one team per region).

The regional qualifiers will include all members of the second regional league, replacing no more than two players. Accordingly, there will be no open selections for The International this year, so that teams have no loopholes; however, the lower division of each league will be available through open qualifiers.

Those wishing to participate in official DPC leagues usually must register their teams with the individual tournament organizer, who then assigns teams to the bracket. Open qualifying tournaments usually run for one or two days, with the best teams playing through to the semifinals or finals.

The second major of the year will take place June 2-13 in Kyiv at WePlay Animajor. It will be followed by the aforementioned qualifiers, which will be held in August.

The International

The International is the largest annual Dota2 tournament. Its prize pool is funded directly from the developer plus the purchase of an in-game battle pass for the event. 25% of the proceeds are directed to the prize fund of the game, which increases it to enormous proportions.

This year Valve has abandoned the usual Battle Pass. Instead, there will be two separate events, one in June and the second after The International (when exactly is still unknown). 

While The International's record-breaking prize money grabbing attention makes it a unique sight in the esports industry, its scope comes at a high price.

The International's disproportionate scale compared to the rest of the competition of the year creates a skewed incentive structure in which players, competing organizations, and tournament organizers have different interests.

Players are looking to make as much money as possible, organizations are looking to create content that can be offered to sponsors, and tournament organizers are forced to involve both parties to generate their own content. This discrepancy creates a lot of tension within the scene and hinders the development of Dota2 as an esports discipline.

It's now more important than ever for Valve to hold its ground and do something incredible to bring the discipline back to the community's attention. 

What are our expectations from the tournament? We wrote about them in the review of upcoming esports events for the current year. Will The International maintain its leading position in the esports market and regain public interest, or will it require innovation in its ecosystem? We'll wait until August and see.