As the eSports industry has grown to surpass $1 billion in market value, no company has worked harder than Valve to realize its potential. With two popular competitive games in its armory, it's pioneered unsponsored events that have drawn in millions of viewers with production values that rival sports entertainment.
What makes Valve's events particularly special are how they integrate gameplay into the spectacle. For example, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournaments usually feature a fantasy league where fans can set their projections for what teams and players will perform well. With this, fans are able to participate in a way that is unique to the gaming industry.
In addition to these features, Valve routinely creates exclusive rewards that drop for random spectators during matches. In the case of this year's DotA 2 International, this item was the Treasure of the Crimson Witness 2017. Containing one of five random items that are available nowhere else, each of which bear a flashy red glow, 500 were dropped during "first blood" of each match at The International 2017.
The catch is that in order to receive a drop players needed to be at the event, hosted in Seattle, WA at the KeyArena. Naturally, given that the arena was sold out with a 17,000 person capacity, the Treasure of the Crimson Witness 2017 has built up tremendous value. Currently standing with a $125 median price, this has become one of the most valuable treasures on the market, surpassing the $85~ value of last year's version thanks to its more highly desirable items—players love glowing items.
I was fortunate to receive two of these Dota 2 treasures while at the tournament. Both dropped during the grand finals between Newbee and Team Liquid, and I vividly remember receiving an e-mail notification when they arrived in my inventory. At the time I had a feeling they were something special, despite admittedly knowing nothing about them. It wasn't until I got home and checked the Community Market that I learned of just how big of a deal the moment really was.
To say I was excited would be an understatement. It felt like receiving an MMORPG raid drop, but in real life.
There's more to this than just the potential financial gain of spectators, though. As someone who doesn't play Dota 2 often, but spends time watching pro matches from time-to-time, I feel encouraged to watch more often going forward. I regrettably missed a lot of the games during the week leading up to the finals, and in hindsight I would have tuned in for more games knowing that I had a shot at rare items.
The Dota 2 International 2017 set a new record with over five million fans tuning in for the finals. It's clear that Valve has a winning formula here, one that it's continuing to improve upon with each passing year.
You can check out our feature coverage of the event here.
[Image Source: Darren Geers]