Valve is scrapping the two "Valve Majors" tournaments that lead up to The International, the centrepiece event in Dota 2's thriving eSports scene.
This year, the Majors directly fed into The International, which will take place in Seattle from August 7 to August 12. However, next year Valve intends to change the structure of the Dota 2 eSports season, handing much of the responsibility outside of The International to third-party tournaments.
In a process it has described as "more organic", Valve will scrap its own Majors in favour of selecting and sponsoring existing tournaments. These events will be designated as either "Minors" or "Majors", and will allow competing players and teams to earn Qualifying Points that determine invites to The International 2018.
In order to qualify as a Major, a tournament must have a minimum prize pool of $500,000, which Valve will match with $500,000 of its own. Minors must have $150,000 in prize money, which will also be matched. All tournaments must have "at least one qualifier" from six global regions: North America, South America, SE Asia, China, Europe and CIS, which will, "ensure a baseline level of competitiveness."
There are more details of how the points system will work in a post on the Dota 2 blog, but this represents a significant change to the most lucrative single tournament in eSports. At the time of writing, The International's prize-pool was nearing $20.2 million with 40 days still to run - 13% ahead of last year's tournament.
Whether it will remain the most lucrative remains to be seen, however, because Activision Blizzard is confident that its new Overwatch League will be a big step forwards for the entire eSports scene. Speaking at Gamelab last week, the company's eSports boss, Mike Sepso, described a competition with a structure similar to popular sports leagues like the NFL, focusing on regional teams and consistent prize money.
"The ambition of this league is bigger than anything I've seen since I've been in eSports, and I've been around since almost day one," he said. "It will require partners with expertise in eSports team management, and the resources - capital, human and otherwise - to really dig in and build this thing."
Sepso added: "We're not creating something that we just want to capitalise on for the next couple of years. This will be a core part of the future of the eSports business."