If you don't play MMOs, don't play PC games, don't have a smartphone or play games on one, or have been living under many rocks specially designed to withstand any kind of penetration from entertainment media, it is probably a surprise that the new, surging business model in the world of video games is that they're being released for the low, low price of free. Just about every MMO nowadays is free to play, and some games that aren't MMOs are starting to follow suit, especially in the smartphone gaming market. So, though it is great news for fans of MOBAs and Valve, it shouldn't really be a surprise that DOTA 2 will be free to play.
Instead of making other things a certain subset of gamers want really badly, Valve has moved from Portal 2 to DotA 2, a somewhat indirect, somewhat direct sequel to the super popular Defense of the Ancients Warcraft III mod. DotA has spawned various clones, and much like Minecraft -- but before that -- created a gaming genre. Valve didn't initially create DotA (though they did hire the mod's original developer, IceFrog), and while Blizzard also didn't, they're taking Valve to court over the trademark because, essentially, as you can probably guess, DotA was a mod on an original Blizzard property.
Gaming tournaments are hardly a new thing. People have been playing video games against each other, tournament-style, since the dawn of time, or at least since the dawn of competitive multiplayer video games. You know what is new though? Offering a million dollars and upward to the winners. No, these aren't Call of Duty tournaments or some other kind of twitch shooter, we're talking MOBAs. If you aren't familiar, MOBAs are Multiplayer Online Battle Areas, a style of game born from the Warcraft III mod Defense of the Ancients. For the launch of DOTA 2 (which is a confusing topic in and of itself), Valve is holding a DOTA 2 tournament (streaming live here) and handing out 1 million buckaroonies to the champ.
This isn't the first time a video game tournament has had a "big" payout. Last year, GSL (Global Starcraft League) offered the equivalent of $500,000 U.S. in prizes, but that was over a series of tournaments where each grand prize was around $85,000 and runners-up around $25,000. Needless to say, this DOTA 2 tournament (which is based on an unreleased game no less) blows GSL out of the water when it comes to largest lump prize. But that's not even the half of it.