Valve Software has decided to start treating The International like the Olympics, soliciting bids from “host cities” for the annual Dota 2 championships. The announcement is accompanied by a detailed request for proposal (RFP) document. Responses are due by March 31.
“First held in Cologne, Germany in August 2011, The International has become one of the world’s largest sporting events and set numerous records for the largest prize pool in all of esports with its community-driven purse ($34.3 million total prize pool in 2019),” Valve said today in a news release. “Global viewership, international draw, and attendance rivals that of the NFL Superbowl, U.S. Open Golf Championship, and the Eurovision Song Contest.”
The clear intention is to secure the best possible venue — and the best possible financial outcome — for Valve to host its premier esports event. We’ve posted the RFP itself, and embedded it below.
To make the RFP as palatable as possible for cities that might not be up to speed on esports, Valve does a lot of table-setting in the document. But they also lay out the value of hosting the event.
“Each [of the previous host cities] has seen an influx of visitors (about half of the attendees) that patronize their hotels, restaurants, and other tourist attractions,” Valve says. “Moreover, Valve works with local suppliers to source equipment such as lighting, rigging, broadcast equipment, and internet bandwidth. Valve also hires local skilled laborers to handle catering, construction, décor, printing, marketing, security, transportation, and entertainment. All of this typically results in a significant boost to the host city’s economy.
By way of evidence, Valve points to an article that claims Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada saw $7.8 million “injected” into their economy by hosting the event.
As a former proposal writer myself, this is actually a pretty brief document and leaves a lot of leeway for cities to get creative with their response. Valve has very specific needs, including a fiber connection from a local internet service provider as well as room for between 15,000 and 18,000 people for 10 days. It also specific room for “ancillary events (e.g., vendor villages, fan zones, after parties]” and hotel space for 30,000. It also mention safety as a high priority, and help with permitting, road closures, and “unfettered movement of trucks on surface roads.”
Valve will also be fielding questions about the RFP, which must be submitted in writing by March 15. The Q&A period is actually one of the most interesting phases of any RFP. They allow for clarifications to be sure, but it will also be an opportunity for bidders to feel out Valve and even try to get a leg up on other competing cities. Polygon has asked if those questions and answers will be made public.
Of course, responses to RFPs like this are almost always made public by those cities that choose to participate. When they’re not, it’s possible to secure them via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) here in the United States. So, if Valve opts for a domestic location expect to know exactly what kind of deal was struck.
The Olympics famously use a similar system, soliciting bids from cities well in advance of the games. The multi-sport events, however, have turned into a financial boondoggle over the years. Our colleagues at Vox have pointed out that they include “jaw-dropping” costs that far outweigh the financial gains.
They’re also rife with corruption.
“Unless the hosting competition model changes,” wrote Zeesham Allem in 2018, “most cities that will continue to see the costs as worthwhile are those in autocratic nations and those with experience hosting the Olympics in the past.”
The International has previously been hosted by world-class cities like Seattle and Shanghai. This year’s event will take place in Stockholm, Sweden this August.