In May 2022, Valve added team bundles to the game, the proceeds of which it promised to share with the Dota Pro Circuit participants. This gave fans the opportunity to support their favorite players financially, and club leaders found an additional source of income that was not directly related to the results of teams in official matches.
From an economic point of view, the new system is very simple. There are three types of bundles – Bronze, Silver and Gold, which cost $ 1.99 (₽152), $ 9.98 (₽767) and $ 19.97 (₽1 537) respectively. The Bronze Pack gives the Fan a Team Badge that appears next to the in-game nickname. Silver adds emojis and graffiti, while gold adds access to the corporate loading screen and team voice lines. 50% of each sale goes to the team, and Valve takes the rest.
At the same time, the period of validity of the team content is limited – according to the announcement, “membership in the fan club” will be valid only until July 31st. True, what will happen next is unknown. Perhaps Valve will simply release new sets, but at the same time, the company may rework this tool following the results of The International 10.
Valve decided that the bundles would include voice cues, graffiti and loading screens, but did not give DPC recommendations for content creation – in this regard, clubs received creative freedom. Teams were able to choose what to offer their fans based on their budget, capabilities and imagination. For example, Team Empire recruited Russian dubbing actor Pyotr Glantz to record voice lines – he once voiced the main character in Gothic II and the very Prince of Persia. Team Liquid players recorded voice lines under the guidance of Austin Capitalist commentator Walsh, and several other teams used the services of professional studios.
There were bands that followed a simple path, cutting out phrases from their teamspeaks or streams. The same goes for graffiti, emoticons and branded loading screens.
Clubs that don’t have permanent designers have had to work their way out: hiring artists, borrowing fan art, or even using regular photographs.
It is difficult to say how much a professional approach correlates with sales volumes: it is necessary to take into account both the popularity of the clubs and the potential of the lines themselves to turn into memes. The latter does not always depend on the quality of the recording.
The cost of creating a bundle for a team from the CIS can vary from ₽5 thousand to ₽100 thousand. – representatives of some clubs shared such data with us. Although the upper price limit is conditional, the real cost is unlikely to exceed it. Basically, the amount depends on whether the organization has full-time specialists, or it needs to hire someone from the outside. For example, the Alliance bundle was made by Russian artist Sophia Woogiez Stepanova, who has been drawing art for the Swedish club for a long time, and joined the organization in March as an illustrator. At B8 Esports, all the content for the bundle was created by the head of the media department Igor Bad Playa Gorevoy.
Valve initially asked teams to submit 8-10 units of each content type, however, the bundles only included three emojis, graffiti, and voicelines, as well as a couple of loading screens. Why only part of the content got into the released sets is unknown. Perhaps Valve will expand or update the bundles in the future.
For many, the cost of producing bundles paid off on the very first day of sales. Almost all the organizations from the CIS we interviewed spoke about this. It is difficult to say how profitable the bundles will be in the end – the results can only be summed up in three months, since the bundles will be sold until the start of The International 10. What is important, the clubs will receive money for selling bundles only after the end of the season.
Let’s make some rough calculations to better represent the cost / benefit ratio. To recoup the production of a $ 100,000 bundle, you need to sell 130 gold sets. The organization will receive 50% of the income, that is, $ 770 from each bundle. All subsequent sales will already start to make a profit. We take gold into account, as most fans buy it for the voices. For example, let us note that $ 100 thousand is 1,315 bronze sets or 260 silver sets. If the team’s costs for creating a bundle are minimal, then the net profit will go almost from the very first sales.
Creativity of teams directly affects the results of bundle sales… First of all, this concerns the creation of voices. Clubs had a choice: work for a dedicated but relatively small fan base, or try to captivate those unfamiliar with esports. For example, Natus Vincere (“Become mid” or “Become Knicks” as indicated in Dota 2), HellRaisers (“Family in place”) and B8 Esports (“I am midborn”) preferred meme voices that are understandable primarily to fans. However, with NAVI, everything is not so simple:
Others recorded more general lines intended for use in regular matches. This path was followed by Virtus.pro (“Run, run, run”), Evil Geniuses (“Thanks, guys”) and 4 Zoomers (“Ha-ha-ha”).
Many teams noted that Valve included not the most interesting of the proposed replica options in the bundles.
The most cunning trick was used by the American team Arkosh Gaming, which added the line “Omae Wa Mou Shindeiru” (“You are already dead”) from the anime “Fist of the North Star” to the voices. This phrase has long become a meme on the Internet, and now many Chinese players proudly wear Arkosh Gaming badges in matchmaking, although they hardly really care about the fate of the team. It can be assumed that the income of this club from the second division of America will compete with many of the top organizations.
In esports, similar additional monetization models are not uncommon for clubs. Once upon a time in Dota 2, team pennants were very popular, as well as personal sets with autographs of players and streamers. There are also some items, for each sale of which esports players receive a certain percentage. For example, Daniil Dendi Ishutin once admitted that Valve sends him about $ 150 every year in royalties from Dendi Doll sales for Pudge. The Doll is included in the Murder of Crows set, which was released with the Free to Play documentary back in 2014.
In the CS: GO shooter, there has long been a practice of issuing team stickers for major participants. As owners of organizations have repeatedly admitted, these stickers are a significant part of income and may well cover the cost of maintaining the composition throughout the year.
Players have repeatedly stated that they can get tens of thousands of dollars for stickers – often even more than in the form of prize money at tournaments. However, the difference between stickers in CS: GO and bundles in Dota 2 is still very significant. First, the packs are temporary and will disappear at the end of the season. Secondly, they cannot be resold to other users on the Marketplace. Stickers immediately after the release become part of the economic system of the game, they can become more expensive or cheaper depending on external factors – the dissolution of the team, the transfer of the player or his departure from the professional stage.
Rainbow Six Siege has a support program called R6 SHARE for top-tier clubs. It provides the strongest teams with signature operative skins or weapon color schemes that can be promoted to fans. 30% of the sale of such skins goes to the club, another 30% is taken by players and content creators, the rest of the money goes to the developers.
League of Legends creates personalized skins for selected heroes for World Championship winners. The money received for their sale is divided by Riot Games between the team, tournament participants, and also clubs from the region the champion represents.
The idea with bundles has great prospects. Of course, in its current form, Valve’s system needs a lot of work. At a minimum, kits should have been released early in the season so that teams have more time to advertise and sell them. And fans would probably be more willing to pay for voicelines if they knew they could use them for six months, not a couple of months. Another incomprehensible moment – why did only 26 teams out of 96 participants in the Dota Pro Circuit 2022 receive bundles?
Now, not only the developers, but also the clubs themselves need to think about the development of the concept of bundles. They will have to convince fans to buy new sets next season (if, of course, Valve continues this idea). All representatives of organizations agree that bundles can be made much more interesting and varied.
Dota 2 fans, in turn, suggested making the bronze bundles free to nudge the casual audience to follow esports. Having “put on” the virtual NAVI badge, the player may want to find out what this actually means and gradually get involved in watching professional matches.
Another idea is to replace the command bundles with generic kits for each region. That is, to make six bundles – one each for the CIS, Europe, North America, etc., adding content from local players and commentators to them. The money from the sale of such kits can be distributed among the members of the division in accordance with their results. That is, by purchasing a bundle, the viewer will support all the teams in the division, and not just one team of 96 DPC participants.
Be that as it may, team bundles are a big step forward for the Dota 2 esports scene. Teams in it lacked support from the organizers, and this became especially clear in 2022: when the rating season paused due to the pandemic, some clubs had to leave the stage, as they lost the opportunity to earn and keep the lineups. Kits are a tool that in the long term can give teams financial stability, even apart from the direct esports results. It remains to wait for the “second season” of bundles, which Valve will probably add to the game after The International 10.