Valve makes games. It makes a digital-download service. And now it makes documentary films.
The company revealed that its film Free to Play will debut on March 19. It documents the lives of a handful of professional Dota 2 players as they struggle to win big in Valve’s free-to-play action-strategy title. Valve produced the feature-length film as a way to capture the surging popularity of Dota 2 as a premier game in the e-sports scene.
Valve will release Free to Play on its Steam online-retail store at no cost following a special screening at the Castro Theater in San Francisco on March 18. The company release the following trailer as part of this announcement:
While Free to Play is about Dota 2 and Valve’s $1 million tournament for its game, the documentary focuses more on the sacrifices some of the top players have made to get to where they are.
The documentary follows three players: Danil “Dendi” Ishutin of L’viv, Ukraine; Benedict “HYHY” Lim of Singapore; and Clinton “Fear” Loomis of Medford, Ore. In the clips from the trailer, we learn that Loomis’s parents kicked him out of the house for playing too much Dota. 2 We see that Lim’s mother berates him for letting his grades slip. We see Ishutin talk about throwing himself into gaming to escape pain in his personal life.
All three pros are desperate to win, and that’s where a lot of the film’s conflict comes from.
Dota 2 is one of Valve’s big games for the future. It earned approximately $80 million in microtransaction sales last year. That is only a fraction of what League of Legends — Dota 2′s biggest competitor — earned last year. That title generated $624 million in microtransaction revenue.
“I anticipate Dota 2′s success will continue in 2014,” SuperData analyst Joost van Dreunen told GamesBeat in January. “Over the course of 2013, Dota 2 managed to triple monthly revenues. Considering the current momentum behind the category, we expect it to double monthly earnings by the end of 2014.”
With that kind of cash on the line, Valve is obviously keen to invest in Dota 2 with its e-sports tournaments and marketing films like Free to Play. This is Valve’s first film.