Although plenty would disagree, and some would even fight against it, eSports is fast becoming a lucrative business. Whereas a few years ago the concept of someone making money off competitive gaming seemed as alien as affordable VR headsets, now gamers train year round in the hopes of capturing huge prizes. And that’s just what five Americans did this weekend, when they won The International 5.
For those who might be unfamiliar, The International is Valve’s annual Dota 2 tournament. It brings in hundreds of thousands of viewers every year, and attracts the best of the best when it comes to the hugely popular MOBA sequel. For all intents and purposes, it’s the Super Bowl of competitive gaming.
With that, comes the expectation that only the cream of the crop would be capable of winning The International, and for the past four events that cream came from either China or Sweden. But this year it was Evil Geniuses, one of only two American teams in the whole tournament and a major underdog, that captured the top prize of more than $6.6 million.
Like any good underdog story, Evil Geniuses victory didn’t come easy. The Dota 2 team faced stiff competition and even lost to their inevitable Grand Finals opponent, China’s CDEC Gaming, earlier on in the tournament. However, the double elimination set-up for The International put EG on a path for redemption, and a juicy rematch with CDEC. And the rest is, as they say, history.
For Dota 2 fans, EG’s victory proved that eSports tournaments can be just as unpredictable and thrilling as any major sporting event. All the important components were there: the Cinderella story, the seemingly unbeatable favorite, and a crowd roaring throughout the entire final matches.
There’s no doubt plenty will turn up their noses at The International 5 and gaming tournaments like it, but there’s no denying that eSports is only growing in popularity. Last year’s prize pool for The International, for example, was $10 million, while this year’s exceeded $18 million. What’s even more impressive is that the bulk of that sum was contributed by eSports fans who bought various Dota 2 items and in turn built up the prize pool.
The biggest question now is how far The International will balloon next year, and whether or not it will take a prominent stage. With events like Heroes of the Dorm being featured on ESPN, one has to assume the sports network is working on deals with Valve, but only time will tell whether we see Dota 2 right there alongside baseball and football.
Did you watch any of The International 5? What did you think of the event as a whole?