The NBA finals, Stanley Cup playoffs and American Pharoah’s run for the Triple Crown aren’t the only sports obsessions of the moment. E-sports, where players from around the globe try to click and button-mash their way to video-game supremacy, are going legit – with big money prizes at stake, contests in pro stadiums and underperforming managers getting the axe.
The International, Valve Corp.’s annual “Dota 2” Championship, this week broke its own prize record while setting a new one for e-sports. As of Friday, Valve Corp. and players for the team-based multiplayer online game have contributed towards a pot that has reached $11.4 million and is still growing.
Valve’s contribution was only $1.6 million. The rest comes from a portion of proceeds from player purchases of special, in-game items sold on the “Dota 2” website. The championship’s prize pool topped out at a massive $10.9 million last year, blowing past its 2013 record, which came in at $2.9 million. Later this year, 16 e-sports teams will compete for the pot.
The International will be held August 3 through 8 in the 17,000 seat-capacity Key Arena in Seattle, which is home to the Seattle Storm of the WNBA.
"Dota 2” -- short for “Defense of the Ancients” -- is a fantasy-themed video game –think trolls, dragons and ogres -- played on a square map. Two teams of five players each duke it out using characters picked from over 100 heroes, all with their own strengths and weaknesses. The objective of each team is to destroy an enemy structure called an Ancient, while dealing with opposing players, monsters and various defenses.
To put it all in perspective, the Internationals even rivals sporting events such as this year’s golf Masters, which has $10 million set aside for prizes. However, it is still a pittance compared to some other pools, such as the 2014 FIFA World Cup’s $358 million purse. But that could change as e-sports grow and become more popular. In fact, the competition has become so intense that earlier this year a “League of Legend” team fired its manager – just “real” sports clubs do.
No word if the team is run by a virtually reincarnated George Steinbrenner.