Video gamers win millions of dollars in Seattle championship

Sun Aug 9, 2015 12:51am EDT
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By Curtis Skinner

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Teams of video gamers playing characters ranging from wizards to monsters exchanged virtual punches, fireballs and lightning strikes over the past six days, battling at the main event of the Dota 2 International 2015 tournament in Seattle.

And by the end of Saturday's finals, five players, including a 16-year-old, became more than a million dollars richer.

Now in its fifth year and playing to a sold-out crowd in the 17,000-seat Key Arena, the International has grown every year in size, popularity and possible winnings for players. The tournament launched in 2011 with a then-groundbreaking grand prize of $1 million and now offers an $18 million prize pool.

Fans, handfuls of whom roamed the arena dressed as their favorite in-game heroes, roared as the team "Evil Geniuses" secured the championship, wiping out their enemies with an earth-shaking smash and a devastating blast of frost.

Video games have long been a moneymaker for the tech sector, forecast to generate some $111 billion in revenue this year by consultants Gartner Inc. But over the past several years, playing them has turned into a full-time job for a select few top-tier players, as interest and prize pools have ballooned.

According to Valve, the publisher of Dota 2, about 11.5 million users log on monthly to play the game, in which two teams try to destroy each other's bases in an online arena.

Players and teams came to the United States from China, South Korea, Ukraine, Russia and elsewhere to compete for a share of the prize pool - with roughly $6.6 million going to the winning five-player squad.

Though while the tournament was international in scope, the home team Evil Geniuses drew the most support, with fans chanting "U-S-A" and "E-G" with each spectacular play.   Continued...

Members of Evil Geniuses compete in the Grand Finals of The International Dota 2 Championships at Key Arena in Seattle, Washington August 8, 2015. REUTERS/Jason Redmond