Dota 2 – The International 2016

Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports. See a picture of former Sonics favorite here.
Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports. See a picture of former Sonics favorite here. /

Key Arena played host to a Dota 2 Tournament with a $20 million prize to the winning team last weekend. So, what in the world is Dota 2? Beware, it’s taking over gaming leagues everywhere. 

Six years ago, Valve Corporation and their sponsors made history by awarding a 1 million dollar prize to the winners of its now annual Dota 2 tournament, “The International.” Dota 2 is the sequel of a “real-time strategy meets battle arena” game made on a Warcraft 3 custom map. The rights to the game was bought by the Valve Corporation who released Dota 2 in 2013.

Prior to that, an open beta version of the game was introduced to the public. It was introduced in the form of a literally unbelievable one million dollars going to the winning five-man team.

The move made a big impact on the industry and a lot of the professional gamers at that time couldn’t believe it was real. On the one-hour documentary “Free to Play,” one of those gamers explained that there were a lot of “tournaments” around this time that weren’t exactly legit. Sometimes, teams would win these tournaments and never see a check. Valve later promised in a Reddit post that indeed the tournament was real, and suddenly there was real money involved in professional gaming.

Fast forward to last weekend in “The International’s” home, Key Arena in Seattle. The International 2016, the 6th annual tournament of its kind, had a prize pool of over 20 million dollars and a 9 million dollar prize for first place. Over 90% of the money was raised by the Dota 2 community itself, so a lot has changed since 2011.

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Everything is bigger now as far as the production. The crowd on the last two days of the tournament was absolutely deafening. The venue was sold out in a matter of minutes by folks traveling from all over the globe to support their favorite team right here in Seattle. The scene on the last day was as intense as any sporting event held at Key Arena, except for maybe Game Five of the 1996 NBA Finals.

This year there were more great teams than there had ever been before. That fact became evident when Team Secret, one of the favorites to win the tournament, was eliminated on the first day. Evil Geniuses were eliminated in the semifinals, clinching the outcome for a sixth straight year without any player or team having won the tournament twice. For such a new game, there is actually a lot of parity among the teams.

Wings Gaming wins the biggest first-place prize ever in Esports history 9.1 million dollars.

The “Super Bowl” of professional video gaming ended with this year’s big Chinese powerhouse Wings Gaming defeating the tournament’s “Cinderella Story” team Digital Chaos. The Chinese have been a prominent part of TI, bringing competitive teams every year. China is also the home of the second largest Dota 2 Tournament “Dota 2 Asia Championships.”

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The game is truly international though and getting bigger and bigger. In the next few years, we will see Dota 2 tournaments on regular TV. It is the people that make it great, and insightful individuals like Wagamama and Merlini along with passionate players like Notail and the hilarious SingSing are what keeps most of us tuning in. It seems certain that next year’s prize pool will be even bigger, as the game continues to ascend toward seemingly boundless heights.