While Olympic athletes go for gold in Rio, esports athletes go for millions in Seattle. And for the Chinese squad Wings Gaming, that dream just became a reality.
The International 2016, the biggest Dota 2 event of the year, concluded Saturday night with Wings Gaming taking home the coveted Aegies of Champions and over $9,100,000 in prize money. That’s the lion’s share of the overall prize pool of $20,712,395, officially the biggest prize in esports history. To put that in perspective, it’s roughly the same amount of money awarded for the Super Bowl, Stanley Cup, and the NBA Finals combined.
The event returned to Seattle’s KeyArena for its third consecutive year, bringing the best Dota 2 teams in the world together under one roof for two weeks of top tier play. This year’s bracket featured teams from China, Korea, Europe, and North America, including last year’s champions, Evil Geniuses. EG were able to battle their way to the lower bracket finals, only to meet defeat at the hands of Digital Chaos, a brand new team of talented veterans who formed mere months before the event.
The grand finals was a showdown between DC and Wings, an intimidating, unpredictable team from China who are known for executing unique strategies centered around heroes that normally don’t see a lot of play. After dropping the first game, Wings took three straight to edge out DC, thanks to some incredible play from Chu “shadow” Zeyu and 18-year-old captain Zhang “Innocence” Liping.
Each player on the five-man Wings roster will pocket close to $2 million.
While few pegged Wings to win it all, the tournament was rife with dramatic upsets. Four of the favorites — Team Liquid, EHOME, OG, and Newbee — were knocked out early, as teams like Team TNC from Southeast Asia put on stunning performances, proving that their traditionally weak region is not to be underestimated.
The International 2016 was broadcast live on ESPN3 as well as Twitch, drawing hundreds of thousands of viewers over the two weeks of play. The event also made history by being the first esports event presented in full VR. By using Valve’s new spectator client with the HTC Vive headset, viewers could lower themselves onto the battlefield and spectate the game from the trenches.
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Dylan Walker is on Twitter @dyluuxx