As the world’s best Dota 2 players duke it out for a US$24.8-million purse at The International championships at Rogers Arena, local businesses are also fighting for their share of millions in tourism dollars from eSports fans in town from across the globe.
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As the world’s best Dota 2 players duke it out for a US$24.8-million purse at the international championships at Rogers Arena, local businesses are also fighting for their share of millions in tourism dollars from eSports fans in town from across the globe.
In December, the Valve Corporation made the decision to move the competition to Vancouver from Seattle, where it had been held since 2012. Dota 2, a multiplayer online battle arena game developed by Valve, is like a mix of chess and capture the flag, where teams of five are pitted against each other to take down the opposition’s base and defend their own.
Fans of the game, eager to watch their favourite players compete live for the largest prize pool in eSports, snagged midweek tickets for $75 and tickets for Friday and Saturday’s finals for $280.
Worldwide, eSports revenues hit nearly US$493 million in 2016 and will grow to US$1.48 billion by 2020, according to researcher Statista.
Tourism Vancouver expects the six-day tournament here to inject roughly $7.8 million into the local economy. Thursday afternoon, sidewalks and restaurants in Gastown were packed with fans wearing Dota 2 lanyards and toting bags of swag and merchandise.
Inside the Pint Public House, just a few blocks from Rogers Arena, fans sipped craft beer while watching the tournament on flatscreen TVs.
Assistant general manager Jeff Lockwood said event organizers approached The Pint about booking the whole pub for the week, but ultimately settled on a special broadcasting arrangement.
Lockwood said the fans have been great customers, keeping summer afternoons busier than usual and packing into the pub each night after events wrap up at Rogers Arena.
“It’s fantastic,” he said. “They’re super-polite, they tip well and my staff is really happy about it, so it makes for a really enjoyable work environment.”
Lockwood didn’t want to get into the numbers, but said the tournament has brought a “massive boost” in sales.
“I kind of wish they’d do this every year,” he said with a grin.
Outside Rogers Arena, Mike Holst, 27, a longtime Dota 2 player who travelled from London, Ont., said he’s watched The International since it was first held in Germany in 2011. He was thrilled to catch it live in Canada.
“The crowd is just amazing, how hyped they get,” he said. “Every single play, every single kill — just everything about it is outstanding.”
His friend Brian Arndt, 26, from North Tonawanda, N.Y., said he’s treating the trip as a big annual holiday paired with the chance to watch his favourite teams play. Arndt said he’s staying at a hotel with three other Dota 2 players he befriended online a few years ago.
“I love the game and seeing it played at a professional level is just jaw-dropping,” he said. “The way I like to think of it is, if you are a football fan and your favourite team goes to the Super Bowl, would you actually want to go to the Super Bowl? I would say yes.”
Austin Liu, 21, and his brother Brandon, 19, flew up with six family members from Fresno, Calif. Both said they were impressed by the level of skill and determination shown by the competitors, and the size of the purse for which they’re competing.
“It’s kind of like a new era of sports,” Austin Liu said. “Video games are getting to the point where people can actually make a living doing it, and I think a lot of us, as gamers, respect that, so we come out here to support it.”
“The internationals is a culmination of all the best players in the world, so it’s crazy to see them all play in one area,” added his brother. “It’s like being a part of history.”
— With files from Behdad Mahichi and Josh McConnell
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