Gaming tournaments are hardly a new thing. People have been playing video games against each other, tournament-style, since the dawn of time, or at least since the dawn of competitive multiplayer video games. You know what is new though? Offering a million dollars and upward to the winners. No, these aren’t Call of Duty tournaments or some other kind of twitch shooter, we’re talking MOBAs. If you aren’t familiar, MOBAs are Multiplayer Online Battle Areas, a style of game born from the Warcraft III mod Defense of the Ancients. For the launch of DOTA 2 (which is a confusing topic in and of itself), Valve is holding a DOTA 2 tournament (streaming live here) and handing out 1 million buckaroonies to the champ.
This isn’t the first time a video game tournament has had a “big” payout. Last year, GSL (Global Starcraft League) offered the equivalent of $500,000 U.S. in prizes, but that was over a series of tournaments where each grand prize was around $85,000 and runners-up around $25,000. Needless to say, this DOTA 2 tournament (which is based on an unreleased game no less) blows GSL out of the water when it comes to largest lump prize. But that’s not even the half of it.
If you’re familiar with MOBAs, you know that DOTA has a big competitor, the free-to-play League of Legends. Now, LoL is no stranger to big money tournaments; the season 1 LoL championship had a fat $100,000 prize. In the face of DOTA 2, however, a game backed by industry giant Valve, there’s no way that lowly free-to-pay LoL could match such an extravagent prize, right? Dead wrong; League of Legends is laying down an unheard of 5 million dollars for their season 2 prize pool. Let me say that again. 5 million. Granted, this isn’t a lump sum prize and will be distrubuted to winners of different tiers, but that might still leave enough left over to top DOTA 2’s 1 million.
Let’s take a minute to put this in perspective: In 2000, Richard Hatch, winner of Survivor, got 1 million dollars after staying on an island for weeks. Today, tons of people are still devoting weeks or months of their lives to reality shows that offer paltry prizes of $100,000 or $200,000 dollars. Granted, these shows have higher expenses, but they also have better ad revenue. What it comes down to is that competitive gaming, eSports, whatever you want to call it, is stepping up into the big-boy world when it comes to prize money. It also goes to show how much money a successful free-to-play like League of Legends has to throw around. Tournament-style gaming is turning into big money, and it’ll be interesting to see where things go from here. What better way to get people into your game than to offer them a king’s ransom for getting really good at it.