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 finals, five players, including a 16year 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.
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 others bases in an online arena.
Players and teams came to the United States from China, South Korea, Ukraine, and Russia elsewhere to compete for a share of the prize pool with roughly $6.6 million going to the winning five-player squad.
Hundreds of thousands of fans have tuned in daily this week to watch streams of the event on sites such as Twitch.TV, while thousands more have packed into the arena to cheer on their favorite players live.