More than 600,000 people watched captivated online and thousands packed a downtown Shanghai arena to see team OG take home a life-changing chunk of an eSports-record $34.3 million prize pool on Sunday.
The holders defeated fellow European side Team Liquid 3-1 in the grand final of The International, a world championship in the multiplayer battle game Dota 2, to roars of “OG! OG!” from an energised crowd at Mercedes-Benz Arena.
The victorious OG team will pocket at least $15.6 million and the freshly minted multimillionaires frantically embraced on stage after getting the final kills of the tournament.
Eighteen teams from all over the world, each with five players, took part in the annual competition of professional players specialising in the hugely popular online game.
They may have lost, but there will be the consolation of a cheque of $4.5 million for Team Liquid for taking second place.
Liquid defeated PSG.LGD—the China-based team affiliated to French football giants Paris Saint-Germain—to reach the decider. PSG.LGD won just over $3 million.
The vast viewership and financial sums are proof of the growing interest in eSports, which has launched itself from the bedrooms of teenagers to worldwide prominence in the past decade.
The biggest stars in eSports—most of whom are in their 20s—are already multimillionaires, but professional gaming can be cut-throat with most players ushered into retirement by the age of 30.