I had a curious conversation last week with a stranger. We discussed the world’s largest tournament with both of us unknowingly talking about two completely different tournaments. I was trying to contain my excitement for The International, Valve’s DotA2 largest tournament with a staggering prize pool of 20 million dollars while he was discussing the Summer Olympics. We both noted how both tournaments bring together the world’s best performers, how spectacular the event had become, and, of course, the exhilaration of winning. After we had a chuckle about the confusion, I started thinking, what does separate the Olympics from eSports? Can we make the case for a hypothetical Elympics?
The Olympics, as a tournament, can be broken down into several components; the athletes, the prize and the support. The athletes are individuals who have dedicated thousands of hours to honing their skills and athleticism to perfection. Some athletes have been training or playing since childhood. If an athlete stands above the rest, they are generally signed with a company that will sponsor them. Michael Phelps, an American swimmer, has a variety of sponsorships, Visa, Subway and Under Armour to name a few. In comparison, you have a team like Evil Geniuses, a North American team that competes in a variety of eSports, but in particular, DotA2. Their ‘athletes’ or players train for thousands of hours and many have been playing video games since their childhood. They also have sponsors that help with the costs of practicing, traveling and competing. EG has sponsorships with Monster Energy Drinks, SteelSeries and Xfinity. With a side-by-side of the two types of athletes, there is little that differentiates these definitions of athletes.
The Olympics is a tournament where the best in the world can compete for Gold, Silver and Bronze. Competitors of the International do obtain the rank of 1st, 2nd, 3rd and etc, but they also win a portion of the prize pool. This year the International’s prize pool was over 20 million dollars. This prize pool has surpassed both The Master’s and the Super Bowl’s prize pool. It’s incredible to think that the winners of the International 2016 won more money in this one event than Michael Phelps has in his entire Olympic journey from his actual monetary winnings that the United States paid him for achieving Gold, Silver or Bronze.
The statistics on the support for the Olympics is hard to calculate. Each country has its own ways of viewing the tournament and each country has its own providers for television. The International, as our direct comparison, is easier to account for because it is viewed through several different ways but they can be calculated. When I was watching through Twitch, there were times that I was watching the stream with over 400,000 other viewers. Additionally, players could watch it through the DotA2 itself, which makes it harder to calculate. However, the support for the international can also be viewed from the prize pool. The prize pool was 20 million dollars this year. Valve only contributed the initial 2 million. The community, through purchasing chests, compendiums and sets, raised the rest. Twenty-five percent of every purchase made on contributing items went to the prize pool. This means that the DotA2 community purchased about 80 million dollars. Curious about how much money eSports has in its prize pools? Here’s a really cool link here.
I have heavily focused on the International and DotA2, my vision of an Olympics would encompass all competitive eSports. Evo, DotA2, League of Legends, StarCraft 2 and Street Fighter would all be separate events in which players could compete in single events or massive decathlon-like competitions. Like the Olympics, it would draw on the world’s best to compete for the grand title of each category. I would envision countries placing bids to hold the event in their city with the highest bidder gaining the privilege of holding the event in their chosen city.
It’s thrilling to see the acceptance of eSports and its slow merge into mainstream culture. While I think we’re a while away from seeing my theoretical Elypmics, I think it’s an idea that we should hold onto. The Olympics is one of the ways that nations could proudly showcase their champions and their victors. It’s a way of proudly defining who we are as a nation. I’m anxious for the day that eSports, and the professional players of their scene, become accepted and showcased for all the hard work and dedication.
Let me know what your vision of an Elympics would be at @LH_Kendryx or at @Kendryx_ on Instagram. What eSport would you be cheering for?
When I’m not proudly discussing my love of eSports and DotA2, you can find me streaming every Monday for #MobaMonday.