Defense of the Ancients 2 players, meet your new overlords.
Gaming fans packed KeyArena in Seattle to watch Newbee defeat ViCi Gaming (or VG) three games to one in a best-of-five format in the Dota 2 International Grand Finals.
The teams were playing for more than just international recognition (ESPN streamed the tournament online, as did Dota2.com). Newbee's top prize of just over $5 million makes them the richest players in electronic sports history, per Mashable.com's Alex Magdaleno.
Here is the updated payout for the tournament.
(Note: Prize pool updated as of 1:30 p.m. on July 21, 2014, per Dota2.com)
That is quite the payday for an online game that is free to download. CakenGames showed just how lucrative this tournament was in comparison to traditional sports finals:
VG won the first game of the Grand Finals, but Newbee came roaring back to win three straight games in resounding style. The performance left no doubt as to who the best team was in the tournament despite some of Newbee's early struggles.
VG dominated the round-robin portion of the tournament, finishing with a 12-3 record, per Dota2.com. Newbee was just 7-8 at that point, but they moved through the gauntlet of the later brackets to reach the Grand Final.
Dota 2's Twitter account gave a look at the early excitement inside the KeyArena:
VG looked like they were going to have no trouble defeating Newbee. Super led VG with seven kills in the first game while "fy" racked up 13 assists in a rout that took just over 24 minutes to complete.
Newbee immediately turned the tables on VG, with Hao leading the way over the next two matches with 16 kills and 13 assists.
It appeared that VG had completely lost the handle on the contest, as the fourth game was the quickest of them all. It took Newbee just 15 minutes to dispatch VG, with xiao8 racking up an impressive 13 assists with his Level 11 Doom hero.
ESPN3's Twitter account was quick to congratulate Newbee on the victory:
This could be a watershed tournament for high-profile virtual gaming, as ESPN's decision to stream the tournament brought it a wealth of attention. Forbes.com contributor Paul Tassi had an interesting take on the situation regarding "eSports":
This idea that eSports needs to migrate en masse to television in order to be "taken seriously" or legitimized is misguided. Streaming is far and away the best way to consume these events, so seeing The International streaming on ESPN3 instead of airing on ESPN itself is actually a good thing.
With fans and curious on-lookers across the world easily able to live stream matches throughout the tournament, it's clear that the demand is there for expansive coverage. You don't rent out KeyArena and attract ESPN's attention for a middling sideshow of an event.
Do electronic sports have a future as mainstream entertainment in America?
It's difficult to say if competitive gaming will ever truly enter the mainstream sports conversation. Perhaps for a bit of an analog comparison, the nascent sport needs a compelling central character like Bobby Fischer was for chess to raise its profile in the United States.
For those already invested in electronic sports, it is certainly an exciting time, as technology and increasing coverage unites gamers around the world.
Stats courtesy of Dota2.com.