To the uninitiated, the concept of professional gaming (i.e. playing video games for cold, hard cash) probably sounds far-fetched. But, if so, you’re living in the past. Last year, 36 million people watched the League of Legends finals. For comparison, 31 million watched Game 7 of the NBA Finals, which featured both LeBron James and Steph Curry, the sports biggest stars.
With viewers come sponsors and advertising. With sponsors and advertising comes money. So it shouldn’t be any surprise that the biggest eSports tournaments have some eye-popping payouts. You can not only subsist as a professional gamer, you can become a bona fide millionaire. Now don’t you wished you’d fought back a little harder when mom told you to “go outside and play?”
The biggest tournament of all is “The International” for the strategic multiplayer online battle arena game Dota 2.
Created by Valve Corp., it’s in a similar vein as Warcraftand League of Legends: two teams of five players strategically compete to destroy the opposing team’s structure, called the “Ancient,” while defending their own.
The International dates back to 2011 and originally saw 16 teams invited to Germany to compete for a total prize pool of $1.6 million dollars.
Since then, it has become a behemoth of an event held annually every summer in Seattle, Washington. Last year, The International boasted a $20-million prize pool, the richest in eSports history. The best of the best still get automatic entry through invitations, but there are also a host of qualifiers throughout the year.
If you look at the results over the years, you will see many of the same teams consistently end up in the money rounds. These are the teams that get to bypass qualifying. The lucrative paydays over the years have allowed them to create full time boot camps and team housing where they can practice all day, every day, in perparation for The International and other major Dota 2 events, like the Boston Major and Kiev Major, which boast prize pools in the $3 million range.
It’s a good gig if you can get it.
That paradigm has allowed the rich to get richer, in a very literal sense. It becomes almost next to impossible for newcomers to walk in via qualifiers and beat some of the more established teams, given the advantages the established teams have created for themselves.
But it has happened.
For instance, at last year’s International, TNC Gaming from the Phillippines defeated one of the top teams in the world, OG, in a tightly contested best-of-three match in the lower bracket. It’s considered one of the biggest upsets in eSports history.
The eventual final still saw two blue-bloods going it at it, though, with China’s Wings Gaming (now retired) beating the USA’s Digital Chaos, 3-1.
The retirement of Wings Gaming ensures we won’t see at repeat winner at The International 2017 (August 7th to 12th). Will another Chinese team pick up the mantle? Will OG, who have won a record-four Valve Majors, show that last year’s loss to TNC Gaming was just a blip on the radar? Could Russian outfit Virtus.pro get revenge on OG for a heartbreaking defeat in the Kiev Major finale?
Let’s look at the top teams and set the odds for the tournament, which will be the first International contested since the release of Patch 7.0, which overhauled the map and the heroes, and made many other sweeping changes. (The Kiev Major was the first big trial under Patch 7.0. OG and Virtus.pro met in a thrilling final that went to five games with OG picking up the win.)
Odds to Win The International 2017
OG (Europe): 4/1
They are the top-ranked team in the world and have won back-to-back majors (Boston 2016 and Kiev 2017). They have a ton of momentum going into the tournament and anything less than a trip to the finals would be considered a disappointment.
Virtus.pro (Russia): 17/3
After admitting to cheating in 2016, Virtus.pro made significant changes to their team and it appears to be paying off. The Russians gave OG all they could handle in the finals at this year’s Kiev Major and are ranked no. 2 in the world.
Evil Geniuses (USA): 17/3
This legendary American team has been a tad inconsistent this year but they are big-game players who have constantly been knocking at the door at all the recent Majors. Tired of coming third, they’ll do everything they can to finally break through.
Invictus Gaming (China): 9/1
Invictus is one of China’s most talented teams, but over the last couple of years, a lack of team chemistry has led to inconsistent results. However, just like Evil Geniuses, they have knocked on the door of the finals of some of the big Majors. If they can pull their team together, they could find themselves winning the big one.
Digital Chaos (USA): 10/1
The name is fitting considering how many big changes this team has gone through. After coming in second at last year’s International and reaching the semi-finals at the Boston Major, the team went into a slump, which led to dysfunction and personnel changes. The new team shows promise, but can they duplicate what they did at last year’s event?
Team Liquid (Europe): 15/1
Keep an eye on Liquid. They have had a great 2016 with second-place showings at both the Shanghai and Manila Majors. They have also won some other minor tournaments and qualifiers throughout the year. They have risen to fifth in the world standings and bring good momentum into this year’s tournament.
Team Secret (Europe): 15/1
Secret is another team whose talent outstrips its chemistry. They seem to have no problems winning LAN tournaments, leading to a rise in the global standings, and they won the 2016 Shanghai Major. But they have not even come close in any of the Majors since. If team leader “Puppey” can get his squad on the same page, they should be contenders at TI17. But that’s a big “if.”
LGD (China): 20/1
One of the most legendary DOTA 2 teams in the world, LGD are currently no. 6 in the global rankings and have been somewhat consistent in 2017. As I write this, their win-rate is at 77% and they seem to be peaking at the right time. However, they didn’t have a good showing at the Boston Major in December and didn’t even compete at this year’s Kiev Major. It will be interesting to see if they can put it all together at The International or whether there will be some ring-rust.
Clutch Gamers (Phillippines): 20/1
Don’t sleep on this team. They are made up of some of the best players in the Philippines and have had a great 2017 season. They have been on a tear and have risen up the world standings to no. 7. Could the International 2017 be their coming out party?
Team NP (North America): 22/1
Lead by talented player EternaLEnVy, Team NP are shooting up the global standings and have shown great promise since the team was formed just last year. They are longshots to win TI17, but they have a lot of upside and could surprise some folks.
The Field: 25/1
- Team Faceless
- Ad Finem
- Vici Gaming