Two teams of young video gamers from Europe and China are to do virtual battle today — and there is more than US$1 million at stake.
The teams are to fight it out in the blockbuster online game League of Legends, in a contest drawing millions of viewers and a growing crowd of sponsors.
The game, developed 10 years ago by Los Angeles-based Riot Games, sees teams of players face off in a virtual battle arena with one main goal: destroying their opponents’ “Nexus” base.
The finals of the 10th edition of the game’s world championship tournament, dubbed “LoL Worlds” and hosted at the AccorHotels Arena in Paris, is to see Europe’s G2 E-Sports go up against China’s FunPlus Phoenix (FPX).
Riot Games is surfing on the growing success of e-Sports and of its LoL Worlds championship, broadcast on video live-streaming service Twitch.
It says last year’s championship attracted close to 100 million viewers, putting it in the same ball park as the Super Bowl, the biggest TV event in the US.
The European and Chinese teams in today’s finals are composed of five players each, all male and aged 19 to 24.
LoL Worlds offers a prize pool this year of about US$6.5 million, making it the third-biggest after Dota 2’s The International and the Fortnite World Cup.
The winning team would receive about US$835,000, while runners-up would get more than US$300,000.
The European gamers are seeking to end Asia’s supremacy. South Korea have won five of the six previous championships, with a Chinese team winning last year.
However, the organizers say that the top Asian players are increasingly being challenged.
“What’s amazing about that is that the Chinese and the [South] Korean leagues have typically dominated this kind of competitions,” said John Needham, global head of LoL E-Sports at Riot Games.
Danish player Rasmus Winther, who is on the European team and nicknamed “Caps” by fans, echoed that sentiment at a news conference at the Eiffel Tower on Tuesday.
“When we joined the LCS [League of Legends Championship Series], the West didn’t really have a good shot at doing anything internationally,” the 19-year-old said. “Now … we want to be champions and create a legacy for ourselves.”