Valve CEO Gabe Newell was interviewed on ESPN2 Sunday evening.

Gabe Newell has sat through thousands of interviews. His conversation that aired nationally on Sunday evening, though, was particularly unique.

Newell, CEO and co-founder of Bellevue-based gaming company Valve, had an interview broadcasted to millions of people on ESPN2 as part of a 30-minute show about the massive Dota 2 tournament happening at Seattle’s Key Arena.

Newell spent five minutes talking about Valve and the tournament itself — also known as “The International” — that attracts the best Dota 2 teams from around the world and this year features a record-breaking prize pool of nearly $11 million.

dotaseattleMany outside of the hardcore gaming community may not understand the popularity of The International, or why thousands of people are showing up in droves at Key Arena to watch others play video games.

Newell said that growing interest stems from something rather simple: the Internet.

“The Internet is changing what entertainment and sports is,” Newell said on ESPN. “It’s not just a few people authoring an experience for others. It’s really growing out of what everybody does.”

Newell explained how when someone has an impressive performance during an online multiplayer battle games like Dota 2, it benefits everyone — people creating content for the game, people running tournaments, people competing on an international stage.

“Every single element of the game allows the community itself to participate and create,” Newell said.


The rise of eSports is undeniable, and the fact that ESPN — which is streaming all the matches via ESPN3 — used a primetime TV slot on Sunday evening to broadcast a Dota 2 championship preview show that included highlights and analysis is proof of that.

Meanwhile, the prize money pool, which is crowdfunded by Dota fans themselves via $10 digital tournament guides, speaks for itself. The dollar amount has grown exponentially from a $1 million prize for the first Dota 2 tournament three years ago.

Bai Fan of ViCi Gaming, a team competing in Monday's final, was interviewed by ESPN2.
Bai Fan of ViCi Gaming, a team competing in Monday’s final, was interviewed by ESPN2.

“For a lot of these people, it is really life-changing money,” Newell said of the competing teams. “This is a spectacular opportunity for them.”

When asked about his favorite Dota 2 tournament moment, Newell told a story about a mother in her late 50s who attended The International last year in Seattle. She had never heard of Dota 2, but her son wanted to check out the competition, so she obliged.

During the tournament’s final match, the crowd was going crazy — including the mother herself.

“We’re all just standing on our feet, jumping, and I then I see her doing the same thing,” Newell recalled. “The fact that we can take someone who had never seen the game before, turn them into a screaming, raging fan in four days — that’s my favorite moment.”

You can watch the ESPN segment below. Newell’s interview starts at the 20-minute mark.

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  • alexis fg

    Yep. There’s no doubt that eSports are here to stay. It seems like the only eSport ever mentioned by the mainstream media is Dota 2 though…

    • balls187

      LoL gets way more press coverage than DoTA2 does.

      • lookgood

        I want to see LoL on ESPN

      • Jimmy Rustler

        That doesn’t seem likely. Do you have a source for this or are you guessing?

        • balls187

          Well head to PAX Prime this year and compare LoL vs DoTA2.

          HBO’s Real Sports had a pretty indepth spot on LoL and eSports.

          Definitely not a LoL fan, but I suck at DoTA so I don’t really have a dog in this fight. Well other than I know IceFrog IRL.

          • Jimmy Rustler

            Well, the reason LoL is so much more popular at Pax Prime is because 1) that is where the LoL North American Regionals are held. The tourney is actually in the convention. 2) Riot Games is an exhibitor at Pax Prime.3) Valve doesn’t do Pax Prime.

            I don’t see what presence at a gaming convention has to do with presence in mainstream media.

          • balls187
          • Jimmy Rustler

            I think what alexis meant was mainstream media (like CNN, ESPN, USA Today, Etc). What google trends shows is LoL’s popularity based on google searches.

            If you are arguing that LoL has more players, and is therefore more popular among people who play video games, then yes, you are correct. Dota 2 seems to have more mainstream media coverage though.

          • balls187


            HBO vs ESPN3

          • Jimmy Rustler

            I have no source. I didnt make any claims. I wrote “Dota 2 seems to have more mainstream media coverage” keyword: seems.

            You made a claim when you said “LoL gets way more press coverage than DoTA2 does.” That’s the only reason I asked for a source.

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