Welcome to 2015, where you can win millions of dollars in one week for being really, really good at video games.
That’s what happened in Seattle this weekend for Evil Geniuses, the U.S.-based eSports squad that took home $6.6 million after beating teams from around the world and winning first place at the massive Dota 2 championships at Key Arena.
— DOTA 2 (@DOTA2) August 9, 2015
Evil Geniuses was one of 16 5-person teams competing for an $18 million prize pool, which set a new eSports record and exceeded the purse of a number of major sporting events, including the Masters, the Tour de France and the Kentucky Derby.
This was the first time a U.S.-based team took home first place at The International, which was hosted by Bellevue-based Valve for the fifth-consecutive year. Evil Geniuses members became a millionaires over the weekend.
So who are these guys that go by Fear, ppd, Aui_2000, Suma1L, and UNiVeRsE? Here’s a quick rundown of each team member:
UNiVeRsE: Saahil Arora is a 26-year-old American that lives in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s competed in every International thus far.
Suma1L: Syed Sumail Hassan is a 16-year-old originally from Pakistan who now calls Rosemont, Illinois home. He helped Evil Geniuses win a $1.2 million first place price at the Dota Asia Championships this year and also sold his bike so he could play more Dota while growing up in Pakistan.
Aui_2000: Kurtis Ling is a 23-year-old Canadian who lives in Vancouver, B.C. and is the “star of the original rags to riches Cinderella tale of Dota 2,” according to his team.
ppd: Peter Dager is a 23-year-old American from Fort Wayne, Indiana and is captain of the Evil Geniuses team.
Fear: Clinton Loomis is a 27-year-old American who lives in San Francisco, Calif. He’s an eSports veteran and is part of the first generation of North American Dota players.
Founded in 1999, Evil Geniuses is actually a larger “new media agency” that operates three other eSports teams. It is owned by GoodGame Agency, which was acquired by Amazon-owned Twitch in 2013.
The way these gamers are heralded in the gaming community and the fact that they each just won a million dollars this weekend is yet another signal of eSports’ huge growth. Add in the massive prize pool and the fact that more than 10,000 spectators filled Key Arena to watch their favorite gamers play Dota 2 against each other — an odd and hard-to-understand phenomenon for many — and you’ve got a “sport” that’s even catching the attention of ESPN.
It will be interesting to see how big these prize pools grow. Valve does something rather unique and innovative to raise money for The International’s prize pool by crowdfunding. After first contributing $1.6 million to the pool, it chips in $2.50 after every time someone buys an in-game collection of items for Dota 2 called the the Compendium that costs $9.99 and offers a number of benefits to its owners. Players can also purchase points to upgrade their Compendium, and Valve contributes a percentage of all those purchases to the pool as well.
You can watch the entire final International match between Evil Geniuses and China-based CDEC below. Scroll to the end to get a feel for crowd’s excitement as Evil Geniuses closed out the victory. Note the commentators and post-game interview and you’ll see the similarities to a traditional sporting event.