B.C. gaming industry preps for global eSports tournament

The International Dota 2 Championships move to Vancouver after six years in Seattle

Players and spectators descend on a 2016 Dota 2 tournament in Moscow. The International Dota 2 Championships set for Vancouver’s Rogers Arena this summer is expected to be one of the biggest eSports events in the world  | Roman Kosolapov/Shutterstock

Seattle doesn’t have a National Hockey League team yet, but that’s not slowing down Vancouver’s pursuit of a sports rivalry with its southern neighbour.

Or at least an eSports rivalry.

This month organizers of The International Dota 2 Championships announced they were moving the multi-day gaming tournament from Seattle to Vancouver.

Depending on the day, attendees will pay $125 to $250 for tickets to watch gamers vie for prize money August 20-25 at Rogers Arena.

“The International is and has been since its inception one of the biggest events in eSports every year,” said Mani Davoudi, a member of the eSports BC association.

Davoudi, who counts himself among the most avid Dota 2 followers within eSports BC’s membership, said he had already planned to attend The International in Seattle this summer.

“So when the news came that it was going to be in Vancouver, it just made the decision all that much easier for me,” he said.

“We already have a group communicating about strategy for trying to buy tickets because from personal experiences of friends over the past two years, tickets generally sell out in about 10 minutes.”

Dota 2 is a multiplayer online battle arena game in which players try to destroy an opposing team’s base while defending their base.

Washington-state-based Valve Corp., the game developer behind Dota 2, has held the eSports tournament in Seattle the past six years.

Last year’s event drew a $24.8 million prize pool to the city’s 17,500-seat Key Arena.

DigiBC executive director Brenda Bailey, whose industry association advocates on behalf of the province’s gaming sector, said a contact at Valve told her Vancouver’s proximity to Seattle as well as the accessibility of visas for international players both factored into the move north.

“Staff from Valve can drive to Vancouver to take meetings and work the details on setting up such a large tournament,” she told Business in Vancouver.

“We are a long drive or a short flight away, and that makes us a natural partner.”

A year ago the League of Legends Spring Championship (LCS) descended on Pacific Coliseum for four days, attracting thousands of eSports fans to watch gamers compete.

“A big part of The International coming here is the fact the LCS was here last year and it itself was a success,” Davoudi said, adding these two high-profile events have the potential to turn Vancouver into an eSports hub.

Meanwhile, DigiBC plans to partner with local studios to host events in and around the tournament to highlight the local sector.

Bailey said this would range from visual effects displays to interactive virtual reality exhibits.

“In Seattle, the tournament has provided an opportunity for dev [development] studios to highlight their products.”

Bailey added that DigiBC will be working to highlight work in smaller development communities such as Victoria and Kelowna.

“It’s going to be an exciting time in Vancouver to learn about the incredible work being done in this sector.”