Seattle’s elegant symphony hall has been converted into a remarkable stadium for “The International,” a global video-game showdown with more than $2.8 million on the line.
Some 1,700 fans of Valve Software’s “Dota 2” are spending much of this week playing and watching the action-strategy game on a giant screen installed in Benaroya Hall. Rows of team flags fluttering over the cheering and whooping fans make the place feel a bit like a Harry Potter Quidditch tournament.
“Dota 2” is one of the most-played online games, with more than 20 million players and tickets to the tournament sold out in minutes, according to Bellevue-based Valve. Competing for the prize pool are 16 teams representing players from 12 countries.
Here’s how Valve describes the game: “Players pick from a pool of over a hundred heroes, forming two teams of five players. Radiant heroes then battle their Dire counterparts to control a gorgeous fantasy landscape, waging campaigns of cunning, stealth, and outright warfare.”
Benaroya was radiant when I dropped by this afternoon. The lobby has big screens displaying the action going on inside the hall and there’s a “secret shop” selling memorabilia, including T-shirts that cost up to $40. I saw game celebrities signing posters and the store’s line extending nearly the length of the building, down a hallway lined with photos of musicians in tuxedos.
Valve held the first International tournament two years ago in Germany with a $1 million grand prize. Last year, it moved to Benaroya and drew millions of online viewers with up to 500,000 at a time watching broadcasts around the globe.
This year’s event is expected to be even larger, in part because the purse has grown to nearly $3 million. Valve put up $1.6 million to start, and the pot has grown through sales of a $10 compendium, which includes an interactive guide to the event and several virtual items for players. The pot is likely to continue growing before the final round of the tournament on Sunday night.
Meanwhile, fans who couldn’t get to the live event are watching The International online — broadcasts are in English, Russian, Korean and Chinese — and at pubs around the world that are streaming the event. In Seattle, the Auto Battery bar on Capitol Hill will be streaming the finals Sunday at noon.