The fast-growing popularity of eSports was further illustrated at the weekend with several milestones set at The International 2015 Dota 2 Championships in Seattle, USA, including the youngest gamer to earn more than $1million.
The grand showpiece of Valve’s popular massively online battle arena game Dota 2 (Defense of the Ancients 2), The International 2015 offered an eye-watering prize pot of $18,429,613 (£11,836,998)– the largest prize pool in eSports by some distance, beating the tournament’s own previous year’s record of $10,931,103 (£6,395,000).
Overall winners Evil Geniuses (USA) bagged $6,634,661 (£4,253,042) of that total, having defeated China’s CDEC in a hard-fought final on 8 August 2015.
One of that five-man-team’s stars was Pakistani gamer Sumail Hassan Syed aka “Suma1L”, (pictured far right with his Evil Geniuses teammates above), who at 16 years 2 months 21 days became the youngest gamer to earn $1 million in eSports winnings. His team’s victory at The International 2015 brought Sumail's total earnings from pro gaming to a staggering $1,639,867 (£1,052,141).
Sumail also became the youngest known winner of The International, although it’s important to note that the date of birth of three previous winners remain publicly unknown.
Sumail had moved to Illinois, USA in 2014 in order to pursue a career in pro gaming. In February 2015, he was part of the Evil Geniuses team that won the Dota 2 Asian Championship in China, pocketing his team $1.2 million (£770,614). He was still just 15 years old at the time.
But it wasn’t just Sumail breaking records at The International.
The cash prize awarded to Evil Geniuses was not only the largest winnings in eSports, it also made the USA-based team the highest-earning team in eSports. As of 11 August 2015, they had earned $11,185,866 (£7,175,441) from competing in 463 tournaments, which also includes competitions in such games as StarCraft, Halo and Counter-Strike.
Much of The International’s prize money was funded through the selling of a Dota 2 Compendium through Valve’s store, a significant example of a crowdfunded prize pool.