SINGAPORE - Singapore is set to host the latest edition of the world's largest e-sports tournament by prize money, with potentially tens of millions of dollars at stake.
American video game developer Valve announced on Sunday night (May 22) that its 11th annual The International championship tournament for the popular free-to-play PC game Dota 2 will be held here in October.
This marks the first time the event is being held in a South-east Asian country, after previous editions were hosted in North America, Europe and China.
In response to queries, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) told The Straits Times it worked with the event organiser and game publisher to make the bid for the event to be held here.
"As we welcome more visitors back to Singapore, e-sports and sports events will continue to be an integral part of STB's strategy to bring in quality events and visitors," said STB executive director for sports and wellness Ong Ling Lee.
"Popular international e-sports competitions such as The International augment our ambition to be a premier e-sports destination in the region."
Ms Ong added that e-sports events can also help build affinity for Singapore as a travel destination among younger audiences and potentially drive repeat visitorship in the long term.
Further details on the event, such as the exact dates and prize money, have yet to be announced, but the prize pool will almost certainly be crowdfunded by Valve through the sale of digital "battle passes", as in previous years.
Battle passes offer players rewards such as in-game cosmetic items and emoticons for playing the game and completing challenges.
Last year's event, which was held in Romania's capital city Bucharest, featured a record US$40 million (S$55 million) prize pool. Russia's Team Spirit emerged champions and took home US$18.2 million, with the rest of the pot split among the teams in second to 18th place.
Mr Nicholas Khoo, co-founder of the Singapore Cybersports and Online Gaming Association, said being picked to host The International will elevate Singapore's standing as an e-sports hub.
"Singapore has been on a bit of a roll right now, as far as world championships are concerned, and we've had quite a few in the past few years," he said.
Notable tournaments held here last year included the Mobile Legends Big Bang (MLBB) M2 World Championship, the Dota 2 Singapore Major, the Free Fire World Series and Wild Rift Horizon Cup.
The tournament for mobile shooter game Free Fire, which was held in Marina Bay Sands and live-streamed online, drew 5.4 million viewers and currently holds the record for the most-watched e-sports event to date, Mr Khoo noted.
Mr Khoo also said he expects The International 2022 to draw large crowds of fans, including international travellers from the region and other countries like China.
This year will see the return of a live audience at The International for the first time since 2019, when thousands of fans flew to Shanghai to support their favourite teams.
The 2020 event was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and last year's event was held without a live audience.
Under prevailing Covid-19 measures in Singapore, there is no capacity limit for large-scale live events, but all participants must be fully vaccinated if there are more than 500 attendees.
Correction note: An earlier version of this story quoted STB as saying it provided grant support for the event. STB has since clarified that this is incorrect and there is currently no grant support.