The International (TI) is one of the most notable esports competitions in the world and is the concluding tournament of the Dota Pro Circuit, the game’s annual competitive season, organised by developer Valve since 2011. Dota 2 is amongst the most prestigious titles in the esports industry. The Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) game has millions of passionate followers and players worldwide, and this strong community fuels TI’s massive, crowdfunded prize pool. Frequently amounting to tens of millions of dollars each edition, it is the highest prize pool amongst all other esports titles by far.
TI10 in 2021 still holds the record for the biggest prize pool in esports history with a whopping US$40 million and the winning team taking home US$18.2 million, the largest cash prize in esports history.
Besides the jaw-dropping prize pool, TI10 was also one for the history books for its unprecedented viewership figures – it was the most-watched Dota 2 event in history, bringing in over 107 million hours watched, an average of 850K viewers throughout its 125-hour runtime and a peak of over 2.7 million concurrent viewers for the grand final between PSG.LGD and Team Spirit.
TI11 in Singapore marks the first time that Valve has held the Dota 2 event in Southeast Asia and only the second time in Asia. Previous editions were hosted in North America and Europe. This year’s TI11 had a prize pool of US$18 million, with champions Tundra Esports taking a US$8.5 million share of the pool.
It became the third most-viewed Dota 2 event ever, recording a peak viewership of nearly 1.75 million during the grand finals and over 67 million hours watched across 120 hours of runtime.
There certainly wasn’t a lack of live spectators as well. Tickets for both the playoffs and grand finals were snapped up almost immediately after they had gone on sale. For the grand finals, the 12,000-strong crowd at the Singapore Indoor Stadium provided an electrifying atmosphere full of non-stop rapturous roars and deafening cheers, to match the impressive stage design and flashy lighting and pyrotechnics that adorned the arena.
TI11 Grand Finals in Singapore
Activations (some by brand sponsors) and various esports-related fringe activities took place around the venue and at the nearby shopping mall (Kallang Wave Mall). Large crowds, gaming enthusiasts and casual fans alike, immersed themselves in the festival-like gathering – a public demonstration of the fervent support and camaraderie by the gaming community in Singapore. TI11 was a fitting opportunity to showcase to members of the public what esports is really about.
While it definitely was a special occasion for Singapore and regional fans to have experienced one of the world’s biggest esports events here live, it is also of huge significance to Singapore’s esports scene and an important milestone in the republic’s calendar of esports events.
TI11 comes on the back of other top-tier, international esports tournaments that have been held in Singapore in recent years. Singapore previously hosted the Mobile Legends: Bang Bang M2 World Championship in January 2021 and M3 Championship in December 2021, ONE Esports Dota 2 Singapore Major 2021, the grand finals of the PMGC Mobile Championship, Wild Rift Icons Global Championship 2022, as well as the Free Fire World Series 2021, which holds a global esports record of highest peak viewership ever for a mobile esports title, with over 5.4 million peak concurrent viewers, according to Esports Charts.
Following the successful hosting of another major esports event like TI, it is a strong testament of Singapore’s growing reputation as an international esports hub, as well as a recognition of the huge and passionate esports audience in the city-state and Southeast Asia region.
Yusuf Batliwala (Head of Partnerships Sales, Esport & Gaming, SPORTFIVE Asia) believes this is just the start and we will likely see even more major esports world championships and large-scale gaming conventions and events being held in Singapore soon.
Batliwala shared, “In recent years, Singapore has made significant progress in this sector and played host to quite a number of globally-recognised esports tournaments, and the successful hosting of The International, arguably the most prestigious esports championship around, has no doubt further enhanced Singapore’s esports ambitions.
“This one single event might have just elevated Singapore’s status to the level of Asian markets strong in esports such as China, South Korea and Japan, and I believe it will pave the way for future world championships to take place here.”
With the exponential rise in popularity of esports in Singapore, it is clear that the esports phenomenon is not just a hype, and Batliwala feels it is apt for brands, local and regional, to dip their toes into esports sponsorship now.
He commented, “The significant progress Singapore has been making in the esports sector should also bring about a shift in perspective and translate to even higher publicity, greater interest, and viewership, and there is no better time than now for brands who have been curious and wanting to enter the esports space to connect with new audiences.
“As brand sponsorships in esports here are relatively fewer in comparison to traditional sports, there is more space and opportunity for brands to activate prominently and stand out. With the right activation strategy, esports sponsorship could be an effective marketing tool for brands to reach out to the young and tech-savvy audience.”
There is no better time than now for brands who have been curious and wanting to enter the esports space to connect with new audiences"
Yusuf Batliwala, Head of Partnerships Sales, Esport & Gaming, SPORTFIVE Asia
(Image credit: Dota 2 The International 11 / Valve)