One of Germany’s biggest World Cup 2006 soccer stadiums will play host to the largest Dota 2 event of all time on June 28 and 29, 2014.
CommerzbankArena in Frankfurt, with a capacity of over 35,000 fans, will hold the two-day grand finals boasting a $150,000 prize pool in a venue that has hosted Michael Jackson, the Rolling Stones, Madonna, the 2005 FIFA Confederations Cup, the 2006 World Cup, and the home soccer team Eintracht Frankfurt.
Photo via ESL
Prior to ESL One, the biggest Dota 2 event to date was The International 3, which was hosted at the 2,500-capacity Benaroya Hall in Seattle, Wash. The ESL One event has the potential to attract a crowd well over ten times that size if it can attract the fans. In a press release, ESL promised that “Dota 2 will fill the legendary stadium.”
“One of the interesting things about talking to people outside of the industry is how much the conversations have changed,” said James Lampkin, managing director at Turtle Gaming, ESL’s parent company. “Years ago we would have to do a ton of early groundwork to explain what esports is, but these days we’re more likely to hear, ‘Oh yeah, my son/daughter watches your events and what you guys do…I don’t understand it yet but it really excites them.’
That is key for us. It is no longer a question of ‘What do you do?’ but rather ‘How do we get our Brand/Venue involved?’”
ESL One has been in a restructuring phase since November 2013 when management decided the event needed to do something different.
“Looking at the Dota 2 space which has a ton of online daily content, we decided we wanted to do something bigger and more impactful that few others could,” Lampkin said. “ESL has been producing large scale events for a long time, but this is the first time we will focus on a single title and at this scale. We knew it had to be Dota 2.”
Ulrich Schulze, managing director of pro gaming at Turtle Gaming, ESL’s parent company, added, “Dota 2 saw the first ever million dollar prize pool and this year I am pleased to say it will see its first ever packed stadium.”
Of course, esports has packed stadiums before. StarCraft: Brood War saw live crowds of over 100,000 view the ProLeague finals a decade ago. But that was a different game and a different era in esports history.
Last year, 13,000 people watched the League of Legends Season 3 championship at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif. Tickets sold out in less than an hour. Online, the event attracted 32 million viewers.
The ESL One in Frankfurt has the potential to more than double that audience.
ESL looked all around the world before deciding on Germany. It chose Frankfurt largely because it’s easy to reach. Frankfurt has one of Europe’s largest airports, which is just seven minutes from the arena.
“Western Europe is really an untapped market for large events,” Lampkin told the Daily Dot. “If you look at events like Blizzcon, the International, League of Legends World Finals etc, these are events that are massive, but are almost always on the West Coast United States. There is a massive gaming audience in Europe, especially in the PC market, so keeping it in our backyard made a ton of sense.”
Dota 2’s The International 3, the de facto world championship organized by developer Valve, was the biggest event on what was the biggest day in esports of all time last year in terms of worldwide viewership when 4.5 million viewers tuned in to Twitch. That record was eclipsed months later by the League of Legends Season 3 championship which attracted 32 million viewers over the course of the entire event.
ESL is already in talks with various venues worldwide to hold more esports events on a “massive scale.”