The fifth edition of The International Dota 2 Championships is set to kick off next week, filling the internet with wall-to-wall multiplayer battle action. It's going to be the most lucrative e-sports tournament yet, with a prize fund now surpassing $17.4 million — but if you want to get a real sense for how excited people are for it, there are already nearly 5,000 viewers watching a placeholder stream for the event. A lightly animated tournament logo, accompanied by looping ambient music, is all that's on offer right now, with a comments stream filled with questions about when The International begins (some of them serious, most of them ironic).
The first real action for the tournament will be on Sunday at 9AM Pacific Time, with preliminary Wild Card games, and then the group stages of the proper TI5 begin in earnest on Monday. So it's not quite so crazy to be tuned in to the stream early, but it's still a sign of the rather obsessive following this game has engendered among its players and fans. This might be the closest that e-sports get to the mania of queuing outside Apple Stores for the latest iPhone. Then again, the TI5 main event doesn't even begin until August 3rd, so there's plenty of time for the hype and excitement to ratchet up to even higher levels.
You'll be able to watch and learn one of the internet's most addictive games through streams on YouTube, Twitch, and Dota2.com, and this year Valve is even helping organize viewing parties around the world. Find your nearest one on Valve's Pubstomps listings page, or if there isn't one close enough, you can set up your own.