Coming out to a superstar's welcome in Seattle's KeyArena, Valve chief Gabe Newell today kicked off The International 5, the world's most lucrative e-sports tournament and the undisputed highlight of the Dota 2 calendar. Dota 2 is Valve's most-played game, and while it's free to play and compete in, it's also one of the company's most profitable properties by virtue of a thriving in-game economy that allows players to buy and trade cosmetic items. That's a substantial reason for the inflated $18 million prize pool: it has been funded chiefly by contributions from fans buying in-game items to make their heroes look more fierce and intimidating.
Dota 2 is a terribly addictive game and it makes for a fine competitive spectacle as well, judging by the viewer numbers it attracts on streaming services like Twitch. It isn't quite on the same level of popularity as the similar League of Legends — another team-based battle game where the goal is to destroy the enemy's base — but The International is certainly the most prominent tournament in the genre of competitive gaming.
To tune in to TI5 — which begins with playoffs today and culminates with a Grand Final on Saturday, August 8th — you can use the YouTube stream above or the Twitch or Valve links listed below. YouTube is most convenient because it lets you rewind to watch any action you might have missed over the previous two hours. And don't worry if you're not familiar with Dota: Valve has a newcomer stream that tries to explain the basic mechanics of the game. You'll still feel lost and confused by some of the esotericism and complexity of the game, but even if you don't fully grasp it, there are plenty of explosive battles to keep the excitement high. But anyway, as Gabe himself put it, "I didn't come here to listen to me talk. I came here to watch some Dota."