The past year in esports has been filled with many history-making moments, some of which will live on for years or even decades to come. Yahoo Esports looks back at these moments.
OG wins The International again and makes history
The International (TI) 2019 Dota 2 Championship in Shanghai busted many records, including the huge prize pool that topped US$33 million (S$44 million), but one record might take a while to be broken.
Europe-based OG, winners of TI8 in 2018, turned on the style as they once again made it past Chinese team PSG.LGD to make history – not just as two-time TI winners, but also the first team to win back-to-back TI titles.
Not only did they earn themselves over US$15 million from the prize pool, but the team also looked as if they were having so much fun over the championship period in Shanghai, with ana’s Io shaking up the meta and forcing the other teams to rethink strategies. Together with Ceb, Topson, N0tail and JerAx, the OG team gave viewers an exciting TI9 that would not be forgotten or topped easily.
Singapore gets its own Dota 2 Major
In what must have been one of the worst-kept secrets of esports in 2019, ONE Esports announced that they would be bringing a Dota 2 Major to Singapore in 2020.
In a win for Southeast Asia, the Dota 2 Major will also be the last leg in the competitive circuit, meaning that teams who are aiming to qualify for TI10 will be looking at the Singapore Major to cement their spots.
In addition, ONE Esports also previously announced invitationals for Singapore and Jakarta, with CEO Carlos Alimurung promising more events during the recent press conference. Together with the recent inaugural SEA Games competition as well as Mobile Legends holding its premier event in Kuala Lumpur, Southeast Asia looks to be on the ascent on the esports map.
Riot drops League of Legends mobile, card game
Riot Games celebrated their 10-year anniversary in style, announcing not just one but several ongoing projects within the League of Legends universe.
Card game fans have been excitedly lapping up news about Legends of Runeterra, while the mobile/console moba Wild Rift and the fighting game Project L aims to target beyond LoL’s current audience.
There’s even an animated series, Arcane, which will tell the story of the characters within League of Legends.
Combine this with an exciting 2019 League of Legends World Championship with over 100 million viewers, and you can be sure the franchise is in for a great 2020 and beyond.
Razer CEO donates $10m to esports to troll forum letter writer
There’s still a lot of resistance to esports being considered in the same vein as traditional sports (just look at some of the comments on Yahoo TV’s SEA Games esports coverage), but one champion of the cause has been Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan.
And when one forum letter writer to The Straits Times in Singapore decided to declare again that esports was not a sport, Tan offered a counter argument, together with a declaration of $10 million towards growing esports in the Southeast Asian country.
In a Facebook post announcing his decision, Tan also said that part of the reason for his move was to “troll the letter writer”, which, you have to admit, was quite the flex.
Fortnite World Cup earns 16-year-old US$3m
In another feel-good story for esports, then 16-year-old Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf walked away with US$3 million after winning the Fortnite World Cup.
And he had his dad to thank for it.
In a documentary released by Fortnite publisher Epic Games, Giersdorf revealed that it was his father who got him started playing the battle royale after introducing him to Save the World, another game in the Fortnite series.
However, the story could have taken a darker turn after Giersdorf was “swatted” in his Pennsylvania home. A person pretending to be Giersdorf called the police saying that he had killed his father and was holding his mother hostage, which led to armed officers storming his home.
Thankfully, this particular incident did not result in any casualties, unlike a 2017 incident which resulted in the death of an innocent man.
VKLiooon becomes first woman to win Hearthstone Grandmasters Global Finals
Xiaomeng “VKLiooon” Li made history in 2019 by winning the Hearthstone Grandmasters Global Finals, becoming the first woman to win the championship as well as a Blizzcon event.
She also won it in style, beating Brian "bloodyface" Eason of Lazarus Esports 3-0 to take the US$200,000 top prize, and going through the entire tournament undefeated.
SonicFox Meets His Matches
Who knew that one of the top players in fighting game history is also a really good sport? That’s pretty much SonicFox, an ace player in two major fighting games, who took his losses with grace.
During the EVO 2019 Dragon Ball FighterZ grand finals, the US player was vying with Japan’s Go1 for the top spot. Right after securing the win by capitalising on SonicFox’s dropped combo, Go1 cried his heart out. SonicFox just laughed and proceeded to give him a brotherly hug out of respect and sportsmanship.
SonicFox also lost in one of his top games, Mortal Kombat 11, against up-and-comer Ninjakiller_212 in a DreamHack Montreal tournament.
It was a close battle, but again SonicFox laughed off the defeat, adding that he was glad that both the MK11 and Dragon Ball FighterZ scenes were amassing better players in the days to come. After all, that’s what we want out of our favourite competitive titles: longevity.
Pakistan Tekken reigns supreme
Nobody else knew it at the time, but Pakistan’s Tekken scene was arguably better than Japan and South Korea’s. This was the year that the world found out about it, thanks to champion Arslan Ash.
Arslan Ash won not one but two EVO tournaments in Tekken 7, and what made it an even greater story leading up to his victory was what he had to go through just to get visas to compete overseas in Japan and in America.
His dominance in Tekken 7 took the world by surprise, to the point that even Tekken legends like Knee and JCDR are already formulating strategies and thoroughly learning matchups against Arslan’s brand of digital fighting.
Long story short: Pakistan basically cemented its position alongside South Korea as one of Tekken 7’s elite ambassadors.
Underdog USA player wins Capcom Cup 2019
iDom was one of the better fighters in the Street Fighter V circuit, but he wasn’t a sponsored player like his US, Japan, and European contemporaries.
Plus, he stuck with his main character Laura, who has seen better days since the game’s first season. She far from weak, but she isn’t as tailored to the meta compared to characters like Rashid, Karin, and Ibuki (all used by a majority of players in the top 32).
So what did he do? Learnt a new character, the space-heavy Poison, to offset his bad Laura matchups.
It paid dividends at this year’s Capcom Cup, as iDom destroyed the competition and even went off against top SFV player Punk in a loser’s bracket comeback that was completely unexpected.
Fujimaru. Fuudo. Punk. One by one, iDom defeated these renowned Street Fighter killers with his tournament know-how and skill.
While many will remember the lacklustre presentation and shoddy organisation and logistics of this year’s Capcom Cup, this underdog story will stand out as a shining beacon, as well as hope for many other players to work and play hard if they hope to make it in competitive Street Fighter.
SEA Games 2019 Esports legitimises the field further
The inclusion of esports in the Southeast Asian Games provided a platform for players to represent their countries in a sporting event.
The esports section of the SEA Games even raked in a million views on its first day, thanks in part to Razer contributing towards the live-streaming, among other things.
While The Philippines won the most medals in Dota 2, Starcraft 2 and Mobile Legends, Thailand snagged a few more with their outstanding plays in Arena of Valor and Tekken 7.
Malaysia took home one gold for Hearthstone and one bronze for Mobile Legends, while Singapore snagged a silver (Starcraft 2) and a bronze (Hearthstone).