SEOUL, Nov 19 (Reuters) – Thousands of video game fans cheered on at a laser-lit stadium in Seoul on Sunday as South Korean team T1 beat China’s Weibo Gaming in the finals of the annual championship of multiplayer battle game League of Legends.
Tickets for this year’s League of Legends World Championship held at Gocheok Sky Dome, a 16,000-seat venue in the southwestern part of the South Korean capital, were sold out in a few minutes, said Riot Games Inc., the maker of the game.
South Korean gaming superstar Lee Sang-hyeok — known by his gaming handle ‘Faker’ — said he kept his composure to deliver his team their first win in seven years.
“My personal goal for this Worlds was to keep (my) composure and mindset where even if I go 0-3 in the finals, I would be able to smile,” he said.
He also said he would continue to work with his team as contracted when asked about plans for retirement.
“It was quite a bummer that we couldn’t actually get a lot of opportunity to scrim against,” coach Yang ″Daeny″ Dae-in of Weibo Gaming said, referring to his team’s lack of practice matches also known as scrimmage in eSports.
Thousands of fans braved the cold and gathered in Gwanghwamun Square in downtown Seoul to watch the match on a big screen and cheer on their favorite team.
Over one million concurrently tuned into a live stream of the finals on YouTube alone.
South Korea and China are among the biggest PC gaming markets in the world.
‘Faker’ enjoys celebrity status at home, similar to professional football players in other countries, signing multiple advertising deals ranging from a gaming PC, a massage chair to ice cream in a sign of eSports’ lasting popularity in the country.
League of Legends, an eSports classic, made a debut at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China earlier this year alongside other titles such as DOTA 2 despite being released over a decade ago.
‘Faker’ added he was thankful for the experience at the Asian Games where his team won gold though he was only a reserve for the final due to illness.
Naz Aletaha, Global Head of League of Legends Esports, said it was a milestone for the game to be a medal event at the Asian Games.
“As our sport continues to grow, we would like to explore opportunities where League of Legends can join globally impactful events,” Aletaha told Reuters in an email.
Reporting by Hyun Young Yi and Hyunsu Yim
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