Professional gaming has never been more lucrative.
Last year's biggest international gaming competition for popular computer game Dota 2, The International 2014, had a total prize pool of about US$11 million (S$14.6 million) and the champions took home a prize of about US$5 million.
Two weeks ago, computer game company Valve announced that Singapore team 5eva had been invited to the South-east Asian qualifiers of The International 2015.
They are the only Singapore team invited to be in a competition that could turn the team of young men into millionaires.
Team manager Kimberlyn See, 24, said: "It is a staggeringly large amount. I'm not sure if the winners would even know what to do with the money."
The Singapore team is made up of Mr Galvin Kang, 19, Mr Adrian Wui, 19, Mr Joel Chan, 21, Mr Ang Kok Sin, 20, and Mr Wilson Koh, 19.
To raise money for the prize pool, Valve released an in-game product, known as a compendium, for sale.
A quarter of the proceeds go to the prize pool.
In The International 2011 and 2012, the prize pool was US$1.6 million each year. In 2013, the amount grew to US$2.8 million, before almost quadrupling to US$11 million last year.
With the launch of the compendium on May 1, the prize pool has reached US$8.3 million as of yesterday evening.
Sales end in August and fans speculate the money pool will exceed last year's US$11 million.
When asked if the team was concerned about National Service obligations or school schedules, they told The New Paper they would iron out details when they get to it.
Miss See said: "We're hoping to qualify first. Once we get it, we will make arrangements to get the team there."
She described the game as a mix of chess and football. They work in two teams of five, each controlling a character, and the goal is to destroy an objective in the other team's territory.
She said: "Dota requires planning and thinking. But since it's real time, it's very fast paced. One poorly timed click could cost the team the match."
The team trains every night for several hours.
The team captain, Mr Kang, better known in gaming circles as Meracle, said: "I started playing competitively when I was in Secondary 1 and... I continued to play because I love the game."
Parental objections used to be a big problem for the team members, especially when they were still new.
Mr Ang said: "Because I am not a full-time gamer, my parents didn't really go out of their way to stop me. They would ask that I do well enough in my studies to justify my gaming habits.
"It was only after a few tournament winnings that they realised how big a platform I was playing on."
The International 2015 qualifying matches are from May 29 to June 1 and they hope to fight their way to the top in the region, earning their spot in The International in Seattle, US, in August.
When asked how they think they would fare, Mr Kang said: "We expect to win."
Celeb gamers? Not here
Professional gamers in China are celebrities, said local Dota gaming personality Tammy Tang.
"Dota matches are televised... Fans run up to them after matches asking for autographs," she said in a documentary called Free to Play by computer game company Valve.
5eva team manager Kimberlyn See said organisations in China pay team members a salary to stay in the team house and play games.
Mr Walter Lee, 28, co-founder of Esports SG, said these gaming organisations are taking off everywhere else in the world except South-east Asia.
He said: "Singapore is a risk-averse society that places emphasis on education.
"If they don't see a corresponding subject taught in a university, they won't buy it."
This article was first published on May 18, 2015.
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