Montreal’s biggest sporting event on Friday did not involve hockey sticks.
Athletes armed with keyboards, mice and headsets dominated the day at Place Bell in Laval.
Thousands of people from all over the world descended on Place Bell for the 3rd Six Invitational, a world-class video game competition where competitors compete for excellence in the Montreal-made game Rainbox Six Siege.
“We have teams here representing 17 different nations. Some of the more famous ones are from Scandinavian countries like Finland, Sweden and Denmark. We have teams from Japan, Australia and more,” said Justin Kruger, a Community Developer with Ubisoft. Ubisoft and the ESL pro-e-sports league organized the World Championship event.
The Six Invitational has grown quickly in its three-year history.
“We started at a small venue downtown with 400 people. The following year we were at Tohu with 1000 people. Now this year we have over 3,000 people at Place Bell,” said Kruger.
The sold-out crowd paled in comparison to the online streaming audience watching from around the world.
“We’re hoping to hit about 30-million unique viewers online as well,” said Kruger. The stream had over 31,000,000 views Friday evening.
“It’s the biggest event in terms of competition, prize money, and just how over the top it is,” said 21-year-old Danish pro gamer Niclas Mouritzen, better known as “Pengu,” his gaming handle.
Mouritzen, told Global News he practices Rainbox Six Siege 12 hours per day.
“It’s work, right? If you do this for fun with no income it’s a little crazy. But when you do it for a living, it’s not uncommon for people at the top of the ranks to work 10-12 hours a day,” he explained.
For players who make it to big stages like the one constructed in Laval, the hard work is worth it.
“Each player on my team has made about $150,000 in prize pool money. Obviously, there’s salary, contracts, etc. It’s a pretty good yearly income if you win,” he said.
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The prize pool at Six Invitational is $2 million, the largest in the game’s history. The winning team will split $800,000 between the five of them.
“That’s life-changing money for a lot of people,” said Gabriel Hespanhol, a Brazilian gamer who came from Sao Paolo to compete.
Fans from all over the world come to watch their heroes.
“When you play the game and you see people playing professionally, it’s just like ‘wow look at the crazy strats they use,'” said Jessica Mceneaney, who came from Toronto to watch the tournament.
“I was trying to get a Coke before this interview, and I got swarmed for 30 minutes by fans so at events it gets crazy. In public it’s a lot less,” said Pengu.
The event continues throughout the weekend at Place Bell.