Dota 2 in Birmingham: What this means for esports in the UK

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For the first time ever, an ESL Major has come to the UK. Excited esports fans from across the country traveled to watch 12 teams battle it out for the Dota 2 title -- eventually won by Virtus.pro -- and the $1 million prize pool at the Birmingham Arena between May 25 - 27.

For the fans, this is big news. Until now, the closest other Majors have been hosted in other European cities -- meaning expensive travel and accommodation costs. But hosting in the UK gives fans accessibility to their favourite teams and players and of course, hours of live action to watch.

And the appetite is certainly here; the first round of tickets to Dota 2 sold out within an hour (ESL predict that 90 percent of these went to UK fans), forcing the organisers to re-design the stage layout in order to make more tickets available. And most of the team signings -- which take place after matches -- have a minimum two hour wait time, which seems to act as no deterrent for the eager fans.

Ralf Reichert, ESL CEO, hopes that bringing a live Major to the UK will help shift perceptions of esports in the local market.

"This is the first event in the UK that everyone in the world will look on and say 'this is amazing'," Reichert told ESPN.

"A sold out esports event really changes the perception from 'yeah this is a niche thing' to 'wow', and changing the media consumption, changing the whole view of gaming generally -- we've seen this in Germany and the US and let's hope this will be the same in the UK."

But Reichert was vague about ESL's future plans for esports in the UK.

"There are plenty of plans to bring other majors to the UK, but nothing confirmed", he added.

And it's not just the esports organisers who are sitting up and taking notice -- BBC 3 streamed the Dota 2 finals on a live stream on Sunday.

But for the players, of course, this is just another event in an ever-growing hectic schedule. For Team Liquid, their playing calendar has already risen from 15 last year, to nearly 40 this year. Miracle- -, the team's star player and one of the best Dota 2 players in the world, has enjoyed playing in the UK, but hopes that the number of tournaments doesn't rise any further for him and his teammates.

"The fans are crazy (in the UK) but it's like that everywhere, they're always crazy," Miracle- - told ESPN.

"It's nice to see new places but I don't have a preference on where we play. I like the weather here, where I'm from (Jordan) it's always super warm, so it's nice to have a bit of a change. I didn't expect this many fans, but the arena is full so that's pretty cool. I hope it doesn't grow again next year, I hope it will be less travelling because it's exhausting."

Not everyone seems to think more events in the UK is a good, or even plausible idea. Dota 2 game caster, Kevin "Purge" Godec, said that other, cheaper, countries are much more appealing for tournament organisers.

"The downside of hosting in the UK is that it's definitely more expensive than other countries such as the Philippines, Romania -- all of those countries are a lot less expensive", Purge told ESPN.

"With Brexit happening I think it's much less likely that sponsors will want to inject money into it. You have players from all around the world and the visa situation is tricky. It's much easier to just choose another European country which is cheaper and doesn't have the visa issue.

"If the fans are really hungry for it, they will still be willing to travel. I also think this one is popular because it is the first one, whether that is sustainable if you start running them annually I don't know."

It seems that the future of esports in the UK is still uncertain territory. The fans are certainly hungry for it, but whether the cheaper destinations (Philippines, Eastern Europe) might lure tournament hosts further afield, it is yet to be seen. But one thing everyone seems to agree on; esports are here to stay, and it's only set to get bigger.