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2013 onGamers Esports Industry Awards

We've done our title specific awards, now we'd like to weigh in and honor the esports industry as a whole.

2013 was a year where records and perception would be shattered over and over.

Riot Games and Blizzard would invest heavily into persistent, year long leagues to promote their flagship esports titles League of Legends and StarCraft 2. High quality, professional broadcasts would become standard for each title as Blizzard pushed out content in three different regions throughout the week, while Riot executed in two regions also on weekends. 2013 would, really, become the first year where the sheer amount of esports content produced would outpace the content needs of the fans.

Valve, unlike Riot and Blizzard, would continue their hands off approach. They’d urge third parties to run wild with their game while they focused on their yearly event, The International. Their efforts would become historical when The International 3, an event partially crowd funded through an interactive, in-game, Compendium, would boast a staggering $2.8 million prize pool, the largest in esports history.

Random events throughout the year would amaze even veterans in the space. League of Legends professional Mike ‘Wickd’ Petersen streamed a one versus one match to over 140,000 concurrent viewers on his Twitch

channel. Just years prior this would have been unfathomable for multi-million dollar tournaments; the young Dane did this from his bedroom.

The true magnitude of the year is one that deserves our collective attention. We’ve acknowledged each of the major games, but we think the true industry deserves a solid look.

Below are our best of 2013s for the entire esports industry.

I. Esports Game of the Year
II. Esports Publisher of the Year
III. Esports Event of the Year
IV. Esports Circuit of the Year
V. Esports Innovation of the Year
VI. Esports Company of the Year
VII. Esports Team of the Year
VIII. Esports Person of the Year
IX. Esports Broadcast Talent of the Year
X. Esports Player of the Year

I. Esports Game of the Year - Dota 2

Dota 2 is the onGamers Esports Game of the Year.

Dota 2 had an explosive rise to stardom in 2013. As the year began its place in the esports hierarchy was uncertain; behind closed doors industry folk were trying to figure out what to make of the game. The last two years had been dominated, largely, by StarCraft 2 and League of Legends. Those titles, deservedly, were where team owners and tournament organizers were spending their money and mental energy.

However, with each passing month Dota 2 would see the player base grow, the number of tournament spectators grow, increased interest from teams, and more attention from tournament organizers. It started becoming apparent very quickly that this game was something that teams, tournaments, and sponsors would want to be part of if they weren't already.

Valve went deep with community integration and has provided an the ability for teams and tournaments to make money directly through the game. In game ticket purchases for tournaments, and custom item sets and pennants for teams, have pioneered new monetization opportunities. Valve would even allow custom in-game flags and banners, so team's could represent their sponsors on the virtual battlefield - among publishers this is unprecedented show of support for the esports industry. The game continued to build upon the in-game Dota TV system which allows users to purchase tickets to gain access to tournaments which they can watch in client to earn tournament item drops, watch from the player’s perspective as well as listen and watch from any of the broadcasters point of view on the fly. This system has since been expanded on and now supports the possibility of the community directly contributing revenue of the Dota TV tickets to the tournament’s prize pool which can be tracked from in or out of game in real time.

Studio's like Beyond the Summit would pop up and cater to the community's growing thirst for content by delivering content almost around the clock. The GD Studio, who collectively had been advocates of the game very early on, would pair up with DreamHack several times throughout the year, and at the end of the year they would produce a Dota league, DreamLeague, broadcast on Sweden's TV6. Good Game Agency, who ran a league the year previously, would continue to expand their efforts by upping their league's prize pool and providing an Eastern Division. Major League Gaming would join the fray by diving straight into the deep end with their last tournament of the year. MLG would fly nine of the best teams in the world out to compete in Columbus, Ohio in what most would consider the second most important tournament of the year.

The most important Dota event was of course The International 3, where Valve introduced an interactive in-game Compendium which allowed community to up the prize pool. Each Compendium cost $10.00 -- $2.50 of each purchase went directly to the prize pool. With the help of a feverish and eager Dota 2 fan base, the prize pool would see an increase from $1.5 million to $2.8 million, making it the biggest single tournament prize pool in esports history.

Dota 2 went from being a question mark in the eyes of many, to being the second most viewed esport in the world. All while the game fostered an entire economy around the game, that benefits both teams and tournament organizers. With all these accomplishments Dota 2 stands above the rest and is the 2013 onGamers Esports Game of theYear.

II. Esports Publisher of the Year - Riot Games

Riot Games is the onGamers Esports Publisher of the Year.

Among "The Big Three" Riot Games is now the biggest and most impactful publisher in esports, and 2013 saw the company with many initiatives that fundamentally changed the way the world thinks about esports.

The League of Legends Championship Series, their persistent, year-round circuit saw a level of polish that few other products in esports can say they've ever come close to. In the middle of the year the news would break that the company would be able to help professional players of their game get athletic visas in the United States. Their World Finals took place in the Los Angeles Staples Center. That's a venue which by itself raises the bar for esports, but they would also fill the place with 14,000 people. Tickets sold out within hours. That night will forever change the perception of esports folks unfamiliar with the space: the de facto photo used illustrate the size of the esports industry is now a photo from the League of Legends World Finals.

The company is usually regarded with high reverence from both professional and casual League of Legends players for their laser sharp focus on player satisfaction. Impressively the company was even ranked fourth by Business Insider for tech companies to work at, while their CEO Brandon Beck has an impressive 95% approval rating from his employees.

The time, energy, and capital Riot Games put into promoting their game, which truly adds credibility to the entire industry including their competitors, is absolutely unparalleled. In our humble opinion: in 2013 Riot Games had no equal in terms of their commitment to esports.

III. Event of the Year - The International 3

The International 3 is the 2013 onGamers Esports Event of the Year.

In many ways tournament organizers cannot guarantee that their event will be a success. No matter how much preparation, money, or time a group spends making sure an event is ready for broadcast, there are just some things which are out of their control. It's not unusual to see events end with extremely lackluster Grand Finals. Tournament organizers can only do their best to make sure that everything they can control is taken care of and done well. At a certain point its just up to the teams playing.

The International 3 will be, for ages, one of the most discussed and revered tournaments in esports history. The matches throughout the bracket were, simply, phenomenal. There are so many impressive moments it's difficult to list them all. Things like Sam 'Bulba' Sosale's fantastic Clockwerk ultimates against LGD and Na'vi's fountain hooks versus Tongfu will be talked about for years.

The Dota community would then be treated to the finals everyone wanted to see. Alliance versus Na'vi, two rivals, in a best of five, duking it out over the largest prize pool in esports history. The two teams would go blow for blow, forcing it to match point. As if that weren't enough game five would be a tooth and nail brawl with the teams exchanging leads back and forth until Alliance eventually won the game on the heels of Gustav 's4' Magnusson's million dollar Dreamcoil.

The roar the occured after the Alliance win deafened Benaroya Hall. It was, genuinely, one of the biggest moments in the history of esports. It will be talked about well beyond the year.

IV. Esports Circuit of the Year - League of Legends Championship Series

The League of Legends Championship Series is the 2013 onGamers Esports Circuit of the Year.

It is the most watched show in all of esports. Each week the LCS takes place in two different regions, utilizing two fully staffed studios, and broadcasts matches, without fail, to over 100,000 concurrent viewers week in and week out. These weekly shows would occasionally be punctuated with shows outside the studio. The community would see matches from Spain, Russia, and other locations over the course of the year.

The show is broadcasted with a polish that is, simply, not matched by any of its competitors. Its scope is also not matched by any of its competitors. Each week the teams play in person, and the fans truly reap the benefits of that setup. The consumers were treated things like pre- and post-game interviews, and while features like that have been commonplace in traditional athletics they've been notably absent in esports for years.

The esports mantra for the last several years has been, "We want to be like real sports." The LCS is very close. The games happen on the same days each week, matches start at approximately the same time, and the breadth of coverage is delivered with consistency.

The LCS has created the formula that other year long leagues should strive to to recreate.

V. Esports Innovation of the Year - The International 3 Compendium

The International 3's Compendium is the 2013 onGamers Esports Innovation of the Year.

Valve's interactive, in-game Compendium for The International 3 gave purchasers features like a fantasy league for TI3, in-game player trading cards, an evolving courier, and the ability to vote on who would be participating in TI3's all star match. It gave you all of that for $10.00; it completely changed the way fans and followers can be part of an esports tournament.

Those features alone made the Compendium worth the purchase, but Valve gave the community an added bonus. For each Compendium purchased, $2.50 would go directly to TI3's prize pool. Valve included stretch goals for additional unlockables at certain prize pool tiers to encourage more Compendium purchases, and, man, did that prize pool grow. Any skeptics would be silenced as the community watched purchase after purchase roll in and the prize pool steadily grow. First to $1.7 million, then $1.85 million, then $2 million, and then on and on until it finally rested at $2,874,380.00.

With the help of the community TI3 was able boast having the largest prize pool in the history of esports. This had never been done before. While Valve's efforts are, unarguably, noble its worth noting that this was solid business for them too. They were still making money from these Compendium purchases, it was solid business with a direct, massive benefit to the community.

VI. Esports Company of the Year - Twitch

There is no company with further reach and impact in esports than Twitch. Every tournament vendor streams through Twitch and most professional players stream through Twitch. The company has forever changed the way esports gets to esports fans. We all should collectively cheer that someone saved us from the nightmarish alternatives of old like Octoshape and various Real Media Player streams.

Twitch also serves the entire spectrum of those active in the esports space. Professional players with partnerships on Twitch, and a solid fan base, can now stream the game that they love to play and make good money. Meanwhile the giants like DreamHack, ESL, Riot, Blizzard, and Valve can all push their highly polished events out through Twitch to hundreds of thousands of viewers with significantly less frustration than they would have had in the past.

No one gets left on either side of the fence; content creators, both big and small, can have their content seen by whoever wants to watch it. It is truly a new era of both broadcast and esports, where content is more readily available and easy to access than ever before.

VII. Esports Team of the Year - Alliance

Alliance is the onGamers Esports Team of the Year.

There has likely never been a bigger splash made by a team in its freshman year than that of Alliance’s.

Formed in April, the team managed by GoodGame Agency would, in one year, be able to boast that their Dota team won the biggest event in esports history, that their StarCraft 2 player Johan ‘Naniwa’ Luchessi was the best non-Korean player playing the game, and that their European League of Legends team is being colloquially referred to by the community as “the super team."

It’s bizarre in a sense, because initial reactions to Alliance’s mere existence were mixed. Many didn’t understand the need for GoodGame Agency to have two teams. It was a foreign idea to people because it hadn't been done before. But today it's very clear: the two teams feel different because they are different.

The expectation for Alliance players to perform is through the roof. The Dota squad had only one mediocre tournament performance throughout the year until they went a small slump after winning The International 3. Aside from that misstep they won everything else they played in. Luchessi would be the only consistent non-Korean you’d find in the later stages of StarCraft tournaments throughout the entire year. It’s difficult to really assess the strength of their new League of Legends team because they’ve only played one series to date, but the hype surrounding the five-some deserves mentioning.

VIII. Esports Person of the Year - Robert Ohlén, DreamHack CEO

Robert Ohlen is the onGamers Esports Person of the Year.

Running a company requires a certain sort of madness. It takes a kind of controlled bravado. You need to believe in yourself, you need to inspire those around you to be the best they can be, and you need those who consume your product to believe in you too. It's a balancing act, though, because at the same time you have to have the temperament to know when too much is too much and pull back.

In esports there is a tremendous amount of chest pounding. At any given time on Twitter, tournament organizers are giving us metrics, without context, for their last event. If it isn't numbers they're musing about, it's whatever big meeting they're about to walk into or where they're flying next. Robert Ohlén's hidden talent is knowing when too much is too much. He engages the community while avoiding being ostentatious. He hosts multi-game events of epic proportions, many of his individual game tournaments dwarfs most of the industry, and the tournaments are consistently universally revered. And this happens without cramming the success of the events down our throat.

His company brought Dota 2 and StarCraft 2 to television in Sweden this year. The DreamHack broadcasts improved with each event. He was persistently involved in conversations with esports fans via social, and he cares about everything he and his team creates.

In an industry full of really inspiring people, the way success is measured might be by who makes the fewest mistakes. Robert Ohlén made an impact on the year, inspired us again and again - and for someone who is absolutely not afraid to speak his mind, he made us cringe the least. You'd be hard pressed to find events reviewed more positively than DreamHack and his organization tends to be leading the way with their vision. The only real negative is the fact that he is Swedish.

IX. Esports Broadcast Talent of the Year - Shaun 'Apollo' Clark

Shaun 'Apollo' Clark is the 2013 onGamers Esports Broadcast Talent of the Year.

A more professional, hardworking, knowledgeable broadcaster you will not find.

His commitment to the game is unwavering. It's not unusual to see him roaming events with notes in his hands on builds or strategies, and his curiosity and eagerness to understand the parts of the game that he doesn't understand is matched by few other broadcasters in any other game. It is very easy to rest on your laurels once you've achieved a modicum of fame or status, but this is something that Clark proactively works to avoid.

It's damn near impossible to wrestle a negative remark out of anyone in the industry about him. Comments about his professionalism get around, and as such he's highly sought after.

He fits the bill for everything we want in a broadcaster for any esports title. He's charismatic, he's actively playing the game, he's diligent with his presence on camera, and, perhaps most importantly, he is an active member of the community. On several occasions this year he's written blogs about players, play styles, or just to reflect on his year. He just wants to be involved because he cares.

Clark does what he does because he loves to do it.

X. Player of the Year - Lee 'Faker' Sang-hyeok, SK Telecom T1

Lee 'Faker' Sang-hyeok is the 2013 onGamers Esports Player of the Year.

There was no player quite as electrifying this year as Lee 'Faker' Sang-hyeok. The mid-lane player from SK Telecom T1 would spend the majority of 2013 giving reasons for you to remember his name. The spry newcomer would time and time again leave little doubt in League of Legends fan’s minds that he, and his team behind him, were truly the best in the world.

There are moments in sports, both electronic and traditional, where athletes truly transcend the game they play. They become larger their game and become a conversation topic of their own. You needn’t follow to the game to have heard of them; their prowess doesn’t allow you not be aware of them.

Lee would explode onto the scene, and his first real year in the limelight he would make sure that the world knew how strong a player he was. In his first real year he would mystify fans with the depth of his play over and over as he worked his way to a world championship. In his first real year in the big leagues, Lee would set the mark for those to follow. Its quite a luxury for a newcomer to not be burdened with proving himself as he rolls into the new year, but instead just be concerned with keeping the status quo.

The StarCraft players know his name, the Dota players know his name, and the League of Legends players will likely never forget his name. For that, he is our Esports Player of the Year.

Summary of all awards

I. Esports Game of the Year - Dota 2
II. Esports Publisher of the Year - Riot Games
III. Esports Event of the Year - The International 3
IV. Esports Circuit of the Year - League of Legends Challenger Series
V. Esports Innovation of the Year - The International 3 Compendium
VI. Esports Company of the Year - Twitch
VII. Esports Team of the Year - Alliance
VIII. Esports Person of the Year - Robert Ohlen, DreamHack CEO
IX. Esports Broadcast Talent of the Year Shaun 'Apollo' Clark
X. Esports Player of the Year Lee 'Faker' Sang-hyeok