South Korean powerhouse T1 take on China’s Weibo Gaming in the League of Legends world final in Seoul on Sunday, aiming for a record fourth win in an event widely known as the Super Bowl of e-sports.
Thousands of fans from around the world have descended on the capital of gaming-mad South Korea for the championship, which has rapidly grown since the first edition in 2011 into one of the crown jewels of the billion-dollar global e-sports industry.
T1, who lost in the 2022 world final, are looking to cap a dominant run in this year’s championship by clinching the title before a capacity crowd at the Gocheok Sky Dome, a baseball stadium.
“I have been really anxious while watching the Worlds, but I’m so happy that we made it to the finals,” said T1 supporter Chaea A-rin at a fan zone, where many visitors wore League of Legends costumes.
“There’s one stage left and I hope we can… come out with a victory,” added Chaea, who was dressed as the character Ahri — a nine-tailed fox with magical powers.
Supporters flocked to the fan zone in the days leading up to the final, many taking selfies with life-size cutouts of T1.
The team includes Faker, a superstar gamer hailed as the Michael Jordan of e-sports, who is also aiming for a record fourth world title.
“Every time the LoL world championship was held in South Korea, we were not able to advance, but this year, we’ve secured the opportunity to play… in front of our Korean fans,” Faker said at a press conference this week.
“I hope to end this rare… opportunity with a positive result.”
Faker, whose real name is Lee Sang-hyeok, won gold with South Korea at the Asian Games this year.
He has celebrity status in gaming-mad South Korea, where he gets a rockstar reception at public appearances and fans chant his name during matches.
Park Jeong-hyeon, a 22-year-old student and gamer, compared Faker to K-pop superstars.
“He plays so well, it makes me wonder how he does it,” she told AFP. “I’d say he’s the BTS of e-sports.”
League of Legends involves two teams with five players each competing in a battleground where the goal is to destroy the opponent’s base.
During competitive games, screaming and cheering fans follow the action on giant screens above the teams.
The 18,000 tickets for the final at the Sky Dome sold out in 10 minutes, according to League of Legends maker Riot Games.
More than 40 cinemas across South Korea will also show the match live. Tickets for those screenings also sold out rapidly this week, according to listings on operator CGV.
League of Legends is the most watched e-sport in the world, with tens of millions tuning in to livestreams from competitions every year.
E-sports are forecast to reach an audience of nearly 1.4 billion by 2025, according to a report last year by industry research firm Newzoo.