From Cologne to Seoul – Which City Takes the Title as the World’s Gaming Capital?

While the world of eSports is full of major competitions, there is no doubt that one always stands out from the crowd. Based on the PC game Dota 2, The International is probably the biggest date in the professional gaming calendar with teams from across the world competing to win multimillion-dollar prize money. Incredibly, last year’s event had a total prize pool of more than $24 million.

The competition’s home for the past few years has been the KeyArena in Seattle and it is hard to argue that the city won’t have benefitted from the influx of teams and fans which have headed to the area to both participate in and watch the action. However, the bad news for the city is that it all set to change this year. According to reports, The International will this year be held in Vancouver, with the decision apparently being taken as a result of renovation works which are planned at the KeyArena. Considering the tournament’s long association with Seattle, this is a big move and is sure to impact on both the city’s economy and reputation as one of the top gaming cities in the world.

On that point, however, the news did get us thinking about which cities truly can lay claim to being the global capital of video gaming and which would also move up the list now that Seattle has taken itself – although possibly only temporarily – out of the picture.

Top gaming action

Beginning in Europe, Cologne in Germany has a long history of supporting eSports and being a home to top gaming action. In fact, the very first The International competition took place in the city in 2011 as part of the Gamescom event. While that tournament has, of course, moved on to elsewhere, Cologne has been the home of other competitions and is hosting the ESL One tournament for the fifth consecutive year in 2018.

The competition is based on the PC, PlayStation and Xbox title Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, one of the key games behind the growth of eSports in recent years. A good example of this is the fact that major brands which are keen to get involved in professional gaming have tended to move towards sponsoring teams involved in the game, with Audi, the German car giant, giving its backing to Astralis and Betway also backing the Swedish team Ninjas in Pyjamas. Even the ESL One event itself has attracted major backing from companies including Intel and Logitech.

Moving east into Asia, there are a number of cities which have a strong pedigree in terms of eSports. But the one location which is arguably the most likely to take the crown as the capital city of professional gaming is Seoul in South Korea. While it has a strong tradition of hosting major events like the 2014 League of Legends World Championships, the city is also viewed by a great number of people as the birthplace of the modern eSports phenomenon.

The US contenders

Of course, the US has a few contenders which could take the title and Los Angeles certainly has to be up there. The city has a long history for supporting video gaming both in terms of being a hub for the development of games and also for its support for eSports through hosting events such as the final of the 2016 League of Legends World Championships. However, another factor which marks the city out is the fact that it is now home to the first purpose-built eSports stadium in the US.

The Blizzard Arena Los Angeles opened in October on the Burbank studios facility and has already hosted events in relation to a range of games including – of course – the Overwatch League, which started at the beginning of this year.

Finally, while all of the cities mentioned above can lay claim to being a modern gaming capital, one location might have the upper hand when it comes to video gaming history. This article would simply not be complete with mentioning Ottumwa in Iowa, which was proclaimed the ‘video game capital of the world’ by its mayor back in the 1980s. Why? Well, not only did the location play host to one of the very first eSports competitions, but it was also the birthplace of Twin Galaxies – the organization which has played a key role in tracking high scores and records from the earliest days of video and arcade gaming.

Plenty to choose from

It is fairly clear from this that there are a number of ways which you could judge a city as the gaming capital of the world, from their support of eSports to more historical links. While we certainly think these cities are up there, there’s no doubt you may be able to think of many more which could take the title.