RALEIGH – A team of Russian esports ‘athletes’ pocketed $200,000 in grand prizes at the Raleigh Major this weekend.

Team Empire – including Artur Ipatov, Evgeniy Petrishin, Danil Gabov, Dmitry Semenov, Danila Dontsov – beat Team G2 Esports 3-1, in a four-hour face-to-face match on Sunday.

Billed as one of the biggest esports events in the world, some 3000 fans crammed into Raleigh Convention Center for the final showdown, while thousands more watched online as it was livestreamed.

The finals at Raleigh Major at the Raleigh Convention Center on Sunday. Photo: Chantal Allam

Spectators at Raleigh Major final on Sunday.

It ended three days of competition featuring 16 teams from around the world, playing Tom Clancy’s Rainbox Six: Siege, a popular first-person shooter game. It’s developed by Triangle-based Red Storm Entertainment, a subsidiary of Ubisoft.

The total prize pool: $500,000 – with all teams taking home a slice of the action.

“Literally crying with tears of joy,” the team tweeted shortly after the win.

It was the first time that Team Empire beat their European rivals.

They previously clocked three draws in the Pro League, as well as losses at DreamHack Winter 2018 tournament and the Six Invitational 2019 finals.

Peter Duca, 18, from Clayton, NC.

Fan Peter Duca, 18, drove from Clayton, NC, to see the teams duke it out. “It’s bigger than expected,” said the Johnston Community College student, attending his first esports tournament.

“I remember in 2016, watching Pro Leagues, it would not be the same. It would be big enough to be on TV, but not enough to be going to conventions. It’s nice to see something like this coming to Raleigh.”

He’s also surprised by the take-home winnings. “It’s crazy that people can be able to follow their dreams and be a video game player and make a ton of money. It’s crazy to even think about.”

1,300-plus gaming jobs on offer at Raleigh Major this weekend