The 2006 World Cyber Games (WCG) will be held in the Autodromo Nazaional, Monza, Italy in October and will offer around US$500,000 in prize money.
Online and offline preliminaries are scheduled to start in April and will be held throughout 70 countries. There are 6 PC and 2 console 'Official' games including PGR 3 for the Xbox 360, Half Life Counter-Strike (my multi-year favorite) and World of Warcraft III: Frozen Throne (the latter game I found from my boss's boss's boss has drained away large amount of his spare time - and he knows what an OPML file is...).
Now, why am I telling you this? Well, apart from wishing I was good enough to be telling that I'm playing in the first round of Half Life CS (which I'm not), the real news is that Microsoft has signed up to be the Games sponsors for the next three year starting with the 2006 WCG Games.
Gaming as a professional sport is still in its early days and there's plenty more to come in this regard, I think. As the Ars Technica article suggests, why couldn't ESPN cover the Halo 3 final of the World Cyber Games on TV? Or broadcast it over the net (via the console...?)...you can see how the gaming world has the potential to develop into a true mass-spectator sport. Watching, live, your favorite team wading through enemies on the big HDTV screen while you're munching hot dogs and swigging beer with friends. Sounds implausable? Maybe, but some probably thought that of Poker TV...