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Computer Games World Cup Kicks Off in Paris

The World Cup of computer gaming has brought some 700 players from 51 countries to Paris for an intense weekend of virtual combat, a sign of the growth of the "electronic sports" industry .

The players, selected from 500,000 candidates, will compete for a pool of 180,000 dollars (132,000 euros) in prize money at the Electronic Sports World Cup grand final, put on by the Games-Services company. It was taking place at a convention hall on the southwestern edge of Paris.

Gamers arrived with their own keyboards and computer mice -- as important as "a tennis player's racket," according to one organiser. The computers themselves are provided to ensure fairness.

They were facing off in games including Counter-Strike, Pro Evolution Soccer 6 and Quake IV.

The popularity of video gaming has led to the development of professional players, particularly in South Korea where some earn up to two million dollars (1.5 million euros) per year, said Matthieu Dallon, Games-Services president.

"In Korea and in the United States there are television channels 100-percent dedicated to electronic sports," he said.

Svanevik Sondre, a Norwegian player who goes by the name "Real," has sponsorship contracts with Sennheiser, Razer and Qpad -- all big names in the industry. His team is among the favorites to win the Counter-Strike competition.

"We try to practise four hours a day, four days a week, and we intensify before the competition," he said. "I get a salary every month. I cannot tell exactly how much but enough to live, more than a thousand euros."

Besides the gamers, between 40,000 and 50,000 people were expected to attend the competition to watch, participate in tournaments and get a look at new gaming products.


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