Are you familiar with competitive video gaming? Esports as it’s known and Esports games are already making an impact in the future of sports and entertainment. How so?

Well, consider viewership for esports games is already exceeding that of some traditional sports. Many colleges are offering scholarships to students, and high schools around the world have added esports programs, and consider them a varsity sport.

The phenomenon known as esports is here. What’s driving the popularity of these esports games? There are many factors.

  • Half a billion people play video games worldwide
  • Esports game prize money is over $500 million
  • Fifteen million people watch video game content daily
  • $15 million available in college scholarships for esports games

All of these numbers have seen incredible growth over the last five years. Consider that the 2018 League of Legends World Champion­ship attracted more viewers than the Super Bowl and the NCAA Final Four combined.

Esports gaming is just starting to gain momentum. But what about the esports games themselves? Multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) and battle royale-style games are the most popular. Let’s look at the five biggest esports games.

Popular Esports Games

Here in no particular order of five of the most prominent esports games out there right now.

Dota 2

Dota 2 is a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) video game developed and published by Valve Corporation in 2013. Dota2 is a sequel to Defense of the Ancients (DotA), Defense of the Ancients is a multiplayer online battle arena mod for the video game Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos and its expansion, The Frozen Throne.

Dota 2 is available on Microsoft Windows, OS X, and Linux-based personal computers. Two teams of five players, work as a group occupying and defending their separate base on the game map.

Each of the ten players controls a strong character, known as a “hero,” who all have unique abilities and differing styles of play. During a match, players collect experience points and items for their heroes to successfully defeat the opposing team’s heroes in player versus player combat. A team wins by being the first to destroy the other team’s “Ancient,” a large structure located within their base.

Dota 2 has a massive esports following, and one of the most popular esports games of all time. Dota 2 teams from across the world play in various professional esports leagues and esports tournaments. Valve Corporation manages an event format known as the Dota Pro Circuit, which is a series of minor and major tournaments held every year that award qualification points for getting a direct invitation to The International. The International is the premier tournament of the Dota 2 esports game with a prize pool usually totaling over US$30 million.

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Coverage of most Dota 2 tournaments is done by on-site commentators who provide analysis for the ongoing matches, similar to traditional sporting events. In addition to playing games to a live audience in arenas, broadcasts of them are also streamed live on Twitch and SteamTV. Often television networks cover The International, and viewership can peak in the millions.

Despite some early criticism about its steep learning curve and overall complexity, Dota 2 was renowned for its rewarding gameplay, production quality, and faithfulness to its predecessor, with many considering it to be one of the greatest video games of all time.

Dota 2 eSport Numbers

  • Total Prize Money: $43,807,673.09 *
  • Average Monthly Players: 422,000 **
  • Total 2019 Tournaments: 166 *
  • Total Monthly Viewers: 33,000 ******

League of Legends

League of Legends (LoL) is a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) video game developed and published by Riot Games, released in 2009.

LoL is available for play on Microsoft Windows and macOS.

In League of Legends, players take on the role of an unseen “summoner” that controls a “champion” with unique abilities and battle against a team of other players or computer-assisted champions. The goal is to destroy the opposing team’s “Nexus,” a structure that lies at the heart of a base protected by defensive structures. LoL does offer other distinct game modes as well. Each LoL match is discrete, with all champions starting relatively weak but increases in strength by accumulating items and experience throughout the game.

The champions and game setting blend a variety of elements, including high fantasy, steampunk, and Lovecraftian horror.

After almost three years after its release, League of Legends was the most played PC game in Europe and North America in terms of the number of hours played. League has a big following in the streaming media communities on platforms such as YouTube and Twitch. It routinely ranks first in the most-watched hours on these platforms.

League of Legends has a large following in the world of esports and is considered one of the top esports games today. In North America and Europe, Riot Games organizes the League Championship Series (LCS), located in Los Angles, California and the League of Legends European Championship (LEC), located in Berlin, Germany.

Each of the North America and Europe championships is comprised of 10 professional teams. Similar regional competitions exist in China (LPL), South Korea (LCK), Taiwan/Hong Kong/Macau (LMS), and various other regions.

These regional competitions culminate with the annual World Championship. The 2019 World Championship will offer a US$2 million dollar prize to its winner. LoL also has a massive audience online, over 100 million unique viewers tuned in to the latest World Championship finals. For comparison, last year’s Super Bowl had just over 98 million viewers.

League of Legends eSport Numbers

  • Total Prize Money: $6,531,481.20 *
  • Average Monthly Players: 80 Million ***
  • Total 2019 Tournaments: 147 *
  • Total Monthly Viewers: 89,000 ******

Fortnite

Fortnite is a battle royale video game developed by Epic Games and released in 2017.

It features three distinct game modes that otherwise share the same general gameplay and game engine.

  1. Fortnite – Save the World, is a cooperative shooter-survival game for up to four players to fight off zombie-like creatures and defend objects with defenses they can build.
  2. Fortnite – Battle Royale, is a free-to-play battle royale game where up to 100 players fight to be the last person standing.
  3. Fortnite – Creative, is where players are given complete freedom to create worlds and battle arenas.
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The first two-game modes were released in 2017 and Creative was released in December 2018.

Fortnite’s Battle Royale mode is by far it’s most popular and is available on Windows, macOS, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, iOS, and Android devices. At its peak, the Battle Royale game drew in more than 125 million players and earned hundreds of millions of dollars per month.

Fortnite has made a splash as an esports game too. It has offered a US$100 million in prize money during 2019. The battle royal esports game is so infectious that teenagers have dropped out of school to focus on the game full-time.

Recently the Fortnite World Cup Champions featuring US$30 million in prizes was held in New York, and over 40 million players participated. Only one Fortnite World Cup Champions remain standing. This event was the culmination of 10 weeks of $1 million Online Open Qualifiers with more than 200 countries participating.

Kyle Giersdorf, a sixteen-year-old from Pennsylvania, was crowned the world cup solo winner and was awarded US$3 million.

Fortnite eSport Numbers

  • Total Prize Money: $64,198,550.25 *
  • Average Monthly Players: 78 Million ****
  • Total 2019 Tournaments: 333 *
  • Total Monthly Viewers: 64,000 ******

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO)

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO) is a first-person multiplayer shooter game developed by Hidden Path Entertainment and Valve Corporation.

It is the fourth game in the Counter-Strike series and was released in 2012 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Microsoft Windows, and OS X. The Linux version was released in 2014.

The game faces two teams against each other. You can play as the Terrorists and the Counter-Terrorists. Both sides are tasked with eliminating the other opponents while also completing separate objectives.

There are a total of nine game modes, all of which have distinct characteristics specific to that mode. “Danger Zone,” a battle-royale game-mode, was introduced in 2018. In December 2018, Valve Corporation transitioned the game to a free-to-play model, focusing on revenue from cosmetic items.

CS: GO is one of the top esports games too. It features a biannual championship called The Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Major Championships, commonly known as Majors. The Majors were first introduced in 2013 and featured a total prize pool of US$250,000.

The Major circuit has expanded significantly, over the years and now offers a total prize pool of US$2 million. Twenty-four teams from around the world compete to be crowned the winner.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive eSport Numbers

  • Total Prize Money: $14,108,415.95 *
  • Average Monthly Players: 411,000 **
  • Total 2019 Tournaments: 465 *
  • Total Monthly Viewers: 92,000 ******
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Overwatch

Overwatch is a multiplayer first-person shooter developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment. It was released for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows in 2016, and a port for the Nintendo Switch will be released this year.

Overwatch features two teams of six, with each player selecting from over 30 characters types, known as “heroes.” Each hero has a unique style of play that is divided into three general roles DPS/Damage, tanks, or support.

Players on a team have to work together to secure and defend control points on a map or escort a payload across the map in a limited amount of time. Understanding how to work as a team and leverage each of the three roles is one of the most crucial aspects of the game.

Players gain nonessential rewards that do not affect gameplay, such as character skins and victory poses, as they play the game. The game modes that were initially launched were casual play, with a competitive ranked mode, and various ‘arcade’ game modes.

Additionally, Blizzard has added new characters, maps, and games since release, all free of charge. The only additional cost to players today is optional loot boxes to earn cosmetic items.

The Overwatch League is an international esports competition featuring 20 city-based teams. Each team is comprised of the best Overwatch players on the planet.

The league features 280 regular season matches that begin in February and concludes with postseason playoffs in the fall.

The league offers US$5 million in prizes and league play can be watched on Twitch, ESPN, and Disney XD.

Overwatch eSport Numbers

  • Total Prize Money: $9,078,716.77 *
  • Average Monthly Players: 20 Million est. *****
  • Total 2019 Tournaments: 51 *
  • Total Monthly Viewers: 15,000 ******

Final Thoughts on eSports

Although these are the five esports games we chose to feature, the world of esports games is much larger.

Here are just a small sample of other popular esports games, Starcraft II, Hearthstone, Players Unknown battleground (PUBG), World of Warcraft, Apex Legends, Rocket League, Call of Duty, and FIFA 19.

Esports is relatively young, but because of the worldwide appeal of video games, it has no plans to slow down anytime soon.

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