Readers of this site will be well aware as to the continued growth of the esports industry and its entry into the mainstream. Still, the acceleration of that growth – the entire industry is set to double in size from the five-year-period between 2018-2023 – is remarkable and arguably does not get the recognition it deserves in wider media reporting.
Indeed, as per the latest figures for the esports industry, we are now talking about an industry that almost reaches one billion dollars in prize money annually. The statistics are intriguing, and not just because of the large amounts of money sloshing around the major esports; there’s also evidence of up-and-coming games becoming more popular and getting greater financial backing (more on those later).
First, a look at the top esports by total prize money (sourced from esportsearnings.com):
1: DOTA 2 – $225,772,637.06 (£172,727,899.21)
Still blowing everyone else out of the water with almost a quarter of a billion dollars in revenue, Defence of the Ancients 2 has made history with some of its massive prize pools. It has fewer pro players than other names on this list (3724), something that we can put down to the difficulty level of DOTA 2. It’s become the jewel in Valve’s crown, however.
2: CS: GO – $99,906,448.58 (£76,433,668.87)
The game with more tournaments (12,966) than any other in esports, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has led the way for first-person shooter games in esports since its 2014 release. Its inclusion at number two on this list means that developers Valve can lay claim to having the two esports titles with the biggest prize pools on the planet.
3: Fortnite – $93,103, 597.34 (£71,229,131.16)
One of the biggest games ever released, the phenomenon that is Fortnite just isn’t going away. And yet, many purists claim it should not be considered as an esport. Fortnite tends to operate in its own ecosystem away from other esports, but there is a flood of money in the game and plenty of players worldwide.
4: League of Legends – $76,744,390.37 (£58,713,480.51)
A favourite with esports bettors, perhaps due to the high number of tournaments and range of betting tips, LOL has been an esports fan favourite for over a decade now. The game has won a host of awards, including Best Esports Game at Game Choice Awards and Golden Joystick Awards 2019. Worldwide, there’s almost 2500 tournaments and over 7,000 players.
5: StarCraft II – $33,314,473.08 (£25,487,317.79)
There’s a big drop to StarCraft II in terms of prize money, but we are nevertheless talking about the most significant RTS game ever created, and it even made Time Magazine’s list of the best video games of all time. The game celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, and the hope is that creator, Blizzard Entertainment, will continue to perfect a game with a diehard fanbase. While the list above offers little in the way of shocks in terms of the titles listed, there are some interesting games further down the rankings. For instance, PUBG (Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds) comes in at number six with over $23 million in prize money, and we wonder whether it will soon take a place in the top five. Indeed, it’s interesting to note that PUBG Mobile is on the list (just under $4 million in prize money), and mobile-centric games are expected to have a bigger impact across the 2020s. Further down, it might surprise you to see some of the originals versions of games still being backed with huge prize money. The original Counter-Strike, for example, still has a prize pool over $11 million.