The Biggest eSports

eSports have grown tremendously over the years, largely due to the immense popularity of MOBAs. The Dota 2 international finals aired on ESPN3 in 2014 and earlier in 2015, I remember seeing a collegiate game of Heroes of the Storm on live cable TV on ESPN2. Competitive gaming isn't anything new though. Local game stores have long held tournaments for various console and PC games, but the scene really took off over the years and exploded into the mainstream. Prize pools have increased from a couple thousand to hundreds of thousands to millions. eSports is kind of a big deal now and game publishers are finally starting to recognize it. Even mainstream console games like Halo are starting to fund their own eSports tournaments (Microsoft put in $1 million for the Halo World Championships). The global eSports viewership is estimated to be ~134 million people (2015 data) and this number is rapidly increasing.

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The Most Popular eSports Games on PC

League of Legends

2014 World Championship Prize Pool: $2.1 Million
Peak Concurrent Viewers (2014)~11 Million
Total Views World Championship (2014): Over 27 Million
Monthly Active Users (2014): 67 Million

League of Legends is the most successful free to play game and has the largest eSports following in the world. Riot Games launched League of Legends in October 27, 2009, and since its first world championship in 2011, the game's eSports scene exploded in popularity. The League of Legends Season 2 world championship broke all eSports viewing records peaking at 1.1 million concurrent viewers, making it the most watched eSports event in history up until that date. Season 3 peaked at a whopping 8.2 million concurrent viewers. The game's Season 4 championship took place at a FIFA stadium and filled up most of the 45,000+ seats with fans. The season 4 games were streamed live by over 40 broadcasting partners in 19+ languages. Concurrent viewers peaked at ~11 million.

DotA 2

2014 World Championship Prize Pool: $10.9 Million
2015 Prize Pool: ~$17 Million
Peak Concurrent Viewers (2015): Over 4.5 Million
Total Views (2014): Over 20 million
Monthly Active Users (2015): 10.9 Million

Valve's DotA 2 has the biggest prize pool of any eSport in the world 2 years running. Since launching on Steam July 9, 2013, DotA 2 quickly took the #1 spot on Steam as the most played game by active concurrent users. Its $10.9M prize pool in 2014 meant that every member of the 1st place team (Newbee) would take home $1 million. Compared to League of Legend's $250K per player figure, that's impressive. The 2015 International will likely exceed $15 million in total prize pool, so each member of the winning team will take home well over $1 million this year.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

2015 ESL One Katowice Prize Pool: $250,000
2014 Dreamhack Winter: $250,000
Peak Concurrent Viewers ESL One Katowice (2015): ~ 1 Million
Total Views ESL One Katowice (2015): 8.78 Million unique viewers
Monthly Active Users (2015): 6.9 Million

Valve's latest installment in the Counter-Strike series took the world by storm. The game launched on August 21, 2012 with a lukewarm response, but it quickly grew and became the second most popular game on Steam after Dota 2. The Counter-Strike franchise has always been a big eSport, but Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has some of the biggest prize pools in the FPS space. Unlike Dota 2 though, there is no one "big" yearly world championship run by Valve. Instead, various organizations like Dreamhack and ESL run their own yearly competitions. As the second most popular game on Steam though, CS:GO is one of the biggest eSports in the world and still growing.

Smite

2015 World Championship Prize Pool: $2.6 Million
Peak Concurrent World Championships Viewers (2015): No Data, but ~2.9 Million (Unique Cumulative Viewers Peak)
Total Views World Championships (2015): Not disclosed. We only know ~2.9 million unique cumulative viewers watched at once.
Monthly Active Users (2015): ~1-2 Million

Despite its #3 position in the MOBA market, the Smite 2015 World Championship had a bigger prize pool than League of Legend's 2014 world finals. Hi-Rez Studio's Smite launched on March 25, 2014 and quickly grew in popularity by offering a unique MOBA experience. The game's competitive scene has been growing ever year since launch and during the 2015 finals the official Smite channel on twitch reached over a million unique viewers. The finals were held at the Cobb Performing Arts Centre in Atlanta, GA.

World of Tanks

2014 World Championship Prize Pool (Warsaw, Poland): $300,000
Peak Concurrent Viewers Grand Finals (2014): ~120,000
Total Views Grand Finals (2014): 4.3 million
Monthly Active Users (2014): 9.1 Million

With over 100 million registered accounts world-wide, World of Tanks is easily one of the most successful free to play games in the world. Wargaming announced that the game reached over 1.1 million concurrent users in January, 2014. The game is enormously popular in Russia and Asia and only moderately popular in the West. The game made over $369 million in 2014 alone, making it one of the most profitable MMOs.

Hearthstone

2014 World Championship Prize Pool (Blizzcon): $250,000
Peak Concurrent Viewers Blizzcon (2014): ~Over 200K
Total Views Blizzcon (2014): Over 1.5 million
Monthly Active Users (2015): Not released. But the game has over 20 million registered players

Blizzard's collectible card game took the world by storm after launching on March 11, 2014. Even though it launched in early 2014, the game still recorded over $100M in revenue for Activizion Blizzard, making it one of the most successful free to play games. The game's launch on Android and iOS further broadened its playerbase. The 2014 world championship took place at Blizzcon, but that was before the game's official launch. Expect a much bigger tournament at this years Blizzcon.

World of Warcraft

2014 World Championship Prize Pool (Blizzcon): $250,000
Peak Concurrent Viewers Blizzcon (2014): ~Over 200K
Total Views Blizzcon (2014): Over 1.5 million
Monthly Active Users (2015): 7.1 Million

World of Warcraft is still an MMORPG juggernaut despite being released back in 2004. Every year Blizzard Entertainment hosts a world championship tournament at its annual Blizzcon gathering. The prize pool isn't as big as some of the other names on this list, but $250K is still a lot of cash.

Starcraft 2

2015 WCS Season 1 Prize Pool: $281,000
Peak Concurrent Viewers WCS Season 1: ~155K
Monthly Active Users (2015): ~300K

Starcraft 2 launched with quite a bang in 2010, but the game's playerbase has been dwindling over the years. Despite this though, the game still has a fairly active eSports scene. Since its launch, Starcraft 2 has given away over $16 million in prizes across over 2700 tournaments.

The games listed in this article are ordered by a combination of popularity (active users) and prize pools.

Sources:

SuperDataResearch & Statistics from Official game Websites.

Been playing MMOs since I first got my hands on Ultima Online when I was 12 years old. Played so many games from Star Wars Galaxies to MapleStory to DAoC to World of Warcraft. Long time League of Legends player too! I'm also Known as "ReMo" and "Remotay"

  • One day eSports are going to be in the Olympics. Would be awesome to see games like League of Legends or Counter-Strike make it there. I'd actually watch the Olympics then.

    • Nick Krige

      I don't think eSports will ever be in the Olympics. It doesn't really fit the ethos of what the Games are supposed to be about. What I do expect to see is an e-Olympics, kinda like how they have a Winter Olympics for alternative sports.

      • gumby

        I think you're absolutely right. It will air on YouTube and the MMOs team will be the announcers.

      • tiger

        esports titles already have their olympics, just not at the same time. Dota international, lol world championship, wargaming championship, sc2 wcs, HS blizzcon. A lot of players are playing/watching more than one game, so it'd be contradictory to hold everything on the same day(s). Esports is different, and we shouldn't try to approach like traditional sports.

        Winter olympics exist to gather all the people -- as much as they can -- in one place (and sell a lot of tickets), because individually they are weak. But esports don't need these big everything-together events, because we live on the internet. We can access the same coverage (or better) from our home or any place with a connection. That's how strong esports is, and why it will be a huge deal. Not like it's not huge already...

        • Nick Krige

          I disagree completely. Individual sports have their own world cups and stuff as well as the olympics. It doesn't have to replace what is already there but can add to it.

          Also, just because games exist online does not mean we shouldn't get together every now and again to throw a massive offline tournament to celebrate everything eSports. Have you ever been to an event or LAN?

          They are epic and we shouldn't say, "meh we dont need that, we have internetzzzz", because socialising, meeting and hanging out with like-minded people is what hobbies and interests are supposed to be all about.

          The games dont all have to be played at the same time because they are at one event, the Olympic sports dont all happen on one day.

          In fact, the more I reply to your comment, the more I'm starting to realise you don't really get the concept at all.

    • George Angel

      Lol u were right

  • Endscape3

    I'm pretty sure it was Newbee that won the TI 4 for Dota 2 not Alliance! That was 2013!