League of Legends
Boasting a player base of around 250 million and playing host to some of the most famous events and players from anywhere in the world of competitive gaming, League of Legends is arguably the first game people jump to when they imagine Esports in action.
The Riot Games flagship title led the way for gaming as a niche pursuit with its annual World Championships, first held back in 2011 in Jonkoping and seeing Fnatic sweep to victory on home soil. Whilst the event itself only pulled together a couple hundred spectators during its first outing, it proved to be a seriously viral experience online, helped grow the League of Legends betting community, and had an average viewership of 200,000 for its Grand Final. SK Telecom remain the most successful side in the competition’s history with three wins between 2013 and 2016, and the 2019 edition of the event broke records with its $2.2 million prize purse and its peak viewership of 44 million spectators online.
Whilst its long-standing rival Dota 2 has seen its viewership and general begin to wane in recent times, there’s seemingly no stopping the League of Legends train at this point. The game is predicted to hit 120 million active players each month this year and, though it has been cancelled this year following the COVID-19 breakout, the Worlds look set to continue being the gaming world’s most prestigious tournament.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
The world’s hottest Esport currently, CS:GO has ridden the wave of blossoming popularity for the Esports industry much better than most. Considerably easier to hop into and understand, CS:GO blends together the high skill ceiling and strategy needed to entice a strong professional player base whilst simultaneously keeping everything straightforward enough for casuals to grasp after just a few hours of interaction.
Events such as IEM Katowice and ESL One Cologne have become some of the most hotly-anticipated across the Esports calendar, and never fail to draw in impressive prize pools and absolute armies of passionate fans. Game developers Valve also step in to make the CS:GO calendar as impressive as possible, sponsoring two events across the year that become the Major Championships and carry prize pools of $1 million each.
The game currently boasts a healthy meta, is regularly updated by Valve and even managed to break its own concurrent player record multiple times over the course of the year so far, highlighting its continued impressive growth.
It takes a special kind of game to break the hegemony of the big three Esports titles of Dota 2, CS:GO and League of Legends that have been at the top of the tree for the past decade or so, but Fortnite is exactly that kind of special game.
The most influential cultural phenomenon to have emerged from the gaming community in some time, everyone around the world knows what Fortnite is at this point. Epic Games’ venture into the Battle Royale scene has taken the gaming world by storm, triggering a rejuvenation of interest in the genre and making more than couple Esports titles begin looking nervously over their shoulders.
The 2019 Fortnite World Cup was the first major event competitive Fortnite had hosted, and it broke into the mainstream in a way no other game had ever managed. It’s $35 million prize pool split between its Solos and Doubles modes was a record at the time for the industry, and 16 year old Solos winner Bugha became both a millionaire and a superstar after winning the event.