Whether you’re a fan of long-running titles like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2, or prefer action-packed games of competitive Fortnite or Apex Legends, 2019 was an exhilarating year for esports.
Prize pool records have been smashed this year while more non-gaming brands have sponsored and invested in teams and tournaments. Intel even managed to secure an Olympics-backed esports event featuring Rocket League and Street Fighter V for Tokyo 2020.
The scene, as a whole, is thriving. But there are already some standout games carving their names into esports history this year. The stalwarts of esports, such as League of Legends, CS:GO, Dota 2, and Overwatch have all had great years in terms of viewership and engagement, while games such as Fortnite have began to establish themselves as top competitive games. But which is the best esports game in terms of viewership, prize pools, and number of tournaments throughout the year?
What are the biggest esports games?
The term ‘biggest’ can be construed in many ways. Are the ‘biggest’ esports the most watched? The ones with the most prize money? Or the ones that are most widely played?
For this particular breakdown, we’ll take all the top-tier and premier esports tournaments in 2019 and look at the total prize money offered, the number of tournaments, and the most viewed tournament for each game.
- League of Legends
Total prize money: $8,948,000 (£6,917,000)
Number of tournaments: 45
Most viewed tournament: League of Legends Worlds (3.9 million)
Total prize money: $64,338,000 (£49,883,000)
Number of tournaments: 22
Most viewed tournament: Fortnite World Cup (2.3 million)
- Dota 2
Total prize money: $46,150,000 (£35,679,000)
Number of tournaments: 24
Most viewed tournament: The International (2 million)
Total prize money: $17,578,000 (£13,590,000)
Number of tournaments: 34
Most viewed tournament: IEM Katowice Major (1.2 million)
Fortnite’s entry into the esports scene has seen it dish out the most prize money collectively, despite Dota 2 holding the record for the biggest prize pot at a single event at this year’s International.
Epic’s battle royale is also second only in viewership to the behemoth that is League of Legends. The MOBA has had the most tournaments, due to the multiple regional leagues that cover every corner of the globe. Despite topping the table for viewership numbers, LoL lags behind Fortnite, Dota 2 and CS:GO in terms of the amount of prize money being dished out.
Read more: Get to grips with ranks in our LoL rankings guide
The argument for ‘biggest’ esport surely has to be won by one of these four. Which one takes the crown, however, is down to what you value the most.
What are the most popular esports by tournament?
Popularity can be defined by a number of variables, but when looking at popularity in esports, the viewership behind each game is arguably the best indicator.
The most-watched esports event of all time is the 2018 League of Legends Worlds Final. It had a peak global viewership of 205 million people, with shared audience view time totalling 6.19 billion hours. This year’s Worlds, which is rapidly approaching, is likely to top this.
However, which esports have drawn in the most viewers so far this calendar year?
|1||League of Legends||3.9 million||LoL Worlds 2019|
|2||Fortnite||2.3 million||Fortnite World Cup 2019|
|3||Dota 2||2 million||The International 2019|
|4||Free Fire||2 million||Free Fire World Series 2019 Rio|
|5||CS:GO||1.2 million||IEM Katowice Major 2019|
|6||PUBG||980k||PUBG Korea League Phase 1|
|7||Arena of Valor||764k||Arena of Valor World Cup 2019|
|8||Overwatch||612k||Netease Esports X Tournament Winter|
|9||Apex Legends||570k||Twitch Rivals Apex Legends Challenge|
|10||Hearthstone||357k||Hearthstone World Championship 2019|
The above table shows viewership figures from escharts.com for the most-watched esport event in 2019 tied to a specific game.
Based on the above numbers, League of Legends is, of course, the most popular esport by a substantial margin. Not only did it break the record for the most watched esports event ever (excluding Chinese audiences) with coverage of Worlds 2019, it’s collective viewership is massive due to the number of regional leagues that run throughout the year.
Battle royale games also dominate the top ten, with both Fortnite and Apex Legends pulling in big audiences, reflecting the game’s popularity on streaming platforms such as Twitch.
Free Fire, a mobile battle royale popular in Asia, has drawn in huge viewing figures this year despite not having much of a market in North America and most of Europe, showing how influential the Asian audience can be.
Big FPS titles, such as Rainbow Six Siege and Call of Duty, have missed out on being in the top ten, likely due to the overwhelming popularity of the battle royale wave.