Most Popular eSports Games

Electronic sports is an incredibly fast-growing field. It’s hard to find a person in today’s society who doesn’t know what it is… but let’s ask ourselves what games do people actually think of when they hear the word “eSports”? Which eSports titles are the most popular?

What are the Most Popular eSports Games?

The two most popular eSports games are Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and League of Legends. Both of these titles are extremely popular worldwide and have regular tournaments with large prize pools; the developers of both of these games together have invested nearly $25 million in eSports over the past decade.

The Most Highly Awarded eSports

Now let’s take a look at which eSports game you can make the most money in. To find that out, we have created a list of the top 10 games with the most considerable money awards.

  • Counter-Strike: Global Offensive — $15.85 million
  • Dota 2 — $9.32 million
  • League of Legends — $8.11 million
  • Fortnite — $7.88 million
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare — $6.27 million
  • Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds — $6.19 million
  • Overwatch — $5.15 million
  • Rainbow Six Siege — $5.10 million
  • Hearthstone — $4.12 million
  • Rocket League — $3.20 million

If we add all these numbers up, the total comes to a whopping $71.19 million from just the top 10 most paid eSports titles! Although these numbers are only from official tournaments, there is a good chance that the distribution looks similar for community/small organization events. The more popular a specific eSports game is, the more likely there will be people who want to invest in it, so even in unofficial tournaments, you might be able to make a few bucks.

The Most Watched eSports

Most esports enthusiasts have a taste for First-Person-Shooters (Counter-Strike, Overwatch, Rainbow Six Siege, Call of Duty, Halo), MOBAs (League of Legends, Dota 2), and Battle royale games (Fortnite, PUBG). The MOBA and FPS games are the most-watched, and other genres are not even close. The most viewed eSports event in the history is the 2018 Mid-Season Invitational Tournament in League of Legends (60 million unique viewers), followed by IEM Katowice 2017 in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (45 million unique viewers). Games like FIFA and Hearthstone are also quite popular to watch, mainly because they are not too complicated, and you don’t need much experience to tell what is happening on the screen.

This is what most watched eSports games look like in statistics:

league of legends

League of Legends

  • Genre: MOBA (Multiplayer-Online-Battle-Arena)
  • Release date: October 27, 2009
  • Studio: Riot Games
  • Number of active players: 115 million
  • Average number of Twitch.tv viewers: 190 thousand
  • All-time viewer peak on Twitch.tv: 2 million (October 2020)
  • Cash prizes: over $84 million from 2602 tournaments (source: esportsearnings.com)
  • Highest earning player: Lee “Faker” Sang Hyeok ($1.259 million)

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO)

  • Genre: FPS (First-Person-Shooter)
  • Release date: August 21, 2012
  • Studio: Valve
  • Number of active players: 24 million
  • Average number of Twitch.tv viewers: 69 thousand
  • All-time viewer peak on Twitch.tv: 1.3 million (January 2018)
  • Cash prizes: over $115 million from 5721 tournaments (source: esportsearnings.com)
  • Highest earning player: Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen ($1.910 million)

Fortnite

  • Genre: Battle royale
  • Release date: July 25, 2017
  • Studio: Epic Games
  • Number of active players: 22.5 million
  • Average number of Twitch.tv viewers: 108 thousand
  • All-time viewer peak on Twitch.tv: 2.2 million (June 2020)
  • Cash prizes: over $102 million from 711 tournaments (source: esportsearnings.com)
  • Highest earning player: Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf ($3.159 million)

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

  • Genre: FPS (First-Person-Shooter)
  • Release date: October 25, 2019
  • Studio: Infinity Ward / Activision
  • Number of active players: 9 million
  • Average number of Twitch.tv viewers: 11 thousand
  • All-time viewer peak on Twitch.tv: 165 thousand (November 2020)
  • Cash prizes: $7.5 million from 81 tournaments (source: esportsearnings.com)
  • Highest earning player: James “Clayster” Eubanks ($365.5 thousand)

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege

  • Genre: FPS (First-Person-Shooter)
  • Release date: December 1, 2015
  • Studio: Ubisoft
  • Number of active players: 2.5 million
  • Average number of Twitch.tv viewers: 23 thousand
  • All-time viewer peak on Twitch.tv: 272.7 thousand (May 2021)
  • Cash prizes: $17 million from 278 tournaments (source: esportsearnings.com)
  • Highest earning player: Niclas “Pengu” Mouritzen ($370 thousand)

Dota 2

  • Genre: MOBA
  • Release date: July 9, 2013
  • Studio: Valve
  • Number of active players: 7.6 million
  • Average number of Twitch.tv viewers: 71 thousand
  • All-time viewer peak on Twitch.tv: 1 million (August 2019)
  • Cash prizes: $234.7 million from 1518 tournaments (source: esportsearnings.com)
  • Highest earning player: Johan “N0tail” Sundstein ($6.9 million)

Overwatch

  • Genre: FPS (First-Person-Shooter)
  • Release date: May 24, 2016
  • Studio: Blizzard Entertainment
  • Number of active players: 10 million
  • Average number of Twitch.tv viewers: 20 thousand
  • All-time viewer peak on Twitch.tv: 439 thousand (January 2018)
  • Cash prizes: $27 million from 750 tournaments (source: esportsearnings.com)
  • Highest earning player: Kim “Rascal” Dong-jun ($331 thousand)

Hearthstone

  • Genre: CCG (Collectible Card Game)
  • Release date: March 11, 2014
  • Studio: Blizzard Entertainment
  • Number of active players: 23.5 million
  • Average number of Twitch.tv viewers: 21 thousand
  • All-time viewer peak on Twitch.tv: 310 thousand
  • Cash prizes: $25 million from 924 tournaments (source: esportsearnings.com)
  • Highest earning player: Thijs “Thijs” Molendijk ($501 thousand)

Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG)

  • Genre: Battle royale
  • Release date: March 23, 2017
  • Studio: KRAFTON
  • Number of active players: 20 million (including mobile)
  • Average number of Twitch.tv viewers: 18 thousand
  • All-time viewer peak on Twitch.tv: 597 thousand (July 2018)
  • Cash prizes: $33 million from 333 tournaments (source: esportsearnings.com)
  • Highest earning player: Bak “Loki” Jeong Yeong ($892 thousand)

FIFA 21

  • Genre: Sports
  • Release date: October 6, 2020
  • Studio: EA Sports
  • Number of active players: N/A
  • Average number of Twitch.tv viewers: 20 thousand
  • All-time viewer peak on Twitch.tv: 890 thousand
  • Cash prizes: $424 thousand from 8 tournaments (source: esportsearnings.com)
  • Highest earning player: Oliver “OliverPN” Nielsen ($75 thousand)

Starcraft II

  • Genre: RTS (Real-time strategy)
  • Release date: June 27, 2010
  • Studio: Blizzard Entertainment
  • Number of active players: 500 thousand
  • Average number of Twitch.tv viewers: 4 thousand
  • All-time viewer peak on Twitch.tv: 150 thousand (November 2018)
  • Cash prizes: $34 million from 6068 tournaments (source: esportsearnings.com)
  • Highest earning player: Lee “Rogue” Byung Ryul ($917 million)

call-of-duty-modern-warfare

Niche eSports

Let’s take a look at some more games that are not as popular as those mentioned above but have some esports potential. Some of these games’ developers choose not to invest in developing a competitive system, so most tournaments result from community initiatives. For example, Nintendo has repeatedly banned some large organizations (such as Dreamhack) from hosting events in Super Smash Bros, so most eSports in this game are low-prize community tournaments.

Halo 5: Guardians

  • Genre: FPS (First-Person-Shooter)
  • Release date: October 27, 2015
  • Studio: 343 Industries
  • Number of active players: 500 thousand
  • Average number of Twitch.tv viewers: 653
  • All-time viewer peak on Twitch.tv: 127 thousand (January 2018)
  • Cash prizes: $7 million from 75 tournaments
  • Highest earning player: Tony “Lethul” Campbell ($578 thousand)

Battlefield V

  • Genre: FPS (First-Person-Shooter)
  • Release date: November 9, 2018
  • Studio: EA DICE
  • Number of active players: 30 thousand
  • Average number of Twitch.tv viewers: 1 thousand
  • All-time viewer peak on Twitch.tv: 287 thousand
  • Cash prizes: $0 (no official or licensed tournaments)
  • Highest earning player: N/A

Heroes of the Storm

  • Genre: MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena)
  • Release date: June 2, 2015
  • Studio: Blizzard Entertainment
  • Number of active players: 3 million
  • Average number of Twitch.tv viewers: 2 thousand
  • All-time viewer peak on Twitch.tv: 126 thousand (April 2017)
  • Cash prizes: $18 million from 476 tournaments (source: esportsearnings.com)
  • Highest earning player: Jeong “KyoCha” Won Ho ($464.5 thousand)

Smite

  • Genre: MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena)
  • Release date: March 25, 2014
  • Studio: Hi Rez Studios
  • Number of active players: N/A
  • Average number of Twitch.tv viewers: 7 thousand
  • All-time viewer peak on Twitch.tv: 103 thousand (January 2017)
  • Cash prizes: $9 million from 97 tournaments (source: esportsearnings.com)
  • Highest earning player: John “BaRRaCCuDDa” Salter ($337 thousand)

Street Fighter V

  • Genre: Fighting game
  • Release date: February 15, 2020
  • Studio: Capcom
  • Number of active players: 500 thousand
  • Average number of Twitch.tv viewers: 1 thousand
  • All-time viewer peak on Twitch.tv: 216 thousand (July 2017)
  • Cash prizes: $2 million from 120 tournaments (source: esportsearnings.com)
  • Highest earning player: Du Cong “Nuckle Du” Dang ($296 thousand)

Super Smash Bros Ultimate

  • Genre: Fighting game
  • Release date: December 7, 2018
  • Studio: Nintendo / Bandai Namco
  • Number of active players: N/A
  • Average number of Twitch.tv viewers: 4 thousand
  • All-time viewer peak on Twitch.tv: 272 thousand (August 2019)
  • Cash prizes: $1 million from 1448 tournaments (source: esportsearnings.com)
  • Highest earning player: Leonardo “MKLeo” Perez ($125 thousand)

World of Tanks

  • Genre: MMO (Massively multiplayer online game)
  • Release date: August 12, 2010
  • Studio: Wargaming
  • Number of active players: 13 million
  • Average number of Twitch.tv viewers: 6 thousand
  • All-time viewer peak on Twitch.tv: 131 thousand (September 2020)
  • Cash prizes: $3 million from 50 tournaments (source: esportsearnings.com)
  • Highest earning player: Vladislav “Neskwi” Kanaev ($116 thousand)

most popular esport call of duty warzone

Rising eSports

Finally, let’s look at the games that could be the future of eSports. After the success of PUBG and Fortnite, the interest in Battle royale games has increased, so a large part of the largest game developers decide to invest in productions in this genre. Great examples would be games like Call of Duty: Warzone or Apex Legends, which together have as many as 40 million active players. Another exciting game genre that has recently gained popularity is Auto battlers. The most famous production of this type is Teamfight Tactics, a copy of the renowned modification to Dota 2 called “Auto Chess” but with heroes and items from League of Legends.

Valorant

  • Genre: FPS (First-Person-Shooter)
  • Release date: June 2, 2020
  • Studio: Riot Games
  • Number of active players: 14 million
  • Average number of Twitch.tv viewers: 114 thousand
  • All-time viewer peak on Twitch.tv: 1.7 million (April 2020)
  • Cash prizes: $4.9 million from 376 tournaments (source: esportsearnings.com)
  • Highest earning player: Jared “zombs” Gitlin ($89 thousand)

Apex Legends

  • Genre: Battle royale
  • Release date: February 4, 2019
  • Studio: Electronic Arts
  • Number of active players: 20 million
  • Average number of Twitch.tv viewers: 65 thousand
  • All-time viewer peak on Twitch.tv: 674 thousand (February 2019)
  • Cash prizes: $6 million from 335 tournaments (source: esportsearnings.com)
  • Highest earning player: Philip “ImperialHal” Dosen ($131.5 thousand)

Call of Duty: Warzone

  • Genre: Battle royale
  • Release date: March 10, 2020
  • Studio: Activison
  • Number of active players: 20 million
  • Average number of Twitch.tv viewers: 122 thousand
  • All-time viewer peak on Twitch.tv: 1.6 million (April 2021)
  • Cash prizes: $5.2 million from 189 tournaments (source: esportsearnings.com)
  • Highest earning player: Aydan “Aydan” Conrad ($256 thousand)

Teamfight Tactics

  • Genre: Auto battler
  • Release date: June 26, 2019
  • Studio: Riot Games
  • Number of active players: 33 million
  • Average number of Twitch.tv viewers: 365 thousand (July 2019)
  • All-time viewer peak on Twitch.tv: 16 thousand
  • Cash prizes: $1 million from 16 tournaments
  • Highest earning player: Emre “Double61” Demitras ($41.5 thousand)

valorant

Conclusion

As you can see, eSports is far more than just video game competition — it’s also a large fanbase and incredible money. In the most popular eSports titles, the earnings of even mediocre-level competitors can be enormous. Some professional players have already proven that they can make a living out of it, and we think that there will be more and more of them every year. Who knows, maybe you’ll happen to be one of them?