By James Geaves
Esports have seen booming growth in recent years and show no sign of letting up. In terms of audience growth, they have seemingly cruised through the turbulence of the pandemic, a time when the majority of traditional sports have struggled.
According to Newzoo, the esports industry will be valued at $1.7 billion by the end of 2021, and is estimated to generate more revenue than Rugby Union. The growth of esport is attracting an increasing number of lucrative sponsorship and media rights deals looking to appeal to younger audiences and open up to new emerging markets.
But which games really are the most popular amongst fans?
There are several metrics to measure the success of eSports, including prize pool, peak viewership and average viewership.
Here is a breakdown of the Top 10 professional esports games by hours watched in 2020:
1. League of Legends – 440 million hours
League of Legends (LoL) tops the list with a huge 440 million hours watched in 2020. LoL tournaments had a total prize pool of $405 million in 2020 helping maintain its dominance in the esports world. The World Championship, held in September, was won by DAMWON Gaming and attracted 3.8 million viewers. The recent success of LoL has sparked commercial partnerships with RedBull and Kia Motors.
2. Counter Strike: Global Offensive – 215 million hours
First released in 2012, CS:GO has evolved dramatically. Developers Valve Corporation switched to a free-to-play model in 2018 to boost engagement. The esport now has 51 sponsored professional teams, with Danish team Astralis winning the Major Championships in 2020.
3. Dota 2 – 155 million hours
The multiplayer battle arena game has grown considerably as an eSport, now with 24 professional teams, boasting a total prize pool of $157million. The game has become prominent for making strides in AI and machine learning.
4. PUBG Mobile – 105 million hours
PUBG Mobile, a realistic and contemporary war style shooter, published by Tencent for IOS and Android, attracted large viewership in 2020, with 48 professional tournaments. Chinese team, NOVA XQF won the 2020 Global Finals.
5. Arena of Valor – 54 million hours
The fantasy multiplayer battleground game, first released on IOS in 2017 has seen continued success, with nine sponsored professional teams and a total prize pool of $6million in 2020.
6. Garena Free Fire – 47.5 million hours
Garena Free Fire, the Battle Royale style game is exclusive to mobile devices and was hugely popular in 2020. Developers Garena have since recently agreed four blockbuster tournaments across the two pro circuits for 2021.
7. Rocket League - 41.4 million hours
The multi-award winning “car soccer” game has been adopted by the professional eSport ranks, with ESL and Major League Gaming running the Rocket League Championship Series, which now hosts 23 sponsored teams.
8. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege 6 - 32.9 million hours
After initial release in 2016, Ubisoft have since partnered with ESL to take the tactical shooter to the esports market. It has seen huge growth amongst both casual players and aspiring competitors.
9. Overwatch - 23.6 million hours
Released in 2016, Overwatch is a multiplayer first person shooter by Blizzard Entertainment. It has seen continued esport success in 2020, with the highlight of the year being San Francisco Shock’s win of the Overwatch League 2020.
10. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare/ Warzone - 15.7 million hours
Published by Activision in September 2019, the hugely popular first-person shooter attracted a large viewership in 2020. Dallas Empire defeated Atlanta FaZe to win the 2020 League Championship.
There is no doubting the growth potential of the eSports industry. It is an exciting market, with huge commercial potential. It will be interesting to see how it develops over the coming months, especially in emerging markets such as China, India and Brazil.
Sources: Newzoo: Global Market Report 2020 Viewership Figures https://platform.newzoo.com/games/viewership/overview James Geaves is an intern at Unofficial Partner