The first arcade games emerged in the 1970s – and so did competitive gaming. There are still reigning champions in disciplines like Billy Mitchell (Pac-Man), Eric Ginner (Centipede), and the list could go on and on. Games have continued to develop ever since, and so did competitive gaming. From massive LAN parties we went to online games, and finally eSports where professional athletes (gamers) compete in sanctioned competitions for titles and prize money alike.
Competitive gaming or eSports is one of the fastest-growing spectator sports today. Like “real” sports, eSports also routinely show up at bookmakers like Letou that has an entire section dedicated to it. Also, they are on their way to becoming an official Olympic sport – although they won’t be featured at the 2024 Summer Olympics. There are many games played professionally – every major game developer dreams of launching the next big eSports hit – but there are a few that are bigger than most.
5. StarCraft II
ActivisionBlizzard’s epic real-time strategy, released in 2010, continues the tradition of its predecessor. StarCraft was among the first modern-day games to be played professionally
(especially in South Korea), and its sequel, StarCraft II, took over its spot in the players preferences and competitions upon its release. StarCraft II competitions are featured in the World Electronic Sports Games (WESG), the ESL Pro Tour, and other events. To date, SCII competitions paid out over $33 million in prize money.
4. League of Legends
Often considered the biggest eSports phenomenon because of its massive championship, The League of Legends World Championships, LoL is among the most played eSports today. Also, it’s one of the most generous, with more than $70 million in prize money paid out by various competitions.
LoL is a MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) released by Riot Games in 2009, based on a Warcraft III modification. It is the game with probably the highest number of professional players out there.
Epic Games’ Fortnite is a massive global phenomenon, both as a video game and as an eSports discipline. It is a free-to-play TPS (third-person shooter) with a huge global player base and also a sport with its own championship and close to $90 million in prizes paid out over the years.
Fortnite is a ubiquitous game, with pretty much every major professional eSports team having a section specialized in playing it competitively.
2. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO), born out of a Half-Life mod, is probably the eSport with the biggest player base – and one of the highest-paying disciplines out there, with close to $100 million in prizes paid out so far. It’s a classic “terrorists vs soldiers” game where there are multiple ways to win (but most of them involve killing all of the opposing team’s members).
The game itself has been around since 1999 – Valve acquired it and released it in 2000 – and it has been free-to-play since 2018 on Valve’s “Steam” marketplace.
1. DotA 2
“Defense of the Ancients” (DotA) was originally a mod for WarCraft III, first released in 2003. Its sequel developed and published by Valve in 2013, called Defense of the Ancients 2 (DotA 2) was built with competitive gaming in mind – and was pushed into the budding eSports circuit from day one. Similar to League of Legends (which, by the way, was inspired by DotA as well), it is a MOBA with teams of five working together to destroy their opponents’ heroes and bases. It is currently the biggest eSports phenomenon in the world, with a massive global championship called “The International” and prize money worth close to $230 million paid out over the years.