Since the dawn of time, man has competed against fellow man for gold and glory. Cavemen clubbed each other to death, Spartans raced up and down Greece's hills at heart-thumping pace, and skilled archers and riflemen altered the course of battles. Today, we call such competition 'sport', and we try to be quite civilised about it. So civilised, in fact, that you can now do it from your desk... Enter, eSports: the professionalisation of video gaming. No longer a pastime of purported basement-dwellers and arcade-loitering youths, gaming is now a valid career choice for a skilled few. Teenagers are earning millions, signing lucrative sponsorship deals, and dating supermodels, all because they can play games really, really well. But what makes eSports so popular? Gaming, just like any sport, is something people inherently enjoy doing. When you get lots of people doing one thing, talented individuals will emerge. If you like a particular game, it makes sense that you would want to see the very best players of that game compete. It’s entertaining and inspiring. And now it’s getting the recognition it deserves.
League of Legends
League of Legends is arguably the most popular title in the professional gaming circuit right now. The 2014 World Championships was the most viewed eSports event of the year. Its popularity largely stems from the game’s sprawling player base. Recent figures are hard to come by, however. The last official stats from Riot came in January 2014, with the studio revealing that 67 million gamers were playing the title each month. What’s more, 27 million users play at least one game daily, and peak daily figures total around 7.5 million. Social gaming site Raptr claims League of Legends holds a 19.97% share of PC games played in January this year, which puts it in top spot for the world’s most popular game. The hype clearly hasn’t died out, then.
The original Counter-Strike launched in 1999, and has been a staple of PC gaming ever since. This enduring popularity helped grow the game’s competitive scene, with the original title now having awarded over $10 million in prize funding over 540 tournaments. Its sequel, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, launched in 2012, has seen similar success, with competitions doling out over $4 million across 615 tournaments – that’s over just three years.
Dota 2 isn’t the most popular game on this list, nor are its tournaments the most viewed. Neither fact stops it from being the most lucrative eSports title in the world, however. If professional gamers want to earn serious cash, there’s no better keyboard-and-mouse outlet to pick than Dota 2. All of the top ten highest earners in eSports are Dota 2 players. The top five have all accrued north of $1 million each in prize money alone. And The International 2014 Dota 2 tournament offered up the biggest prize pool in eSports history – over $10 million.