eSports is growing with each passing year. There are now more leagues, tournaments, and matches being played on more game titles than ever before. That wouldn’t be possible without the vast increases in the industry’s revenue. The global eSports industry will surpass $1 billion in 2019 for the first time.
That increased cash flow is achieved in a variety of means. Brands like Coca-Cola and Microsoft spend big-money on sponsorship deals for eSports events. Merchandise is available from companies such as ESL Gaming while fans can even bet on eSports matches at sites like Betway. This only makes a career in eSports more lucrative.
The first competitive gaming tournament was a Spacewar competition at Stanford University in 1972. The winner’s prize was a year-long subscription to Rolling Stone magazine. It isn’t the worst reward but the cash flow has certainly increased since then. Today, competitive gamers can be earning six-figure salaries in their teenage years. Success depends on the individual but revenue changes per game title.
We’re at the halfway point in 2019 and players have already earned millions of dollars across a number of different platforms. The order has changed slightly in the last couple of years but some titles are fixed at the top. The first six months of the year have been no exception but it’s important to note that things will change. Many of the biggest tournaments in 2019 are yet to take place which has affected the order. Still, let’s take a look at the five titles which have had the biggest prize pools in 2019 so far.
5. Overwatch – $3.37 million
It’s been another good year for Overwatch eSports. The premier competition – the Overwatch League – is in its second season and continues to attract excellent viewing figures. We’re three-quarters of the way through the season with the big prize still to play for. Despite that, there have still been serious cash up for grabs.
Overwatch players have received $3.35 million with a third of that coming from the first half of the Overwatch League. There are some other major prize pools up for grabs in a second-tier competition. Overwatch Contenders is a global series of leagues that has paid out over $2 million in prize money so far this year.
We can expect this figure to increase massively over the next few months. Blizzard will shell out $5 million in prize money in the Overwatch League alone this year. That is before including other second-tier tournaments or the 2019 Overwatch World Cup.
4. League of Legends – $3.9 million
League of Legends has a far greater number of yearly events than games like Overwatch. 2019 has been no exception with the biggest prize pool of the year being the $1 million kitties at the Mid-Season Invitational. There have been dozens of tournaments with five and six-figure pools so far this year like the LPL Spring.
We can expect that $3.9 million figure to increase enormously over the next six months. League of Legends players received over $14.5 million in prize money in 2018. Almost half of that total came via the LoL 2018 World Championship which concluded in November.
3. Dota 2 – $8.45 million
Another of the big games yet to stage its largest event is Dota 2. The competitive Dota 2 calendar culminates in The International each August. 2018’s tournament had the biggest purse in eSports history with over $25 million paid out to players. This year’s tally has already surpassed that total with $24.9 million already contributed to the pot.
But that’s not to say that Dota 2 hasn’t enjoyed a lucrative competitive gaming year already. There have been some major tournaments like the conclusion of the eleventh season of DreamLeague and the MDL Disneyland Paris Major.
2. Counter-Strike Global Offensive – $10.07 million
CSGO is the exception to the rule when it comes to eSports prize pools. The hugely popular shooter doesn’t follow the same structure as the previous three titles with one major event overshadowing the others. Instead, CSGO players across the world compete in more regular leagues with increasing regularity and prize pots.
2019 has been the same with no fewer than 156 competitive events already concluded this year. The most lucrative of all was the IEM Season XIII - Katowice Major 2019 which saw players receive $2 million in prize money. CSGO players received $22 million in prize money last year and we can expect that figure to be surpassed in 2019.
1. Fortnite – $14.7 million
For the first time ever, Fortnite tops the list of eSports earnings. The Battle Royale mode was only launched in September 2017 but has since become one of the most popular games on the planet. The competitive side of the game is also a relatively new addition but developer Epic has plunged big money into its development.
Players are starting to see the financial benefit of that with over $14.7 million in earnings so far in 2019. There have been some impressive prize pools so far in the competitive calendar but the biggest by far has been the Fortnite World Cup Qualifiers. Players earned over $12 million from the event, more than almost every game pays out in a year. The finals take place in July with an estimated prize pot of $30 million up for grabs. It looks as if Fortnite might just surpass Dota 2 in 2019 and become the most lucrative title in eSports.