Esports games are defined as video game competitions that fans can watch and place bets on. The industry has exploded in popularity in recent years, with a growing number of video game players turning a passionate hobby into a moneymaking venture. Today’s esports tournaments are some of the most high profile in entertainment. Tournaments are held for each of the most popular games among players.
Top Esports Games
One of the industry’s highest profile games, by far, is League of Legends (LOL). As a Massive Online Battle Arena (MOBA,) it sets the bar for every other esports game played. Thousands of LOL competitions have been held in the game’s 11 year history. Though the game is popular all over the world, its biggest claim to fame is found in South Korea. Of the top 10 LOL players, eight of them reside there.
Dota 2 is LOL’s biggest rival in the world of esports, and is popular in many more countries than LOL is. The core of Dota 2 players ranked the best reside in Asian countries. The game is also super hot in nations like Romania, China, the U.S. and France. The top Dota 2 players in the world come from these regions.
When it comes to cash prizes awarded to tournament winners, Dota 2 far exceeds LOL. Its annual International event is funded in ways that make Dota 2 the most profitable game in the industry. A large part of the prize money comes from the sale of in-game content and challenges. With a quarter of the profits being used to fund tournament prizes, the top payout is $34.3 million.
Interestingly enough, despite the massive prize money, Dota 2 still has fewer players than LOL.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Another of the heavy hitters in the world of esports is Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. One reason for its popularity is because the game is updated so frequently. The purchase of knives and weapons in the game has made a significant amount of money for CS:GO.
Tournament play nets the game even more, and draws in spectators from all over the world. There are no lack of CS:GO tournaments to choose from either. It is the highlight of leagues including ESL Pro, and BLAST Premier. These leagues host some of the game’s largest tournaments every year.
In 2019, the IEM Katowice tournament, one of the biggest in the industry, drew a record number of viewers at 1.2 million. The prize pool for the tournament was set at $1 million.
Not to be overlooked is Fortnite. This is one of the newest games in the industry, having only been released in 2017. Since then, it has made its mark on esports. By mid 2019, there were 250 million players from all over the world, competing for the spotlight. It is among the games that even those not interested in esports have at least heard of.
Its popularity is partly due to the amount of prize money tournament winners are awarded. The only two games that pay tournament winners more than Fortnite does are Dota 2 and CS:GO
Call of Duty
Though just as popular, Call of Duty (COD,) works differently than most other esports games do. It is one of the only console games in the industry. The main reason for its popularity is that a new version of it is released every year.
Due to the unique setup of COD, its leagues are based on franchises, of which there are currently 12. The leagues are spread out among parts of Europe and North America. Some of the better known COD leagues are the Toronto Ultras, London Royal Ravens, and Los Angeles Guerillas. These days league events are generally held every other week. Prize pools for these leagues come in at $6, with all 12 leagues participating.
COD isn’t the only esports game that supports frequent league play. Though Overwatch and Overwatch 2 both have a place in the industry, the original version of the game is played more frequently. With 20 teams competing, events are held 26 weeks a year.
More than any other country, players in the U.S. and South Korea dominate Overwatch. Of the top 25 ranked players (based on amount of money won,) only one of them is located outside of South Korea and the U.S. The most watched event is the Overwatch World Cup. Players that hope to break into esports are invited to try their luck in the Overwatch Open Division.
Racing Games In Esports
In an announcement that shocked many in the industry, Lamborghini is delving into the esports industry. The luxury car brand has teamed up with Assetto Corsa Competizione to turn the world of competitive gaming upside down. This video game is being used by Lamborghini to launch a brand new esports series they have dubbed The Real Race.
For the summer of 2020 anyone can compete in one of five qualifying events for the series, which are being held on consecutive weekends. The drivers that rank at the top after the qualifying events will receive complementary airfare, courtesy of Lamborghini, to Italy to compete in the event finale, set to be held in September 2020.
Fans of racing games also have Nissan to thank. In 2018, the car maker struck a deal with Gran Turismo and became the hosts of the Nissan GT Sport Cup. Other race car series, called iRacing in the world of esports, have been created by both Porsche and BMW. Even Ferrari is preparing to enter the industry with its own iRacing series.
It is a safe bet that more and more car manufacturers will be launching their own series of games. This is just one example of how the industry is constantly growing and attracting people that previously weren’t interested in it. The rise of esports games is something that is expected to continue for many years.
Esports has become so popular in recent years that new video games have been created specifically to be played in the industry. Yet there is also a place in esports for some of the retro games that players grew up honing their skills on.
How Select Retro Games Become Esports
There are a few requirements a retro game must meet before it is suitable to be played under the umbrella of esports. The most obvious is that it has to be popular with players. But it also has to be a game that you can easily be watched by spectators. When players are in control, spectators want to watch. Games they can’t exert control over don’t fit the requirements to serve as an esports game. This means that playing versus a computer is frowned upon, because options are too limited. When players can compete against each other to take home top honors, the esports industry is fueled.
The Role of Fighting Games In Esports
Some of the most popular retro titles to become competitive games are those based on fighting. Since fights are naturally competitive, it makes these games perfect for esports. Many professional players even prefer these to other types of titles.
In fact, the Evolution Championship Series is a yearly tournament that takes place in Las Vegas and features fighting games. While tournaments in the past have pitted players against each other in both Tekken 7, and Fighter V, there are retro titles played in the tournament as well. Many viewers flocked to the tournament featuring Super Smash Bros, and Ultimate Marvel Vs Capcom 3.
After the 1996 release of Super Mario Kart, an official championship tournament featuring the game was launched. Every year, the tournament attracts the best Super Mario Kart players in the world.
One of the game’s top players has stated that the reason Super Mario Kart is so suited to be an esport is because there are always world records to beat and new game strategies for players to discover. This gives the game the relevance it needs to meet the needs of the industry.
When it comes to esports, the competition among game titles is stiff. Players can make or break a game, whether it is a new release or not. To find its place in the industry, any game has to be updated and improved on an ongoing basis. Those that aren’t are often tossed aside by players in favor of titles that do receive frequent upgrades to every important aspect of them. In this way, esports players are shaping the future of this popular past time. They are taking retro games and breathing new life into them.
Retro World Series
Though it isn’t as well known as it probably should be, the Retro World Series is the home of retro game online tournaments. While professionals are welcome to compete in it, this series can also be a great way to resurrect the video games of your childhood. Tournaments are held for games designed for the following consoles:
- Atari 2600
- Atari 7800
- Sega Master System
- Game Boy
- Sega 32X
- Nintendo 64
- Sega Genesis
- Sega Dreamcast
- Playstation 2
This tournament was launched in 2016 and has been held every year since then. That year’s tournament pitted players against each other in games of Mortal Kombat II, Street Fighter 2: Special Champion Edition, and Real Sports Boxing, among others.
Shortly after the Retro World Series started in 2016, a partnership was formed with a company called Reaction Games. This enabled the live streaming of the Retro World Series event on Twitch. As a result, the series gained traction with players and spectators around the world.
The Top Retro Games In Esports
There are certain retro games that have stood the test of time among esports players. One of the most popular is Super Street Fighter II: Turbo. As far back as 2014, the Tournament of Legends drew qualified players from all over the world to compete in the classic sequel to Street Fighter. The finals for that tournament were played using Japanese arcade cabinets, by esports pros such as Daigo Umehara, and Justin Wong, among others.
Another retro game that esports players love is Mario Kart 8. The yearly Nintendo World Championships is held in France each August. Both multiplayer and time trial modes are included in the tournament, which is broadcast live on Twitch.
Rounding out the three most popular retro games in esports is Super Smash Bros. Melee. EVO Tournaments regularly include competitions for this game. In July 2014, it was featured at a tournament in Las Vegas with close to 1,000 players in competition. The game is also a staple at Texas’s Classic Game Fest.