Video games have evolved a ton since the early days of Pong and Pac-Man. Modern games on consoles like PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X feature visuals so real, you would think you were watching a movie.
In a similar vein, competitive gaming has also seen tremendous evolution over the years.
Ever since a group of Stanford University students got together in 1972 to challenge each other’s skills in a game called Spacewar, competitive gaming has continued to evolve.
Over the years, competitive gaming grew from kids fighting for the high score in arcades to gaming tournaments packing arenas across the world. Professional gaming may have once sounded preposterous to parents, but now the phenomenon of eSports has truly taken the world by storm.
Today, eSports is a billion-dollar industry with major franchises, large endorsement deals and high cash prizes.
As a result, eSports programs are even being offered in school. Students can participate in school-sponsored eSports leagues at both the high school and collegiate levels,. Some universities even offer full degrees in the field of eSports.
As eSports continues to rise and evolve within mainstream culture, it’s no wonder that more and more game developers are creating games with that emphasize competition.
But what are the biggest eSports games in 2022? Here are some insights as to which games are most popular, which have the biggest tournament pools, and more.
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What Does the Word “Biggest” Mean in the World of eSports?
Generally defining what it means to be the “biggest” game in eSports is a challenge. Within the complex landscape of eSports, that word can mean many things.
Some people may label the biggest eSports games as the titles with the best sales while others may argue that measuring the number of worldwide players is the only valid measurement.
Because defining the biggest eSports games using only one measurement fails to offer a fair analysis, we’re going to examine the biggest titles based on multiple factors.
The Biggest eSports Games in Terms of Players
Just like any other sport, eSports has its share of star players. While football and basketball have star athletes like Tom Brady and LeBron James, eSports has the likes of Faker, Xyp9x and MATUMBAMAN.
In addition to such players being the most popular to viewers, their influence stretches into which video games aspiring eSports players choose to get into.
For that reason, examining the games that the most popular eSports athletes play helps give us a better idea on which games are the biggest in terms of players.
For example, Faker has become widely popular for his championship victories in League of Legends. And in terms of total players, League of Legends is commonly considered the biggest eSports game. Over 27 million people play that game daily.
Counter-Strike Global Offensive (CS:GO) is the second most popular eSports game. With star players, such as Xyp9x, dupreeh and dev1ce, CS:GO tournaments draw in millions of viewers.
In fact, the 2019 CS:GO World Championship attracted over 195 million viewers.
Other popular eSports games in terms of players and viewers include Defense of the Ancients 2 (Dota 2) and Overwatch. In 2019, both games’ championship tournaments brought in over a million viewers each.
Star players like MATUBAMAN (Dota 2) and Gesture (Overwatch) can partially be thanked for the high viewership.
The large audience watching eSports tournaments has been steadily on the rise in recent years, too. Statista reports that from 2019 to 2021, the global eSports audience increased from around 398 million to 436 million viewers.
In addition, they predict that by 2024, the worldwide eSports audience will surpass 577 million viewers.
The Biggest eSports Games in Terms of Sales
Breaking down the biggest eSports games in terms of sales can be challenging since not all the best-selling video games become eSports. Additionally, not all eSports titles rank among the highest-grossing sales.
However, when you look at the list of video games with the best sales figures, you will notice that some have become popular in the world of eSports.
One notable example is the soccer franchise FIFA.
Although FIFA is a series that publishes a new game yearly, its 2017 entry FIFA 18 sold 24 million copies worldwide.
Another franchise popular in eSports with record sales is Super Smash Bros.
Nintendo’s platform fighter series allows players to control some of the most popular gaming icons like Mario and Pikachu and battle across several iconic stages. Its most recent installment, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate managed to sell well over 27 million copies worldwide.
Activision’s Call of Duty games are also popular in the world of eSports. Like FIFA, Call of Duty also offers yearly installments. However, the famous first-person shooter series features multiple titles within the top-50 highest selling games.
The three best-selling games within the Call of Duty franchise include Black Ops (26,200,000 units), Modern Warfare 3 (26,500,000 units) and Modern Warfare (30,000,000 units).
Out of all the best-selling eSports games, however, PUBG: Battlegrounds is the biggest. The game that helped popularize the battle royale genre sold around 75 million units worldwide.
Not only is PUBG the biggest eSports game in terms of sales, but it’s also the fifth highest selling video game of all time.
The Biggest eSports Games in Terms of Tournaments
Unfortunately, narrowing down the biggest eSports games in terms of tournaments can also pose a challenge.
Since major tournaments are always adapting which games they feature, the list of leading eSports games by tournament will likely soon become dated.
However, some games have been a staple of eSports for a long time and will likely remain big for years to come.
One eSports title that shows no signs of slowing down is League of Legends. Although the game was released in 2009, its prominence in eSports keeps it relevant to this day.
As of May 2021, Statista reported that among the seven most-watched eSports tournaments worldwide, two of them featured League of Legends. In both 2019 and 2020, the League of Legends World Championship drew in close to 4 million viewers worldwide.
Another game that draws in significant viewership for tournaments is Garena Free Fire. The mobile battle royale game attracted 2.57 million viewers during the Free Fire Continental Series 2020 Asia tournament.
Even more impressive is the 5.41 million worldwide viewers who tuned in to watch the Free Fire World Series 2021 Singapore tournament.
Other popular eSports games in terms of tournaments include battle royale giants PUBG: Battlegrounds and Fortnite. The Fortnite World Cup 2019 Finals brought in 2.33 million worldwide viewers.
Whereas PUBG Mobile Global Championship Season 0 saw 3.8 million people tune in.
The Biggest eSports Games in Terms of College Scholarships
What is the best game in eSports for a college scholarship? This can be tough to pin down.
Just as the most popular eSports games on the professional level are constantly evolving, so too are those at the collegiate level.
Colleges and universities constantly evolve which games they play, which players they can attract and how much money they can allocate for scholarships.
Therefore, if you’re considering pursuing an eSports scholarship, one of the best things to do is research the schools you’re interested in to see what they offer.
In addition, NCSA offers some helpful guidance on which games are the biggest eSports titles in college to help get you on the right track.
Some of the games that are most considered for eSports scholarships fall under the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) genre. Notable examples include League of Legends and Dota 2.
In addition, NCSA also lists Heroes of the Storm and Smite as other MOBA games that can land students an eSports scholarship.
There are also multiple shooter games that colleges consider for eSports scholarships. Among the most popular first-person shooters include Overwatch, CS:GO and Paladins.
In addition, NCSA lists battle royale games Fortnite and PUBG as big eSports shooters as well.
Three sports games NCSA lists as great titles for eSports scholarships include Rocket League, FIFA and Madden.
Additionally, players who excel at fighting games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat are also prime candidates to receive an eSports scholarship.
Last, real-time strategy game StarCraft II and collectible card game Hearthstone are big eSports games at the college level.
The Biggest eSports Games in Terms of Prize Money
One of the most impressive figures that makes headlines with eSports is the amount of money players make from winning tournaments.
Therefore, another factor many consider in determining the biggest eSports games is prize money. What games offer the best tournament payouts in eSports?
As with the other measurements to determine the biggest games in eSports, the games that pay the best change as well.
However, four games that have historically awarded the most prize money include Arena of Valor, League of Legends, Fortnite and CS:GO. However, the highest-paying eSports game of all time is Dota 2.
Across more than 16 thousand tournaments, the total prize money for Dota 2 nearly reaches $280 million.
When you look at more recent figures for eSports games with the highest total payouts, Dota 2 remains on top. With the cumulative prize money surpassing $47 million, Dota 2 was the highest-paying eSports game of 2021.
In fact, Dota 2’s payout more than doubles the second-highest-paying eSports game CS:GO, which paid a total of $21.17 million in prize money.
Both the third- and fourth-highest-paying eSports games of 2021 were variations of PUBG. Interestingly, the mobile version of the game had a higher cumulative prize pool than the standard edition.
PUBG Mobile paid a total of $17.6 million in prize money, whereas the original PUBG Battlegrounds totaled $16.03 million.
So, what are the biggest games in eSports? Although the exact answer to that question changes depending on who you ask, there are certain games that usually pop up in the discussion.
It would be difficult to discuss eSports without mentioning staples like League of Legends, Defense of the Ancients 2, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
Similarly, as battle royale titles increase in popularity, PUBG Battlegrounds and Fortnite frequently enter the discussion.
However, while these games are currently among the biggest titles in eSports, the industry will continue to evolve. It’s very likely that as more developers create games designed for eSports competitions, plenty of new titles will enter the discussion as well.
I hope you enjoyed this conversation on the biggest games in eSports, and I want to know what you think.
What games would you consider to be the biggest in eSports? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.