The phrase ‘Esports’ is an umbrella term used to describe the industry that has arisen around playing video games professionally for a living. Events and tournaments all around the world are organised and sponsored by huge multinational companies ranging from the likes of Mercedes, Gucci and Coca-Cola, leading to more and more organisations building out rosters to compete at these events and supporting them with full time wages. The competition is seriously fierce and, with prize pools for these tournaments often worth tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars, the stakes are exceptionally high with the skill ceilings of all these major titles being constantly pushed upwards as more and more tactics are explored and innovated.
Esports blends together a jaw dropping entertainment spectacle with a hyper competitive sporting competition, and has already proven to be one of the fastest growing industries in the world. With certain tournaments pulling in more viewers than the likes of the Super Bowl or Wimbledon final, here are some of the biggest video game titles within the Esports industry you need to be aware of.
League of Legends
League of Legends was released by Riot Games in October 2009, and is still one of the most influential and famous video game titles in the world in 2021. League of Legends’ release coincided with the entire gaming landscape changing, birthing the MOBA (massively multiplayer online battle arena) genre that has since gone onto include the likes of Dota 2 and Heroes of the Storm, but more importantly the title really showcased the potential of online multiplayer gaming becoming more accessible and the most popular way of gaming going forward.
One look at the LoL odds at an Esports betting specialist site such as Unikrn.com will show just how stacked and diverse the competitive scene of the game has become over the years. Riot organise regional league-based tournaments that host seasons over the course of a year, culminating in a Champions League styled World Championship that is always amongst the most hotly anticipated events in the entire Esports industry.
The 2019 World Championships marked a serious step up in viewership with a peak of eight million concurrent viewers around the world tuning in for its grand final, and League of Legends still remains at the summit of the most popular video game categories on a livestreaming platform like Twitch.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Counter-Strike began its life all the way back in the late 1990s as a fan-made modification using Valve Corporation’s Half-Life 2 game engine; Valve acquired the rights to the game and released the first standalone title in 2001. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) was released as the fourth major title in the series back in 2012 with the intention of bringing together the established competitive communities that were already playing its two predecessors, CS 1.6 and CS: Source.
The game was moved to a free to play model in 2018 and has seen its player base surge in the years since then, eclipsing the one million concurrent player mark three times over the course of 2020.
Unlike a rival first person shooter series such as Call of Duty, CS:GO is a game that emphasises the needs for teamwork, communication and short and precise bursts of action, rather than the all out action-packed ‘spray and pray’ approaches prevalent in other titles.
It’s hard to overstate the level of cultural impact and how much of a phenomenon Epic Games’ Fortnite has become over the past couple of years. The leading light of the Battle Royale genre of games that have made a splash in the industry recently, Fortnite has found a way of bridging the gap between competitive Esport and mainstream recognition in a way no other title has been able to achieve before.
Thanks to the impact of big online personalities and a strong presence on online streaming platforms such as Twitch.tv, Fortnite launched its Esports scene in the summer of 2019 with the very first annual Fortnite World Cup. Hosted in New York City, it brought the idea of playing video games professionally to the mainstream and its combined pot of $35 million in prize pools split across its Solo, Duo and Creative competitions was a record for the time.