2019 was an amazing year for the esports world — it continued to grow and this year there were nearly 5,000 tournaments with a total prize pool of over $230 million dollars. In 2018, prize pools totaled $163 million dollars, so this year they grew by 29 percent. This year’s record was set when the Dota 2 World Championship handed out $34 million to The International 2019 players. This is the biggest prize-winning tournament in the history of esports.
This fan-generated prize pool won over even the steepest Fortnite World Championship, which handed out $30 million dollars. It was a real hassle to get into the top ten esports games this year and most of the games on this list have been on the list before. But there were three new esports disciplines on the charts and for the first time in many years, we had a new first-place winner.
# 10 – Rainbow Six Siege – $ 4.1 million (2018: 14th place, $ 1.9 million)
This first-person shooter released by Ubisoft based on novels by author Tom Clancy. We can see this name for the first time in the top ten. The main reason this game went up several positions was their professional league prize pool increase from $162 thousand to $292 thousand dollars in 2019. Of course, the biggest weights were the Six Invitational in Montreal with a prize pool of $2 million dollars.
# 9 – Arena of Valor – $ 5.8 million (2018: 8th place, $ 5.1 million)
Another year as we see this esports discipline on the charts. The game is played five on five on a given map, released by the huge Chinese company Tencent. This year, they boasted big tournament prize pools: the King Pro League Spring Tournament and the Honor of the Kings World Championship Cup handed out $ 1.3 million and $ 2 million, respectively.
This mobile game is very popular in the Asian regions, but it is not successful in Western countries. This year, rumors spread that Tencent would no longer support the game in North America and Europe due to declining players in those regions. This has not happened yet, but it is possible in the coming months of 2020.
#8 – Call of Duty – $ 6.51 million (2018: 25th place, $ 640K)
The Call of Duty World League was a game-changing tournament with leagues in the United States, Europe, Asia. Teams shared cash prizes based on their performance at each stop. This model ensured that the teams had a steady income, but the biggest cash value was the CWL Championship, where teams shared $ 2 million. and CWL Pro League Finals $ 1.2 million dollars. It is planned to create a franchise league in this discipline in 2020, to be run by Activision Blizzard. There will be $6 million in this league’s prize pool.
#7 – Magic: The Gathering – $ 8.89 million (2018: 42nd place, $ 200K)
This year saw the game Magic: The Gathering Arena, a revitalized card game for 25 years with new designs and changes to the rules of professional play. For the first time in history, Wizards of the Coast and their parent company Hasbro have invested multimillion dollars in professional stage development and digital product development. With this new format came new investments in the esports scene. This has revitalized the game’s viewability on streaming platforms. With all these changes and a stable platform, we can expect great results from Magic in the coming years.
# 6 – League of Legends – $ 9.02 million (2018: 4th place, $ 14.5M)
The first member of the 2018 Big Four to be listed this year is League of Legends. The game has been around for ten years, but it continues to beat records. The League of Legends World Championship 2019 has seen as many as 44 million live views at one time. Also, looking at these numbers, it seems like the game is not dying, but rather growing to new heights.
Also, Riot Games is expanding its gaming universe and preparing to release new games in various esports genres. Everyone was also surprised by the announcement that a mobile version of the League of Legends and Teamfight Tactics will be created, which will pull many players into the Riot Games ecosystem. The League of Legends prize pools may not be the fastest-growing in esports, but the expansion of this company will mean that in general they will only increase their influence and place in esports.
* At the time of publishing, the amount to be added to the World Cup prize pool, which includes revenues generated by in-game skins for game players, was not announced.
#5 – Overwatch – $ 9.11 million (2018: 6th place, $ 6.6M)
This year Blizzard has risen to one position and is in fifth place. Blizzard added at each stage of the 2019 league, raising $ 3.5 million dollars throughout 2019. But the Contender League, which aims to grow talent and serve as a lower division in a franchise-based professional league, has attracted the most attention. Millions of dollars invested in the Contenders League, China has handed out $500,000 in the first and second seasons winners, while the North American, South American and European leagues’ general fund totaled $1.6 million dollars.
This is the last year we will see this particular game, with the release of a new part of this game in 2020 — Overwatch 2.
#4 – PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS – $ 12.7 million (2018: 5th place, $ 7.7 million)
The Battle Royale genre did not disappoint us in 2019 either. It continues to grow the community of esports and the game itself. PUBG Global Championship raised $5.9 million dollar prize pool. The World Cup was the last event of the 2019 World Championship series where we were able to watch the 32 best teams in the world in this discipline.
The finals were held at Oakland Arena, California. 2020 looks even more exciting as the league announces the addition of three new events to accompany the World Cup.
#3 – Counter-Strike: Global Offensive – $ 21.1 million (2018: 2nd place, $ 22.6M)
The leader of the FPS (First Person Shooter) genre has fallen by one position since last year. The main reason is the decrease in the overall prize pool and tournaments throughout the year. There were 832 tournaments in 2018 and 612 this year. The biggest tournaments handed out similar amounts of money as last year, but there were definitely 220 lost tournaments in 2019. While the game is criticized for its principle and some graphic images, which may seem brutal, it continues to be one of the leaders in the entire esports industry.
#2 – Dota 2 – $ 46.7 million (2018: 1st place, $ 41.4 million)
After losing their lead, Dota 2 still has something to be proud of as their World Championship this year had the largest prize pool ever in the esports industry, with 34 million dollars. Also, this year’s Dota 2 reached the highest annual viewership in game history. The World Cup was the most-watched event in the history of the Dota game series.
The five members of the OG team that won the World Championship immediately rose to the top of the most earning esports players of all time.
# 1 – Fortnite – $ 64.42 million (2018: 3rd place, $ 20M)
The new season of Fortnite 2019 was clearly the year of the Fortnite game created by Epic Games. When the game’s developers announced that their game will receive as much as $ 100 million in prize money, most esports organizations have begun to look for their place in the Fortnite world.
The four-day World Cup, which crowned the winner of Solo Championship winner Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf, who brought home $ 3 million dollars. This young man became a big star in a second and was well received by traditional media. In addition to the $ 30 million set up by the World Cup prize, Epic Games handed out millions in other tournaments: Fortnite Champion Series, Skirmish Series, Twitchcon, etc.
Also, the Winter Royale Duos tournament, which attracted $ 15 million, has just ended. Given the game’s growing popularity this year, big prize pools are expected to continue to surprise next year as well.
Retired CS:GO pro turned full-time streamer, Shroud, as well as Ninja, one of Fortnite’s biggest stars in the game, earn more than major players in the world’s most valuable football league, the Premier League in England.
According to reports, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, a Fortnite broadcaster with a multimillion-strong army of followers, earns around £10.3 million GBP a year. His earnings are even higher than those of England Premier League star Harry Kane (£10.2M) or Champion League winner and Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijka (£9.4M), Harry Maguire (£9 million), Alexander Lacazette (£9.5 million), or Robert Firmin (£9.4 million).
Fortnite broadcaster’s earnings have been analyzed by recent studies by Bloomberg and Capology. 28-year-old T.Blevins has about £10.3 million pounds just from his August contract with Mixer, which had Ninja leave the streaming platform Twitch. It is estimated that the American earns another million more from his sponsors, subscribers, and donors.
In 2019, Fortnite’s developers earned a total of $1.8 billion. Despite a 25 percent drop in game revenue compared to 2018 ($2.4 billion), it still holds the top spot on the list. Superdata, a Nielsen subsidiary that monitors the PC gaming market, called this drop in Fortnite a “stabilization” after a cosmic jump in recent years.
The Pokémon Go game also broke the one billion mark last year, earning $1.4 billion dollars. Overall, players’ spending on free games accounted for as much as 80 percent of the total revenue generated by computer games.
FIFA 19 tops the world of paid games, earning $786 million dollars. In second place is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (645 million) and third is GTA V (595 million). Released in September, FIFA 20 generated $504 million in a relatively short period of time in revenue. Total pay-to-play costs totaled $ 18.9 billion dollars — five percent less than in 2018.
As the esports market continues to grow, its players are winning bigger and bigger cash prizes every year. In 2019, this record was once again broken, with more than $230 million distributed in nearly 5,000 tournaments. Here are ten esports teams that cut the biggest chunks of this pie.
Rank 10: FaZe Clan ($3.16M)
The FaZe Clan, best known in the world for its Call of Duty and CS:GO teams, ranks 10th on the list. More than a third of the winnings totaled $1.1 million, FaZe won in the PUBG discipline, winning three tournaments and remaining second in the World Cup. Meanwhile, in Fortnite, the organization hit another $964,000 last year.
FaZe CS: GO and Call of Duty teams together won $894k dollars. With the Call of Duty leagues starting in January with a prize pool of $6 million dollars, the FaZe Clan will look to further increase its achievements this year.
9th Place: Sentinels ($3.26M)
Second on the list is the Sentinels, whose players specialize in Fortnite discipline. Almost all of the team’s wins are from 16-year-old Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf, who won $3 million at the Fortnite World Cup. In 2018, the Sentinels won just over 30,000 and ranked 237th on the list.
8th Place: Team Secret ($3.31M)
Team Secret, the Dota 2 discipline giant, has hit 3.1 million during the 2019 season. Two of them earned Team Secret finishing fourth in The International. Still, Team Secret is trying to expand the list of disciplines in the organization and is looking for winning teams that won’t cost as much to maintain. Last year, other disciplines — Rainbow 6, Apex Legends, Age of Empires, PUBG Mobile — brought the team just $213,000 dollars.
7th Place: Gen.G ($3.45M)
Last year, Gen.G team dominated the PUBG discipline, winning three Major Series tournaments, including a $2.28 million World Cup. PUBG discipline was extremely important to the organization, accounting for 94 percent of Gen.G’s achievements. But those proportions should change by 2020, especially since Gen.G now has a CS: GO team that will also feature three former Cloud 9 players: Timothy “autimatic” Ta, Damian “daps” Steele and Kenneth “Koosta” Suenas.
Rank 6: Cooler Esport ($3.51M)
Hardly noticed, Cooler Esport even ranks sixth on the list of highest-earning teams. The reason for this is the duo of Emilio “nyhrox” Bergquist Pedersen and David “aqua” Wang in Fortnite, who won the $3 million World Cup. Not surprisingly, thanks to generous cash prizes from Epic Games and PUBG Corp., the list of the most winning organizations ranks high on the list of previously unheard-of organizations. Cooler proved last year that a giant organization is not necessary to win big prizes.
Rank 5: PSG.LGD Esports ($3.54M)
The second Dota 2 giant on this list is PSG.LGD Esports Club. Last year, the team won a total of $ 3.4 million in Dota 2 tournaments. The organization also has a FIFA team that won over $37,000 dollars in 2019. This organization is another great example of the impact of big prize games like Dota 2 on the esports ecosystem.
Rank 4: Lazarus ($4.22M)
The former SetToDestroyX organization has not only a new name but also management. Lazarus is based on a multi-team business model, but last year, one discipline was the clear winner, Fortnite. As many as six Lazarus players entered the World Cup last year. In the doubles, the Lazarus duo finished second and seventh, earning the organization $2.35 million dollars. Canadian organization has won another $1.3 million in qualifiers and other Fortnite tournaments. Lazarus also has players in CS:GO, Hearthstone, PUBG and other disciplines and is set to climb even further in the 2020.
3rd Place: NRG Esports ($5.28M)
NRG Esports’ third-place jump was due to titles in various tournaments. The San Francisco Shock became Overwatch League champion and won $1.5 million dollars. In addition, $2.85 million the club won in the Fortnite tournaments. NRG has won six figures in the Rocket League and Apex Legends disciplines. Apex Legends announced an upcoming league with $3 million in the prize pool, the organization’s achievements this year could increase even more.
Unfortunately, the organization also ran into trouble last year when, for financial reasons, NRG transferred its CS:GO team to the Evil Geniuses club. Even so, they still managed to jump up to third place on this list.
2nd Place: Team Liquid ($9.4M)
Team Liquid has an extremely wide range of disciplines. What’s more, last year, teams from the North American organization showed great results in major esports games: Dota 2, CS: GO, League of Legends and Fortnite. In the Dota 2 discipline, Liquid, which finished second in the International, won as much as $5 million last year. No less impressive was the CS: GO team, which held a first place in the HLTV rankings for a while. Team newcomers Jacky “Stewie2K” Yip and Keith “NAF” Markovic contributed significantly to this, helping the CS:GO team win as much as $2.3 million dollars.
Adding the $455,000 won in League of Legends tournaments, Team Liquid had a great season.
1st Place: OG ($15.84M)
The OG organization, which has become the Dota 2 World Champion, retained its first place on the list of most winning teams. Almost all of the winnings went to the team for merit in the TI9 tournament, but $900,000 dollars were contributed to the club by the Super Smash Bros. discipline. After winning the International, five OG players instantly became the highest-earning esports players in history.
Before the end of the year, OG announced a CS:GO roster, which managed to contribute another $21,500 US dollars, finishing 3rd in their first event under the OG banner. With more rumored teams joining OG in 2020, the Denmark based organization is looking strong to remain one of the highest-earning organizations in esports.
Valve has published a list of the most successful games of the year, of the titles that are available on Steam. Well-known and liked esports productions were on both the bestseller lists and the actively played titles by players.
The first category includes bestsellers, i.e. titles that had the largest gross revenue this year. Of the top 12, four of them are known and liked esports titles. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege and PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS both made the list, in their fourth and second year after initial release, respectively. Somewhat unexpectedly, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2, which are titles available for free, are among the honorable esports games in this category. In both cases, this result is certainly associated with the add-ons purchased by players, and in CS a lot of people also decide to buy an upgrade to the Prime rank released a few months ago with Operation Shattered Web.
If we were to expand the range of bestsellers to twenty-four titles, the list will also include another esports contender Rocket League and a new-to-PC title Halo, of XBOX fame. Other games on the list, like Bungie’s Destiny 2, or Civilization 6 have smaller, yet dedicated competitive scenes.
The above-mentioned titles in the category of popularity were all very successful. As many as one-third of the top 12 games launched most frequently were esports titles. The undivided king of the ranking is CS: GO, which is breaking the records of the average number of players every day and is getting closer to breaking the all-time online record of people from April 2016. We will also find the Dota 2 distinguished in the previous category, which popularity in recent months decreases. Rainbow Six and PUBG have also had a good year, but their popularity has been going down almost continuously since the beginning of 2018.
Halo also joined the list of the most actively played games immediately after its release and has been holding their position. Among the most played games of the year we can see other competitive titles, such as Total War: Three Kingdoms, Ring of Elysium, and NBA 2K20.
Gabe Newell also released lists of the best premiers, VR games and productions that left early access last year. To check which games were included in the lists mentioned above, click here.
Visa issues are a matter that organizers of all major esports events in the world had to face for a long time. How many times has it happened that even at the last minute there was a change in the list of competition participants because the immigration office did not allow entry of one of the teams?
In Germany, however, this issue is due to fall off in the spring of 2020. Then a special visa for esports athletes will be introduced, under which players from outside the European Union will be subject to simpler procedures enabling permanent stay within the country during the term of the contract with the given employer. Amendments to immigration regulations have already been approved by the German federal government.
“A German esports visa will be a great benefit for events taking place in Germany,” said Hans Jagnow, president of eSport-Bund Deutschland. “We are the first country to establish a special visa category for esports. We hope that thanks to this, even more international esports tournaments will take place in Germany.”
“This movement can also provide a foundation for other nations. Visa requirements for professional esports athletes should be systematized at the international level to facilitate access to competitions and leagues for esports players from around the world. Our efforts over the past two years have finally paid off. Visa issues at esports events in Germany are a thing of the past. The recognition of the German government is an important signal in the national and international discussion on esports,” he added.
It is worth mentioning here that you will need to meet several conditions to obtain a German esports visa. A person applying for permission to enter Germany must be at least 16 years old, receive a salary at a certain level, as well as have confirmation of professional esports on the part of the association responsible for electronic competition. In this case, we are talking about ESBD, which has already announced the establishment of a specific procedure, which will be developed together with interested parties.
Despite attempts from YouTube and Mixer, Twitch is still a leader when it comes to streaming services. But even a leader has to deal with problems that appear once in a while. Such as, for example, a lawsuit for $3 billion dollars.
Rambler Group, the third largest Internet company in Russia, has decided to sue Twitch for broadcasting the English Premier League matches on their platform. That’s right, as a reason for their lawsuit the Russian company chose a few football games. The Russians say that between August and November there were more than 36,000 violations on the platform related to the illegal broadcasts of meetings of the English football league, which were to be conducted on the site belonging to Amazon. Therefore, Rambler not only demands compensation but also wants to completely prohibit the use of Twitch in Russia.
As you can guess, the website’s authorities consider the allegations to be unfounded. And it is hardly surprising, the more that the regulations published on the site contain information about the prohibition of transmission of materials without the prior consent of the copyright holder. At the same time, lawyer Julianna Tabastaeva, representing Twitch’s interests, admitted to Kommersant.ru that the company provides users with access to the platform, but is not able to track all possible violations.
And while the Russian company, which holds the rights to broadcast Premier league in Russia, is suing for the breach of their exclusive streaming rights you don’t have to look too deep to see the real reason for the lawsuit. If successful, the removal of Twitch from Russia’s internet would open doors for local media companies to swoop in and collect on the massive gamers market in the CIS country.
The first hearing is scheduled for December 20, during which a Moscow court will hear the case. Until then, both sides will strive to reach an agreement that avoids the process and ends the dispute efficiently.