Most popular esports games 2020

Some of the biggest titles in esports for this year so far.

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Particularly with the pandemic that struck the world this year, it seems like time is going quicker by the day; it’s September already! 2020 has been a bit of a joke really and aside from a small hiatus in esports events, the majority of the primary leagues have resumed. There have been, however, many major global events that have either been postponed or cancelled.

There was speculation around whether we would see the World Championships for League of Legends this year, but it has since been announced and is only four days away. CS:GO’s highly anticipated Rio Major was planned for May but is now scheduled for November and Fortnite’s World Cup has been cancelled altogether.

Smaller tournaments and league matches were moved from LAN to online, which changed the dynamic of professional play. Only recently have some games switched back to a LAN format in studios with no crowds due to strict Covid regulations.

One thing we have learned from the outbreak is that it has highlighted just how gigantic the demand for video games is. With worldwide rulings restricting people from interacting outdoors, individuals were and have been forced to maximise their time indoors.

 

 

(Image Credit: Noobie)

This includes resorting to more hours spent hooking up with friends online, via a video game experience or spending time watching streams and game related content during times of total boredom.

March was when the first initiations for ‘self isolation’ and ‘lockdown’ began for a significant proportion of the world. According to Statista, the global viewership for live streaming platform Twitch increased to 22.7 million, breaking the all time record for the site and has since seen billions of watch time.

The average growth of new streamers has also drastically increased as well as Twitch partners which, overall, has facilitated a hugely profitable quarantine period for the likes of Twitch and YouTube.

With that being said, whilst there has been a rise in new streamers and content creators playing new games, there are still popular household titles that are dominating global viewership and have been doing so for years. This is our list for some of the most popular titles in esports for 2020:

League of Legends

(Image Credit: Riot Games)

If you are a regular user of the internet and spend a significant chunk of your spare time engaging in video game related content, streams and other videos of some sort, then there is a very high chance that you’ve heard of League before.

The game has a powerful and dedicated fanbase, with over ten major competitive leagues around the world. Events such as the MSI and the World Championships boast ridiculous levels of audiences, rivalling some of the world’s most popular physical sporting events.

Worlds in 2018 surpassed the Super Bowl’s global viewership of 98 million, with its total of 99.6 million unique viewers who tuned in to witness Chinese Invictus Gaming’s destruction of European representatives Fnatic.

 

(Image Credit: Riot Games)

Counter Strike: Global Offensive

(Image Credit: 1000 Logos)

One of the oldest and most popular video game franchises in esports history, Counter Strike was first introduced by developing giants Valve Corporation in 2000 and remains one of the gaming industry’s most successful titles.

After older versions of the game bit the dust, CS’ most recent instalment, Global Offensive, took the world by storm in 2012 and continues to rack up millions of hours of watch time today.

With Dreamhack Masters, Blast Premier and ESL Major tournaments at the front line of CS:GO’s most prestigious competitions, the game has proven itself to, at given times, the most watched esport on the planet, beating League’s viewership on several occasions.

Dota 2

(Image Credit: Pinterest)

The biggest competitor to League is another hugely successful title from Valve; Dota 2 is the second instalment of the Dota franchise, a MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) game similar to the nature of Riot Games’ League of Legends.

The first version of the game, Dota, was released in 2003 and was originally created as a mod for Starcraft via its Use Map Settings (UMS) mode. Then in 2013, the game was “remastered” and released as the second instalment of the already popular franchise.

(Image Credit: Dota Wiki)

Since this time, the game has accumulated a dedicated player base and fanbase, with tournaments being played spreading across a total of six regional leagues.  The main attraction for the esport is similar to that for League; an annual global tournament, The International, sees the best of the best clashing for the title of the best in the world.

Whilst Dota 2 traditionally does not peak at the same numbers that competitive League does, the game surpasses Riot’s MOBA in terms of prize pools by extortionate amounts. Dota 2 is notorious for offering the highest amount of money to its winners, with last year's International awarding an overall prize pool total of $34 million.

This largely due to the game’s unique battle pass system called the ‘Compendium’, which sees 25% of all in-game purchasable content from players going directly towards the International’s prize pool. The International has been and remains to serve the richest esports athletes in the industry, with 29 out of the 30 highest earners in esports history as Dota 2 pros.

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege

(Image Credit: PlayStation)

Rainbow Six acts as a dark horse for the esports industry and has become increasingly popular, particularly over the last few years. Produced by Ubisoft as their addition to the tactical shooter genre, R6 is based upon the original book written by Tom Clancy and follows a meticulous storyline of terrorists and counter-terrorists.

The game itself may be played in two modes with most players opting for PvP (player vs player) where they can queue up with friends and ascend the ranked leaderboard. Currently, the latest instalment of R6 is ‘Siege’ and it is this game released in 2015 that has flowered a competitive scene for R6.

R6 Siege now has a flourishing Pro League as well as competitive tournaments dubbed as ‘Majors’ and an annual Six Invitational that poses as the ‘World Cup’, similarly to that of Worlds and The International. The last Invitational had a total prize pool of $3 million.

Whilst the numbers for R6 do not make the game an international phenomenon, a lot of focus on cultivating its esports scene has been put on by Ubisoft and with ESL as fellow organisers, R6 inevitably has a big competitive future.

For July, R6 had a total of 2.2 million hours of esports viewed by fans from across the world.

Starcraft II

(Image Credit: Starcraft II)

The undisputed king of all esports, the Starcraft franchise is one of the longest serving games of our generation, alongside CS. As the sequel to the original Starcraft, that was released in 1998, Starcraft 2 is a science fiction RTS (real-time strategy) game developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment.

Coming off the back of Starcraft Brood War, which was the expansion pack for the original Starcraft, the sequel was greeted with what had now become a dedicated player base and fanbase, enabling its competitive scene.

Brood War had been so successful and was particularly thriving in South Korea, home of an enormous esports culture today. The game was labelled a “national pastime” with the country even having two dedicated channels for Starcraft, which were used to televise professional matches.

(Image Credit: Reddit)

This success is arguably what created the culture and infrastructure for esports in South Korea that remains today. As an esport, Starcraft 2 plateaued in popularity after a few years of its release in 2010 and even saw a decline from the ‘golden ages’ of Brood War.

The game failed to penetrate the modern market and was overshadowed by rival games. As of this year, Blizzard have partnered with esport organisers ESL and Dreamhack with hopes to revive the Starcraft era and bring back what was once known as the most talked about esport on the planet. In July, the game had a total number of 2.2 million hours watched of esports.

Rocket League

(Image Credit: Wikipedia)

Rocket League is a particularly interesting esport, in the sense that the game itself features a unique style of gameplay coupled with the necessary high skill ceiling needed to fuel the competitive element.

For those that have not heard of Rocket League, it includes racing cars battling against each other in teams of up to four, scoring and saving goals in a football/soccer arena. It is referred to as a ‘vehicular soccer video game’ and was developed and published by Psyonix.

At the forefront of the esport are players competing in ESL and MLG (Major League Gaming) leagues along with Psyonix’s own Rocket League Championship Series (RLCS). The game has attracted talent from across the globe with many household organisations investing in professional Rocket League teams.

The most recent winners of the Season 8 RLCS in the latter of 2019 were NRG Esports, who defeated reigning champions Renault Vitality. At present, the game remains a viewing choice for many fans as Rocket League amassed 1.2 million esports hours watched in July.

Valorant

(Image Credit: Riot Games)

The newest game on our list and an explosive addition to the tactical shooter genre from Riot Games, Valorant’s full release debuted back in June and has been a great success so far.

Originally announced as ‘Project A’ at the end of 2019, the game was first hinted by Riot in a video that premiered tons of additions and changes the company was adopting for the universe of League.

Valorant came out as a separate game entirely and has since attracted professional talent from some of the best FPS players and teams in the history of esports.

With many comparisons being drawn to CS:GO, Valorant fuses the traditional gamemode of bomb planting/defusal with fantasy and characters who have unique abilities, which may be used alongside clean gun mechanics.

 

(Image Credit: Riot Games)

The game shattered Twitch records upon release making the video game the most popular to date in terms of viewership but has since drastically reduced in numbers.

It remains, however, as one of the most viewed games on our list due to how colossal the initial figures were and despite not having a professional league yet, Valorant has already seen many independently hosted tournaments and invitationals.

We do not know if there will be an official backing from Riot yet, but going off the LoL scene, we would guess that Valorant certainly has a bright competitive future lying ahead of itself.

Only falling behind League in total hours of viewership on Twitch, the numbers for esports are slightly less impressive due to the reasons mentioned, with July seeing a total of 1 million esports hours watched.

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG)

(Image Credit: Pinterest)

Published by the PUBG Corporation, the game features a similar mode of play as Fortnite and Call of Duty: Warzone; online battle royale. Here players will clash against one another where up to 100 players fight in a BR.

The style of gameplay, that was pioneered by PUBG but arguably skyrocketed into popularity by Epic Games’ Fortnite, is a type of large-scale “last man standing” deathmatch where players fight to remain the last alive. Players can choose to enter the match solo, duo, or with a small team of up to four people.

Since its release in 2017, the competitive scene has matured over the last few years and now hosts professional leagues in regions from across the world. The popular Global Series for PUBG, like many competitions, were postponed due to the pandemic, but this allowed for 2020 to host the PUBG Continental Series.

This was a new series announced earlier this year as a way for the teams who had worked so hard to qualify for the PGS to compete for a prize pool of $2.4 million across all events. The tournament will be held across four regions: Asia, Asia Pacific, Europe and North America and is currently ongoing. Numbers from July were acquired from Twitch stats and showed the game has a total amount of 900,000 hours of esports watched.

NBA 2K20

(Image Credit: Pinterest)

A surprise entry on the list, NBA 2K’s recent ‘THE TURN’ tournament featured in July with a grand total prize pool of $260,000 on offer. The game itself is quite self explanatory, but for those that do not know what the National Basketball Association (NBA) is, the NBA is the professional basketball league in America. NBA 2K is essentially what FIFA is to football; it is the video game version and the esports league joint venture between the NBA and Take-Two Interactive.

NBA 2K is not a traditional esport and certainly not a household name, but the reception and viewership for the game has been steadily increasing in the last few years, proving why video games based upon physical sports can also be considered esports.

‘THE TURN’ tournament awarded $117,000 to Raptors Uprising GC, a Canadian based 2K team playing and sponsored by the NBA’s Toronto Raptors, after they defeated Wizards District Gaming in the grand final. Recent hours of esports watched for 2K have shown the viability of this esports competitive scene, with a total of 800,000 in July.

PUBG Mobile

(Image Credit: The Verge)

Last on our list is arguably the hottest mobile game on the planet right now. As gamers, we are amongst a global breakthrough for competitive mobile gaming right now, and the industry should not be overlooked.

With that being said, the Mobile Legends Bang Bang (MLBB) World Championships in 2019 had a peak viewer count of over 275,000 and a total number of 2.8 million hours watched. The MOBA game for mobile has drawn many similar characteristics to League of Legends and its developer, Moonton, were even involved in a legal case in 2018 with Tencent Holdings, Riot Games’ parent company.

Nonetheless, a market for competitive mobile gaming is definitely apparent and it just seems to be getting bigger each year. PUBG Mobile is PUBG, but on your mobile, and has as much backing for the esport as any other may have, with professional leagues and tournaments being organised by Tencent Holdings, PUBG Corporation and ESL.

The first PUBG Mobile World League was held this year and it did not disappoint. The tournament shattered viewership records for a mobile gaming event with 1 million peak viewers and the competition boasted a total prize pool of $850,000. The mobile competitive gaming industry is, without a doubt, one to keep an eye on.

 

And that concludes our list. If you think we may have missed a title out, feel free to leave a comment below and let us know!

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