Esports have been gaining in popularity for years now. More people are playing,more people are watching, and more people are gambling on professional esports. There are a number of different metrics you can use to determine which esports are most popular and we will look at several of them.
Most Popular Esport Based on Prize Pools
One method to judge the most popular esports is to look at the size of the combined prize pools for professional tournaments throughout the year. Admittedly, 2020 was a strange year and the pandemic definitely affected the amount of prize money available to professional players for many of the esports. That being said the most popular esports in the world based on 2020 prize money are as follows:
- Counter-Strike: Global Offensive: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO) saw the amount of money offered in tournaments drop this year but still managed to grab the top spot. The total amount of prize money up for grabs in 2020 was $14.75 million. The drop was mainly due to the cancellation of live events but CS: GO organizers were able to adapt fairly well.
- Dota2: The total amount of prize money paid out in Dota2 tournaments during 2020 was $8.87 million which is a big drop from the almost $50 million handed out in 2019. It should be noted that Dota2 did raise over $40 million for The International tournament in 2020, but that was postponed until August 2021.
- League of Legends: Leagues of Legends also saw a dip in the amount of prize money distributed, but it was relatively small to that experienced in some other esports. In 2020 League of Legends paid out $8 million dollars which was a drop of about $1 million from 2019.
- Fortnite: Fortnite topped the list of esports prize pools in 2019 but in 2020 the total amount awarded was only $7.87 million
- Call of Duty: Call of Duty rounds out the list with total prize pool money in the amount of $6.27 million provided in 2020.
As mentioned above, the pandemic skewed the results considerably and may not reflect completely the popularity of various esports. A look at the total prize money since the inception of a game gives a slightly different picture.
- Dota2: Total prize money $229,321,216
- CS: GO: Total prize money $107,570, 114
- Fortnite: Total prize money $99,362,917
- League of Legends: Total prize money 81,774,130
- Starcraft II: Total prize money $34,388,574
Most Popular Esports Based on Number of Professional Players
Some people feel that you can determine the popularity of an esport by how many professional players there are competing in tournaments. By this metric the most popular games are:
- CS: GO: 13029 professional players
- League of Legends: 7,130 professional players
- Fortnite: 4346 professional players
- Dota2: 3837 professional players
- Overwatch: 3494 professional players
Most Popular Esports Based on Total Number of Players
Getting statistics on the total number of overall players of different esports is difficult as different games release their stats in different ways, and some are quite secretive about how many users they have. The top esports based on total users in no particular order are:
- CS: GO: CSGO saw a big increase in the number of users in 2020. They had around 20 million average monthly users in 2020 with February 2020 surpassing 24 million. On March 15 2020 they exceeded 1 million concurrent users.
- Dota2: During 2020 Dota2 averaged 11 million monthly users, and achieved over 714 thousand concurrent players in November
- League of Legends: League of Legends had a total of 115 million users in 2020
- Fortnite: Fortnite is one of those companies that plays their cards close to the chest and are guarded about releasing stats. Apparently they have 350 million players as of May 2020 and average 22.5 million daily players
- Overwatch: At the last available count Overwatch had 50 million total players world-wide. Their concurrent player count at the time of this writing was just over 787 thousand players.
Casual players may only play their preferred game a couple of hours a few times a week. However there are many dedicated players who devote 4 or more hours a day to playing the esport of their choice. Some may even employ the services of companies like AskBoosters to better their rankings.
Most Popular Esports by Money Wagered
Wagering on esports definitely increased in 2020 with the total amount bet expected to exceed $14 billion when all the numbers come in. The coronavirus pandemic has influenced the increase in esports betting as wagering on traditional sports wasn’t possible for much of the year. The most popular esports to bet on in 2020 included:
- League of Legends: LoL was the most popular esport to wager on in 2020. They captured an estimated 38% of the esports real money betting market.
- Counter-Strike: Global Offensive: CS: GO was the other big favorite with bettors, bagging around 29% of the real money bet on esports in 2020. Tips for betting on CS: GO can be found here.
- Dota2: Dota2 gained a respectable 18% of the esports real money betting market.
- Starcraft 2: Coming in at number 4 is Starcraft 2 with 7% of the real money bets placed on esports in 2020.
- All other esports: A dozen or so other esports split the remaining 8% of the real money esports betting market between them.
Overall Most Popular Esports
Based on the different rankings for prize pools, number of professional players, number of total users and popularity with bettors the most popular esports entering 2021 are:
- CS: GO: CSGO ranked high in all categories securing the top spot.
- League of Legends: LoL comes in at number 2. It was a tough call between LoL and Dota2
- Dota2: It was close but Dota2 ended up number 3
- Fortnite: Fortnite’s popularity appears to be slipping
- Starcraft 2: A solid number 5.
These are just some of the metrics that could be used for measuring the popularity of esports and some should perhaps count more heavily than others but I have tried to be as objective when creating this list.