Competitive video game playing is nothing new. However, professional players who make their livings from competing in global video game tournaments are becoming increasingly common. The top players often make good money these days because of the rise in popularity among video game fans. Aside from poker, slots and other casino games, many people love watching and betting on eSports which has made the rise of games as a professional endeavour possible. Just like real sports, it is the public’s interest in the top competitors that is driving the industry. What are the top video games being played today and who are the leading players?
1. Dota 2
A multi-player battle game published by Valve Corporation, Dota 2 is the world’s leading eSports video game. Since it first came out in 2013, the prize money for the many tournaments that have sprung up has totalled over $175 million. Almost 3,000 players have taken part in professional Dota 2 tournaments. The International is the world’s leading Dota 2 competition.
2. Counter Strike: Global Offensive
Developed by Hidden Path Entertainment and Valve Corporation, this game was launched in 2012. Since then, approaching 4,000 professional tournaments have been organised with the top ones offering prize pools of $1.5 million. All of the top five players are Danish, with Andreas Højsleth being the all-time leader. The 23-year-old has career earnings of over $1.4 million. This title was named the eSports Game of the Year in 2016.
3. League of Legends
A Riot Games multi-player online battle arena video game, League of Legends has been around for a decade. There have been over 2,200 professional tournaments that have offered players the chance to compete for cash prizes since then. Well over 6,000 players have taken part in them, winning a total of $64 million between them. The League of Legends World Championships offers the greatest purse. All of the top players are Asian, many from South Korea.
4. StarCraft II
Subtitled Wings of Liberty, StarCraft II offers real-time strategy and action. Players have been taking part in professional tournaments in it since 2010. Two expansion packs have been launched since the game first came out. The WCS Global Finals offer the greatest prizes. Most of the top players, such as Cho ‘Maru’ Sung Choo, are South Korean. Joona Sotala and Alex Sunderhaft are the leading players outside of that country, from Finland and the United States respectively.
An incredibly popular free-to-download game, Fortnite has been the subject of almost 200 professional tournaments since it came out in 2017. Developed by Epic Games, Fortnite has around 1,500 professional players. A total of $21 million has been won by gamers playing Fortnite. The leading players are all from the US. Timothy Miller, known as Bizzle, has won the most with career earnings of $500,000 to his name.
6. Heroes of the Storm
Heroes of the Storm is another multi-player online battle video game that offers a large playing arena. Developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment, it has seen around 450 professional eSports tournaments since it first became available in 2015. Heroes of the Storm has been played for a total prize fund of around $18 million with some of the top tournaments offering purses of up to $1 million each. This game is truly international. Top players come from South Korea as well as Sweden, the UK, France, the US and Denmark. The leading professional is Lee ‘Sake’ Jung Hyeog.
Another free-to-play video game, Hearthstone first came out in 2014. It built on popular card trading games and relies greatly on strategic approaches to gameplay. Published by Blizzard Entertainment, the video game has been the subject of a total prize fund of $15.5 million thus far. BlizzCon 2016 offered the greatest prize pool ever at $1 million, a sum that was matched at the Hearthstone World Championship of 2017. Thijs Molendijk has won the most money of any professional Hearthstone player with total career earnings of $418,000.
Over $12 million has been won in prizes by eSports professionals playing Counter-Strike. A first-person shooter game, Counter-Strike first came out in 1999 and the brand has been used again in new iterations. Professionals playing the original version of the game must compete in teams of terrorist or counter-terrorist forces. All of the top players are European.
Released by Blizzard Entertainment in 2016, Overwatch is another team-based multi-player first-person shooter game. The Overwatch League Season 1 Playoffs were the biggest in the game’s history with a total prize pool of $1.7 million. Nearly all of the top earners are from South Korea.
10. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds
Launched in 2017, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds takes a ‘Battle Royale’ format. Over 1,300 professional players have taken part in tournaments to win cash prizes playing it. Almost $9 million has thus far been won. Yao ‘lionkk’ Hao is the highest earner. Like many at the top of the all-time earnings chart, he is from China.