The world of eSports has expanded so rapidly that it can sometimes be hard for all but the biggest enthusiasts to keep track of. Compared to the state of things even five years ago, there are now more video games, more leagues, better-known teams, and more major events. It is less of a sport unto itself at this point, and more of an entire category of sports-like events and activities.
For enthusiasts and newcomers alike, the best way to stay on top of the most important action in eSports at this point is to keep a close eye on the biggest competitions. So, to sort through the clutter and growth — as exciting as it all is — we want to highlight some of the very biggest eSports tournaments in the world as of 2021.
CS:GO Major Championships
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, more commonly known as CS:GO, has as good an argument as any game for being the biggest and most popular in eSports. That’s not to say it’s definitively on top of the industry, but it’s been very popular for longer than most of its counterpart, and per The Loadout’s prize money breakdowns, CS:GO generated the most total prize money outside of major events in 2020. As big as the game is in general though, the CS:GO Major Championships are among the most prestigious individual tournaments in eSports. These Valve-sponsored events occur twice each year — once in the spring and once in the autumn — and involve 24 teams each competing for $1 million (about £705,000) in prizes.
Dota 2 The International
Dota 2 is one of just a few games that can challenge CS:GO for general eSports supremacy. And it may also be the game responsible for the single biggest event in the world of competitive gaming. The International starts with open qualification, progresses with 48 competitors separated into groups, and is ultimately whittled down to a 16-participant double-elimination “Main Event” that takes place over the course of six days. It’s a massive tournament, and an extraordinarily rich one as well. The eSports tournament infographic on Bwin estimates the total prize pool for 2021 at roughly $40 million (£28.2 million). Though because most of this comes from fan contribution, it is only an estimate.
League Of Legends World Championship
League Of Legends sort of rounds out an unofficial top tier of eSports games alongside Dota 2 and CS:GO. Accordingly, it too is behind one of the biggest tournaments on the annual eSports calendar — and often the biggest in terms of viewership (and by extension popularity). In fact, CS:GO’s “Worlds” event regularly sets new records for eSports viewing. The event actually takes place in stages over the course of the autumn season, beginning with 24 teams, and eventually progressing through play-ins, a group stage, and a final eight-team knockout stage.
Fortnite World Cup
As most anyone with even a vague connection to gaming is aware, Fortnite’s popularity has exploded in just the last few years. As such it’s been a major up-and-comer in the eSports world, and is on track to be every bit as influential as the three games discussed above. The Fortnite World Cup accordingly belongs right on the map among the biggest tournaments in gaming. It consists of a lengthy and partially online qualification and play-in process eventually boiling down to a live final at which the winner gets a prize of $3 million (£2.1million). The final of the Fortnite World Cup also carries the interesting distinction of taking place at the Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York, typically reserved for the U.S. Open Tennis Championships — though as was noted in our look at anticipated eSports events, the 2021 World Cup may still be entirely online.
EVO Championship Series
EVO is the longest-running eSports competition on this list, dating back in one form or another to 1996 — before most people were even aware of anything approaching professional competitive gaming. For those who aren’t familiar, it’s essentially an all-out fighting game competition involving numerous specific video games in the genre. And it may actually be on the verge of growing bigger and richer due to the fact that it was acquired by Sony earlier this year. Even now though, the EVO Championship Series can rightly be included among eSports’ biggest events. It’s just a massive group of contests that always features a fresh lineup of popular fighting games, and often takes place of late at the Mandalay Bay resort in Las Vegas.
By no means are these the only major events on the modern eSports calendar. But whether you’re a newcomer looking to explore all the fun, or an eSports enthusiast hoping to get back into things after the pandemic, these are certainly five competitions to pay particularly close attention to.