Overwatch League

The competitive gaming scene continues to soar in popularity and the biggest events have attracted millions of fans from across the globe. Esports have already begun to rival traditional sporting tournaments, and the juggernaut shows no signs of slowing down as prize pools become increasingly lucrative. Leading companies like MasterCard, Intel and Red Bull sponsor tournaments and leading gamers have become multimillionaires with massive social media followings as a result of their exploits. Here are the five most prestigious esports events to look out for over the next year:

League of Legends World Championship
The LoL World Championship made history in 2018 when 205 million people watched on as Invictus beat Fnatic in the final. That set a new record for the most viewers an esports event has ever amassed and saw it surpass the Super Bowl in the popularity stakes. Experts predict that the competitive gaming scene will eventually usurp the Champions League final and other major sporting events and establish itself as the most popular competitive pursuit in the world. The LoL Worlds are leading the charge, as it is the most popular game and this tournament is its most prestigious.

It was established in 2011 and marks the culmination of each season, with the world’s finest teams competing for the Summoner’s Cup. Prize money has been steadily increasing over the years and it reached $6.45 million in 2018. It features a round robin group stage and then a single elimination bracket before a champion is crowned. European powerhouse Fnatic won the inaugural competition in 2011 and Taipei Assassins claimed it in 2012, before a long period of South Korean dominance began. SK Telecom T1claimed three victories and Samsung Galaxy secured two between 2013 and 2017, but that ended last year when Chinese outfit Invictus rose to the summit of the LoL world. This year’s tournament takes place in Paris and it will be fascinating to see if the South Koreans can return to the fore.

The International
This is the biggest Dota 2 tournament of the year and it is by far and away the most lucrative esports event for players. Developer Valve runs an interactive digital compendium, which fans can purchase to follow the event, and this has contributed some eye-watering prize pools in recent years. The International carried prize money of $1.6 million in 2011 and 2012, but that shot up to $2.87 million when Valve introduced the compendium model in 2013. The International 2014 saw a prize purse of $10.93 million and that shot up to $18.43 million in 2015. The International 2016 had a prize pool of $20.77 million, The International 2017 had prize money of $24.69 million and last year’s tournament saw $25.53 million up for grabs.

The last five Internationals are the five richest esports tournaments of all time, and that has ensured that the 39 highest earning stars in history all play Dota 2. This year’s compendium is the Battle Pass and it has already racked up impressive sales. The International 2019 takes place in Shanghai, the first time it has been held in Asia. European team OG won the tournament last year and Team Liquid was victorious in 2017. It is always ferociously competitive and it draws huge global audiences that are keen to see the world’s finest Dota 2 players like horns on the biggest scene of them all.

CS:GO Majors
CS:GO is second only to LoL in popularity among esports fans and it racked up more than 400 million viewing hours on Twitch in 2018. It has established itself as the world’s premier first-person shooter thanks to its superb gameplay and its multiplayer format lends itself well to competitive gaming. The Majors are the most prestigious events in the CS:GO calendar and they always generate a huge amount of interest among the community.

Fnatic beat fellow Swedish team Ninjas in Pyjamas in the final of the first ever Major, which took place at DreamHack in Jonkoping in 2013. NiP were runners-up again Virtus.pro in EMS One Katowice, and finally secured victory when beating Fnatic in the third Major at ESL One Cologne. They were beaten finalists at the next two Majors and have not been to the final since. You will typically see two to three Majors per year, and Danish powerhouse Astralis has clinched the last two after emerging as the world’s best team over the past year. They are always the clear favourites whenever you check out the esports betting lines and their period of domination looks set to continue. The next Major takes place in Berlin at the end of August and it will be fascinating to see if the Danes can make it a record three wins in a row.

Overwatch League
Overwatch is the fourth most popular esport in the world and developer Blizzard Entertainment launched the flagship Overwatch League in 2018. The tournament carried a prize pool of $3.5 million, which did wonders for the level of professionalism within the Overwatch scene. ABC, ESPN and Disney XD all aired the post-season games, in which London Spitfire beat Philadelphia Fusion 3-1 in the Grand Final to become the first ever Overwatch League champions. The Overwatch League returned in 2019, featuring eight new teams spanning China, the U.S., Canada and France. The total prize pool has risen to $5 million and it has tied up sponsorship deals with the likes of Coca-Cola and Bud Light, while it is being shown live on German TV.

Fortnite World Cup
Fortnite became the world’s bestselling game in 2018 and developer Epic Games is desperate to ensure its longevity by turning it into a leading esport that can rival Dota 2, LoL and CS:GO. It has stumped up $100 million in prize money for 2019 and that should certainly help. The online qualifiers for the inaugural Fortnite World Cup began on April 8 and they will run until June 16. During these 10 weeks, Epic is giving away $1 million each week to the top players. The best 100 will qualify for the World Cup Finals in New York from July 26 until July 28. There is $30 million up for grabs at this tournament, which should see it usurp The International as the world’s richest tournament. Each player will be guaranteed $50,000 and the solo champion will walk away with a cool $3 million.