eSports in 2016: the lists and figures you should know

CS GO eSports

I’ve written before about eSports, but the thought occurred to me the other day — apart from the obvious Counter Strikes and Call of Duty titles — how many other eSports games do you actually know?

I’m certainly not an expert but I am familiar with all the games on the lists below and I was surprised by some of the findings.

If you’re an ardent fan, then you’ve likely spent some time watching eSports matches on platforms like Twitch so you’re probably more in the know there, but there are a number of factors to consider when looking at the most popular eSports franchises.

First, which are the biggest earners?

The earnings kings

Although it might not be the primary motivator for everyone, something to keep in mind is that this is how many people make their living, in much the same way as a more traditional professional sportsperson. lists the following as the highest estimated earning games at the moment.

  • Dota 2
    • 686 players | 89 tournaments | combined earnings of US$31.64m
  • Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO)
    • 3633 players | 688 tournaments | combined earnings of US$13.38m
  • League of Legends
    • 1176 players | 103 tournaments | combined earnings of US$9.36m
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops III
    • 322 players | 47 tournaments | combined earnings of US$3.75m
  • Heroes of the Storm
    • 355 players | 51 tournaments | combined earnings of US$3.27m

Second, which are considered to be in the top five based on the number of hours watched on Twitch for example?

Who watches what?

According to eSports Marketing Blog in July 2016, these were the top rankings (all numbers approximated).

  • Counter Strike: Global Offensive
    • 31.8m eSports hours watched on Twitch | 52.8m hours in total
  • League of Legends
    • 20.6m eSports hours watched on Twitch | 77.9m hours total
  • Dota 2
    • 8.1m eSports hours watched on Twitch | 32.4m hours total
  • Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
    • 5.3m eSports hours watched on Twitch | 31.7m hours total
  • Street Fighter V
    • 2.5m eSports hours watched on Twitch | 5.0m hours total

What I find significant is the big difference in earnings between games. Dota 2, which has a long competitive history, is the highest earner, yet it comes in only third in number of hours watched. CS:GO, on the rise as one of the most popular competitive titles, in terms of earnings is earning overall US$18-million less than Dota 2 but it is one of the most watched eSports titles at the moment.

You can also see there’s a significant difference in the second list between total hours watched and eSports hours watched, with CS:GO and League of Legends actually shifting places based on total eSports hours watched versus total hours.

The most popular spectator eSport remains CS:GO, while 2016’s eSports earning champion is Dota 2

Also on the rise — but not listed in either of these lists as yet — is Blizzard’s Overwatch.

I was surprised that Call of Duty doesn’t feature more highly on these lists and what also surprised me was the fact that FIFA didn’t feature anywhere near the top ten at all! It leads me to wonder if the FIFA tournaments are a uniquely African phenomenon given our propensity for football fandom.

Interestingly (for me anyway), Super Smash Bros from Nintendo also features in many lists.

Which is the next big eSports title? I think I’m going to have to invest some serious Twitch time to find out.



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