Never mind what others said about video games being a complete waste of time, if you are really good at it then you might have a chance to win some of that sweet e-sports money that is being handed out these days. And no, we don’t mean pocket change to go and buy yourself a couple cans of beer, we are talking about millions of dollars, that you can make by playing video games at the highest level. These days, electronic sports or eSports has taken the entire world by surprise. Teenagers who spent thousands of hours playing their favorite games at home, now have a chance to compete against each other at an international level, in front of thousands of spectators in packed stadiums, for multi-million dollar prize pools, and a ton of sponsorships as well as advertising deals. It is just like real sports, with the exception that it took esports only a decade and half to mature to a point where it is beginning to rivals some of the more mainstream real sports such as hockey, golf or tennis. The worlds most popular online game, League of Legends has over 60 million online players, and just so you know that number is greater than the population of France. There are more than 160 million people who watch competitive gaming today, and much more who play the game. This number is bound to grow with time and at the current rate, it is going to surpass conventional sports withing the next decade. This is further solidified by the fact that countries such as USA, Sweden, China, South Korea and Russia have already recognized professional gaming as a competitive sport, and the USA even hands out P1 athlete visas to professional gamers who wish to visit America for playing in a tournament. All that aside, here is a top ten list of the video game tournaments with the highest prize pools till date. You are bound to be surprised by the sheer magnitude of these tournaments if you are new to the concept of gaming as a profession-
10. League of Legends 2015 World Championship
Held last year, this mega event was hosted in 4 different cities, each city for a certain stage of the tournament. Sporting a ginormous 2,130,000 dollar prize pool, it was the World Championship for League of Legends- the most popular online game in the world. The tournament was held over a period of one month and 16 teams participated in it, each team had 5 players. The group stages were held in Paris, the quarterfinals were held in London, the semifinals were held in Brussels and the finals were held in Berlin. Ain’t that a whole lot of flying around to sit and play at a LAN party? The finalists were both Korean teams, each of them fighting for a 1,000,000 dollar prize. The highest number of concurrent viewers (peak concurrent viewers or PCU) for the tournament was 14 million, while the total number of unique viewers was 36 million-the highest for any eSport tournament to date.
9. Halo World Championship, 2016
Held in Hollywood California, during March this year, this tournament boasted an enormous 2.5 million dollar prize pool and was the world championship for the video game Halo 5: Guardians. The winners were team Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) who took home a 1,000,000 dollar prize, to be shared among 4 players. The runners up, Team Allegiance had to settle with a 500,000 dollar prize. Halo is an extremely popular X-box exclusive shooter game which has been extremely popular ever since Halo 1 came out, in fact it is the sole reason some people chose the Xbox over the Playstation- to play Halo.
8. Smite World Championships, 2015
This tournament was the first World Championship for Smite, an action RTS game, which has been designed to compete with the more well recognized games of the same genre such as Dota 2 and League of Legends. It utilizes a more action oriented approach, with a rather lenient learning curve compared to League or Dota. This championship was designed to promote the game among viewers and introduce it to the esports arena. With a prize pool of $2,612,259, it sure got a lot of attention. The first ever Smite World Championship winner was team Cognitive Prime, who took home the lion’s share of the prize pool-more than 1.3 million dollars. The runners up, team Titan went on to received 522,000 dollars.
7. The International 2013
Okay, from now on the list gets really one sided. Which means, every single tournament from this point onward in the list is a Dota 2 tournament, purely by virtue of the enormous prize pools that the game hands out. It is partly due to the unique crowdfunding concept that Valve employs- players contribute to the prize pool of each major Dota 2 tournament by purchasing in-game cosmetics and other items. Out of that money, 25 percent is contributed towards the prize pool of each years International, the biggest Dota 2 Tournament which is also quite frankly the largest esport tournament in terms of prize pool, since the last 3 years. The International 3 or International 2013 would see 16 of the worlds best Dota 2 teams battle it out at the Benaroya Arena in Seattle for a share of the 2,874,407 dollar prize pool. The finals of the International 3 is still widely considered as the best Dota 2 International finals till date, partly due to the rivalry between the two finalists- Natus Vincere and Alliance. The best of 5 series resulted in a 2-2 cliffhanger, the winner of that final game would get to go home with $1,437,204 in their bag. The game began extremely well for the Ukrainian squad of Natus Vincere who secured early objectives, the Swedish team of Alliance looked like it was on the ropes for sure. However they miraculously turned the game around on the base of some really clutch plays by Gustav “S4” Magnusson, the captain of Alliance. They Swedes won a really intense final game, and Natus Vincere were forced to settle for the runners up position, and 632,370 dollars.
6. The Shanghai Major, 2016
Ever since last year, Valve- the company who owns Dota 2, said that they will be hosting 4 “Majors” each year, one of which will be The International. Every Major except the International will have a base prize pool of 3,000,000 dollars, completely funded by Valve. Which means more stability, and more chances of income for everyone in the Dota 2 scene every year. The winners of the Shanghai Major were crowd favorites Team Secret, who took home a prize of 1,110,000 dollars. The runners up, team Liquid took home 405,000. A total of 16 teams participated at the tournament, representing 21 different nations. Even the teams that placed last, received a prize of 30,000 dollars.
5. The Frankfurt Major, 2015
Held in Frankfurt, this was the first ever Dota 2 Major, and was anticipated by many fans to be the tournament that would decide which team gets to rule the scene til the next three months. It was a spectacular display of skill and coordination by the top 16 teams in the world, and the cosplay was pretty amazing too. The tournament was a series of upsets in which crowd and analyst favorite teams got knocked down by underdogs, new teams that had formed in the aftermath of the International 2015. The tournament was a tale of rags to riches for team OG, a team who were regarded by many as severe underdogs coming into the tournament, but went on to win 1,110,000 dollars worth of money. This major, like the other ones had a prize pool of 3,000,000 dollars. Team Secret were the runners up (went on to win the next Major at Shanghai), and took home 405,000 dollars.
4. The Manila Major, 2016
Held in the Mall of Asia arena at Manila, Philippines,this tournament was a huge success, it featured many awesome games and several comeback stories by teams who had been out of form, but battled it out to place first. It was also the first big Dota 2 tournament to be held in Philippines, a country which is not really known for esports. Much to the surprise of the organizers, the crowd at Manila was unlike no other, they were constantly making noise, cheering for the local team and were extremely energetic. The finals of the tournament even featured a guest appearance by Kristian Nairn (Hodor from Game of Thrones), who held the door for the two finalists as they entered the arena amidst the applause of thousands of enthusiastic fans. This time, the 1,110,000 dollars went to team OG, the first team ever in Dota 2 history to win two Valve events, and marked the beginning of a new age in terms of team stability and taught everyone that the best teams are the ones which stick together. Team Liquid were the runners up, taking home a 405,000 dollar share.
3. Dota Asia Championships (DAC), 2015
Back when it was hosted in January 2015, at Shanghai, the DAC was the largest non-Valve event ever and offered a gigantic 3,057,000 dollar prize pool, a prize pool that was bested only by The International 2014 (And later by the Majors and International 2015). This tournament introduced a brand new team Evil Geniuses, spearheaded by a skinny 15 year old kid from Pakistan, called “Sumail“, who had just recently migrated to the United States to pursue his dream of becoming a Dota 2 professional. Fortunately for him, Evil Geniuses, the largest American gaming organization, noticed the young kids talent and decided to take a huge gamble by making him a part of the team which was just about to compete in three million dollar tournament. And he did not disappoint at all, he easily outperformed players who were much older than him and were more experienced. Even when the reigning Chinese team, Vici Gaming managed to completely shut him down in the finals, he surprised everyone by staging a magnificent comeback and went on to lead team EG to victory in front of an amazed crowd at a packed arena. Sumail, who came from a poor Pakistani family, became an instant hit in the Dota 2 scene and he enjoyed his first big chunk of esports money at the age of 15, as Evil Geniuses snagged a whopping 1,284,158 dollars for placing first.
2. The International 2014
Long story short, this was a 10,000,000 dollar video game tournament. Yep, you got it right, Google it if you don’t believe what you are reading.The magic of crowdfunding showed its power once again, as in he International 2013, the prize pool was a mere 2,874,407 dollars, but this time it exceeded all expectations. Again, you should know that the International is the largest Dota tournament which takes place once a year. Every month, smaller tournaments occur with prize pools in the range of 50,000 to 300,000 dollars. And every week there is like 4 or 5 of these “smaller” tournaments going on simultaneously across the globe. There could be a couple going on in Europe, a few more in China, a couple more in America, and one or two in south east Asia. Anyways, the International 2014 finals was a long, calculated battle between two Chinese titans, Newbee and Vici Gaming. The winners were Newbee, who received 5,028,308 dollars in prize money, effectively turning each member of the five-man squad into the first ever Dota 2 millionaires. Vici Gaming were rewarded with a more than generous prize of 1,475,699 dollars to lick their wounds and return home, back to playing Dota 2 all day and preparing for next year.
1. The International 2015
So, this is the tournament that put the “esports” in ESPN. It featured a mind blowing 18,429,613 dollars as prize money, the largest ever prize pool for a video game tournaments. Okay, just to give you a better perspective on how large that amount of money actually is, we will compare the prize pools of some conventional sports to that of the International 2015:
- The Cricket World Cup-10 million dollars.
- The Masters Tournament(Golf)-10 million dollars.
- The Super Bowl-8 million dollars.
- NBA finals-7 million dollars.
And, we have video game tournaments with a prize pool of more than 18 million dollars, well isn’t that something. This was the first ever International to be won by an American team, Evil Geniuses took home more than 6 million dollars in prize money after a grueling battle with the Chinese dark horse team, CDEC. And young Sumail couldn’t have asked for a better start to his gaming career-not even half a year in the scene and he’s already a millionaire. The kid’s parents must be really proud of their son’s career choice by now. CDEC received 2,856,590 dollars as second place prize money, and are now a well recognized name in the international Dota 2 community. It is almost time for this year’s International and the community funded prize pool has almost reached 18 million dollars, with more than a month left to grow even further. At this rate, we might see a 25 million dollar tournament for Dota 2 really soon. And only one thing is for certain-it is going to get even bigger next year, and bigger the year after.Not just in terms of prize pools, but in terms of advertising, overall market revenue, viewership and mainstream popularity among the general masses. Gaming is here to stay and at this rate you can never say where it will go next.
Author – Anant Yash Pandey