2021 was a strange year for esports as many arenas remained empty for the majority of tournaments. Despite this lack of attendance, there was still a lot of money flooding into the industry while people watched and played from home. So which esport delivered the most money to its athletes in this wild year? Let’s take a look.
7) League of Legends – $7.3 million
League of Legends was last on the list? Hard to believe, but it’s true. Professionals who play and compete in the MOBA title receive high salaries from their teams, which in turn can secure their own income via the game’s leagues. Riot Games wants to create as healthy an ecosystem as possible for the organizations and athletes in the scene. Million-dollar prize pools always make the headlines, but prize pools that are only high for a few top teams and leave nothing for the rest are dangerous for a scene in the long run. That’s the theory Riot Games is acting on, anyway.
6) Fortnite – $9.5 million
Epic Games dropped respectable prize money in 2021, though that somehow seems small in view of the sheer enormity of Fortnite, and repeatedly ties the major competitions of the game’s esports scene into the larger structure of the title by providing similar virtual public viewing events to the digital concerts of big stars. Somehow it doesn’t seem that Epic is as interested in competitive Fortnite as it should be.
5) Arena of Valor – $12.3 million
The main market for the game is East Asia, and it is especially popular in China and Taiwan. Incidentally, the roughly $12 million in prize money from this year is only a temporary peak: in 2022, AoV’s world championship will be merged with that of Honor of Kings, the original Chinese version of this international offshoot – that will nearly double the annual prize pool. The pros should be pleased.
4) PUBG Mobile – $14.5 million
The mobile version of PUBG is one of the most popular apps of all in many Asian countries. In India, there was even great public debate last year because the government put PUBG Mobile on a list of banned apps from China in the wake of the political conflict with the neighboring country. Still, there is no debate over the popularity and sheer lucrative nature of this title.
3) PUBG: Battlegrounds – $16 million
This time it’s the original, PC version of PUBG. Despite talk about PUBG being a dying game on PC, its desktop esports scene feels very much alive and managed to outdo its mobile counterpart in terms of prize money. It also has one of the most international scenes in esports in terms of top teams.
2) CS:GO – $21 million
Competitions take place in CS:GO practically all the time, and Valve’s loose handling of the scene allows independent tournament organizers to hold competitions in the first-person shooter themselves. On the one hand, this can seem confusing to potential viewers, but on the other hand, it also ensures that there is practically always a tournament running somewhere in CS:GO, which is great for viewers who simply can’t get enough of those juicy AWP headshots. Valve is thus in stark contrast to Riot Games, which controls virtually the entire esports scenes of its titles itself in detail. It’s been fascinating over the years to observe the various pros and cons of these approaches – a study that will surely continue.
1) DOTA 2 – $47.2 million
What’s with the huge jump in numbers here? The next edition of The International, the world championship of Dota 2, has set a new prize money record. This is not because of Valve’s generosity. Take the last edition of the tournament: the publisher itself invested around $1.6 million, while the remaining $38.4 million came from the fans. The fans can increase the prize pool of the world championship via an annual battle pass (the Compendium) to the tournament. Valve itself earns from this, too, because only a small part of the revenue from this battle pass actually goes into the prize pool, making it probably the most effective publisher in terms of generating direct value out of its esports scene. Year after year, fans put more money into the game and the prize purse grows, leading to the aforementioned headlines. So it’s not that anyone actually minds Valve taking a big cut, it is providing the battle pass content after all. As you can see, The International makes up a huge portion of the total prize pool for the year. Once again, Valve is at the other extreme to Riot Games here.
(All information was provided by USA Today)