The esports industry has grown to be worth more than $1 billion in the last couple of years, thanks to an influx of sponsorship money and a flood of new fans that have begun to take an interest in competitive video game playing.
A lot is written about the prize money that successful players receive and huge advertising deals that organizers pen with some of the world’s biggest brands. But less attention is paid to the games themselves, and what impact the mechanics of competition has on them.
After all, the exposure that comes from being broadcast to hundreds of thousands, or even millions of people, is bound to help increase the popularity of a game. It is likely that many titles have had their lives extended after they became popular esports titles.
Of all the games that have been turned into esports, here are some of the biggest success stories.
The Halo franchise is one of the most successful in video game history with almost a dozen titles released in the last 20 years. It hasn’t been without its troubles though. Halo 5: Guardians was widely criticized by fans for having a terrible ending, leaving players to wait for Halo 6 to know how the story finishes. Except, nearly six years later, there has been no direct sequel.
Part of the reason for this has been Halo 5’s online play. which continues to be popular today. TRN’s Halo Tracker has stats for around half a million players that use its software (and this is a much smaller number than those who play the game).
Being part of a popular franchise, with an online mode that remains popular to this day, makes Halo 5 a prime candidate for esports. One of the biggest competitions is the Halo Championship Series, which was launched by 343 Industries, the studio behind the creation of the game. That’s not the only Halo competition out there. Gamepedia had more than 20 events that took place in North America between November 2020 and early April 2021 alone.
When it was released in 2012, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive was just another sequel in a series of shooting games that saw you play as part of a strike force. It had all the hallmarks of an early 21st-century video game. It was designed for short multiplayer games, with players given objectives to complete, such as defusing a bomb or rescuing hostages. It also contained no microtransactions or cosmetic customization.
However, 12 months later, the “Arms Deal” update turned it into one of the first modern multiplayer games and even created an entire virtual economy for a short period before this element was shut down for security reasons.
CS:GO is one of the most successful esports games in existence. The official competition, the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Major Championships was founded in 2013 and has been held every year since then (apart from 2020).
Being nine years old, CS: GO should have been replaced by one or more of the newer releases in the Counter-Strike series. But esports appear to have kept the game alive much longer than would otherwise have been possible.
Fortnite is a free-to-play battle royale game that has become one of the most successful esports games. It’s spawned a huge market for official and unofficial merchandise, covering everything from T-shirts to figurines, and its unique character dances have made their way into popular culture. Only Minecraft and Pokémon Go have managed to do this better.
Fortnite didn’t pioneer the battle royale format, but it did help to popularize it. Its unique cartoonish graphics made the experience more seamless when switching from mobile devices to consoles, and cross-platform play made it possible to play with friends no matter what hardware you have.
There are many other reasons why the game is such a success, including its regular updates that introduce new items and challenges to change the playing experience, and its revolutionary Battle Pass that created a system for ongoing monetization that fans are actually happy to pay for.
With so many people playing Fortnite, it makes the game a prime candidate for success in the esports world. The game has consistently ranked in the top 10 by most metrics for several years, even in 2020 when its flagship Fortnite World Cup event was canceled.
League of Legends
Unlike the previous three games, League of Legends is a fantasy battle arena game. It features top-down graphics and sees two teams of five players go head-to-head while they try to defend their half of the map. Playable characters have different abilities and styles, making your choice a strategic decision.
League of Legends is also one of the oldest games used for esports today, having been released in October 2009. With so much time to build a large following, LoL is widely regarded as the “biggest” esport, with 12 domestic leagues that feed into an international tournament known as the League of Legends World Championship.
Just about every metric shows League of Legends as the leader in its field. The 2019 running of the event attracted a peak of more than 100 million unique viewers, and some events have even appeared on traditional TV channels. Its highest-paid players receive more than any other game, and more people attend the World Championship in person than the Stanley Cup.
Dota 2 is Valve Corporation’s second game in the list of successful esport games. Released almost a year after CS:GO, Dota 2 is a sequel to Defense of the Ancients and is another online battle arena game, similar to League of Legends. In fact, these two games share many similarities, with two teams of five competing with characters that have unique abilities.
The Dota Pro Circuit is the official esports franchise for the game and was first set up in 2017 as a way to help decide which teams should be invited to The International, the Dota 2 equivalent of the League of Legends World Championship.
Dota 2 comes very close to League of Legends in the size of its prize purse, having grown from $1.6 million in 2011 to $34 million in 2019. This success is even more impressive given the fact that there are no mobile or console versions of the game, meaning the game has a smaller market to attract fans.