Although competitive video gaming has been alive and kicking since the 1980s, the eSports industry that we know and love today has been amplified by a host of next-generation PC and console titles, each of which has its own unique elements and attributes required to succeed. Coverage of eSports events has ramped up hugely due to increased sponsorships, broadcast deals and the elevated fan followings of the best eSports professionals. People don’t just like watching esports, but also betting on them too. A quick glance at bet365’s interface shows eSports as a visible betting market on its menu. The Stoke-on-Trent-based operator is one of three highly recommended sites by oddschecker, based on the strength of its customer promotions and the competitiveness of its odds, which include the eSports coupon and outright markets.
Statista estimates that the global revenue generated by the eSports industry will total $1.87 billion by 2025. It also anticipates that figure reaching $5.74 billion by the turn of the next decade. None of this would be possible without the soaring popularity of some of the biggest eSports titles in the business.
To that end, let’s take a look at some of the eSports titles feeding the passions of players and viewers alike in 2023:
Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO)
CS:GO is comfortably the most popular eSports title on the planet as we speak. The latest version of Counter Strike has been enchanting combat gamers for more than a decade, and it’s a credit to the longevity of the game that it still stands the test of time when technology and graphics have evolved so much.
That’s largely because the game’s developers continue to focus on new patches and updates that keep the in-game content fresh and exciting. Weapon skins are one of the biggest attractions for CS:GO professionals. The biggest CS:GO events also attract eye-watering sums of prize money. IEM Katowice is one of a handful to boast $1 million-plus prize pools, attracting a similar number of viewers throughout.
League of Legends
The Asian market for League of Legends (LoL) has become something of a behemoth. It’s currently the most successful and most played PC game of all the leading esports titles worldwide, boasting eight million active players.
LoL has helped to characterize the thrill and skill involved in multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) titles, which are increasingly dominating the eSports domain. South Korea is the biggest hotbed for LoL talent, with many of the top ten eSports earners coming from Korea.
Dota 2 is developed by Valve and has become one of the most eagerly anticipated eSports titles on the planet. It now carries an almost unprecedented online following, with substantial prize pools and interest among the eSports betting fraternity.
In fact, its prize pools outdo all other eSports titles, such is the popularity of this game. The Dota 2 ‘International’ is the crème de la crème of Dota 2 events, attracting the biggest and best teams on the scene. A quarter of the prize pool for this event is funded by casual players, with their in-game Compendium transactions – spanning new challenges, skins and modes – contributing to a prize pool that’s managed to break the $34 million mark.
It would be remiss not to look at some of the new titles on the block. Valorant is one of the fastest-growing eSports games on the planet. It was only released back in 2020, but in just a few years it has already become a regular in the eSports betting world. In fact, its betting markets are now more liquid than the likes of Overwatch, whose first-person shooter gaming elements inspired Valorant.
In December 2022 alone, Riot Games – developer of Valorant – saw upwards of 17 million active Valorant players. The game is also aided by a growing contingent of eSports streamers and influencers that play and promote the game to their followers, namely ‘Ninja’ and ‘Shroud’.
Blizzard Entertainment’s first-person shooter masterpiece, Overwatch, has also become an eSports giant. Blizzard, which is the brains behind the Call of Duty franchise, knows the secret ingredients that make great video games. Overwatch is a fusion of the shooter genre and the casual multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA).
The Overwatch League has become well established over the last five years and has cemented itself as a truly global competition. It now has regional ‘conferences’ between Atlantic and Pacific teams, with a prize pool breaking the $5 million barrier. Overwatch attracts increasing interest from live streamers and broadcasters, with league events frequently available on streaming portals like Twitch and options available with online sportsbooks that run in-play Overwatch markets.
The EA Sports Cup recently concluded in mid-January, bringing together 20 of the best FIFA eSports double-acts on the planet. The tournament culminated in a $250,000 prize pool and two direct qualification places for the FIFAe Club World Cup 2023. This is currently the most prestigious FIFA competition in the world. In 2022, the total prize pool for FIFA events was $3.65 million, up from $2.09 million in the previous year. This underlines the shift in commercial appetite for virtual soccer.
At the 2024 Summer Olympic Games, the French hosts in Paris plan to operate an “Olympic Esports Week”, with FIFA eSports set to play a part. This will surely help to further raise the profile of competitive FIFA, putting sports titles firmly on the eSports map.
Last but by no means least, PUBG is one of the most fascinating eSports titles right now. It lays claim to being the most popular – and only – fully-fledged mobile eSports title. It’s available for download on Android and iOS smartphone and tablet devices, which has helped facilitate its meteoric rise among casual mobile gamers worldwide.
The PUB Mobile Pro League is one of the bastions of the PUBG gaming scene. It now has seven regional Mobile Pro League competitions running annually, spanning Southeast Asia, South Asia, Turkey, the Middle East, South and North America. In 2021, PUBG prize pools totalled an impressive $14 million, underlining its rising commercial and competitive appeal.