During a year that saw many physical sporting events ravaged, much focus shifted to virtual sports for fans.
There were instances of top players in the NHL and MLB playing on a virtual platform for charity, something replicated across the world in all sports, from Formula 1 to soccer. Whilst fans could not be in stadiums, they could interact with their heroes on a different level.
For many, it might have been new ground, but for others, the world of eSports, electronic sports, is not new. In fact, some games command plenty of viewers and offer big financial rewards for successful competitors, and they might not even be titles you have heard of. Plenty of video games now have their own tournaments, which can be streamed online and of course, can be played at home which means they are not at risk of social restrictions.
Not all of the titles will be familiar to you, but these are four of the most eagerly anticipated eSports tournaments taking place around the world in 2021.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Hot Spawn reveals we have already had one of the year’s big tournaments in the CS: GO sector, with Gambit eSports lifting the title in February. There is still plenty to look forward to in one of the most popular eSports titles with gamers, not least the ESL one in Cologne in July. There will be a $1m prize purse up for grabs, with an estimated $2m available for winners at the PGL Major in Stockholm next fall.
FIFA is not the most lucrative of eSports, but it is a game that spans two very distinct industries, that of eSports and popular casual gaming. Qualification is going on right now around the world for the 2021 tournament, and some believe the virtual tournament could become as popular as the real thing, scheduled to take place in 2022. Whether it does remains to be seen, but the combination of soccer as a global sport, and FIFA as the main video game title makes this one tournament you should not ignore.
Dota 2 also requires players to qualify, but teams will come from one of six regional leagues around the world. The process feeds into ‘The International’ which takes place in the summer, the headline event for the battle arena game. The culmination of the season comes in July and August with The International 10, which has a base prize pool of around $1.6m, but a feature on eSports by Bwin reports that it is likely to be boosted by donations from fans, which could push it to as high as $40m. Dota 2 previously held the title for the biggest prize, commanding a $20m pool back in 2016.
League of Legends
League of Legends is perhaps the most popular title in the eSports world today, and it can draw millions of viewers for its big events, the Mid-Season Invitational and World Championship tournaments. The latter achieved a peak viewership of 3.8m in 2020, and will likely have a $2m prize fund when it takes place later in the year. Dates have yet to be fixed, but it is also expected to be late summer, early fall.