Updated on May 8th, 2019
Esports isn’t going anywhere and have continued to grow in popularity over the past two years. Here are the most popular esports in the world right now.
To establish this ranking, an esport games’ “popularity” is ascertained by combining the average total amount of hours viewed on Twitch over a period, total prize pools and tournament numbers, and in certain cases, introducing player base as a parameter.
15. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Super Smash Bros. has long been a popular esport across many different version. For purists, Melee is still the most balanced and widely accepted esport version, but last year’s Ultimate is gaining traction in the competitive scene.
While Smash Bros. Melee tournaments are still offering up to $50,000 in prize money, Ultimate is now rivaling that with its own tournaments featuring $50,000 in prize pools and has Melee for esports hour watched on Twitch, too.
Still, though, Smash remains a fragmented esport across several different versions, and it doesn’t look as though Ultimate is going to unite them under one banner.
That’s a shame, but it looks as though for now Ultimate is certainly the most popular, albeit possibly not the best-optimized version for competitive play.
14. Call of Duty Black Ops 4
Last year’s Call of Duty: WW2 refreshed the series in a way that many fans were happy to see. Black Ops 4 should carry the baton effectively into 2019 with its popular Blackout mode giving the series more versatility in esports than it has ever had before.
Call of Duty: WW2 was able to grow its overall prize pool despite offering up less tournaments than Infinite Warfare before it. Overall both games combined for a little under $9 million over the last two years, and Black Ops 4 seems poised to grow the franchise.
Call of Duty’s traditional game modes are just as popular as ever, and now, Activision has an incredibly popular Battle Royal mode under its belt too.
This multiplies the potential number of tournaments they could hold, and we wouldn’t be shocked to see Call of Duty jump up this list later this year when the Black Ops 4 scene is more established.
13. Magic the Gathering: Arena
A new contender, Magic the Gathering Arena still isn’t out as a full version yet, but it’s already an established esport. Thanks to a huge push from publisher Wizards of the Coast, the competitive scene is thriving with tournaments featuring prize pools of up to $1 million.
The Magic franchise has been around for years, and its popularity as a physical card game outside of video games has perhaps contributed to it quickly gaining traction as an esport.
The numbers on Twitch are impressive, with Newzoo ranking it number eight most-watched game on Twitch by number of esports hours (2 million).
12. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG)
The game’s prize pool totals over $10 million, and even the face of competition from Epic Games’ Fortnite, PUB’s popularity in the Asian market will likely see it continue as a tour de force in the esports scene.
The biggest competition’s so far have been Global Invitational, worth $1 million, and the regional qualifiers for that tournament. FACEIT’s Global Summit featured a $400,000 in 2018.
11. FIFA 19
The FIFA series has long been an esport, and with each new version, publisher EA Games continues to support competitions across the world. The sheer popularity of the game globally means the tournaments are plentiful and the prize money typically very attractive.
In 2019, the Global Series, eWorld Cup, and ePremier League will all be running, as well as dozens of tournaments at esports competitions run by the ESL and ELEAGUE.
Prize pools so far for FIFA 19 are over $1 million, but you can expect that to rapidly increase as the aforementioned major tournaments kick off in 2019. As they do, expect Twitch viewership of the game to skyrocket into the top 10.
10. Street Fighter V
Street Fighter V was not well received by critics when it launched. Somewhat lacking in content in comparison to what many people still consider the series high-water mark, Street Fighter IV, fan reaction to its poultry single-player offering, in particular, was not positive.
Yet, Street Fighter V always felt like a base, a foundation on which Capcom would slowly build on, and whether you approve or not of that strategy, the game has undeniably improved since release.
Street Fighter V certainly felt like it was always geared more toward the professional scene.
Despite the infamous eight frames of lag on PS4 – SFV has the most input lag of any Street Fighter game on PS4 – it does play extremely well, resonating far better with the hardcore professionals.
Clearly, Capcom wants SFV to become a mainstay esport and continues to throw significant weight behind achieving that objective.
The 2019 Capcom Cup will feature a prize pool of over $600,000 in 2019, with EVO north of $90,000. As ever, those competitions will push Twitch viewership up for the respective months as a result of the fighting game communities passion for competitive play.
The popularity of the MOBA genre has seen the birth of slightly different takes on the gameplay formula made popular by established franchises such as Defense of the Ancients (DOTA).
Played from a third-person perspective rather than the isometric view, Smite has players right down in the action. Apart from being a very good game in its own right, perhaps that point of difference has helped it keep pace with other more conventional MOBA titles.
Smite prize money totals over $8.5 million, placing it just in the top 10 of all-time according to Esports Earnings. Still, major tournaments such as the Smite World Championship are featuring prize pools over nearly $1 million, so it’s still a big name in esports.
8. Rocket League
Rocket League’s esports took time to materialize, but its worldwide popularity has seen it emerge as an unlikely force
Instead, like some of the other surprise esports hits on this list, it grew organically. Rocket League is just a fun game that held onto fans that eventually asked for a more competitive scene to follow.
This is a stark contrast to some games that force an esports scene onto its community and hope that it catches on.
Rocket League did extremely well for itself in 2018, and as of the end of the year, has racked up a total lifetime prize pool of over $4 million, across 245 tournaments. A hefty amount events considering how young the game still is compared to the other more established titles.
What bodes well for the game in 2019 is that Rocket League continues to have a very strong casual following that plays the game just for fun.
7. Starcraft II
Starcraft II continues to make its presence felt in the esports community nine years after its initial launch. The only real-time strategy game on our list, Starcraft II has its roots in the old school of competitive gaming amid a scene dominated by MOBAs.
Of all the games on this list, StarCraft has recorded the most tournaments and amassed one of the largest prize pools at $22 million, though it has, of course, been around for a longer period of time.
What is most telling is that typically 50% or more of the total hours of Twitch streaming were spectators watching esports competitions, which is a far higher proportion than other games listed here.
Last year, Starcraft consistently recorded as high as 60-70%, further suggesting that StarCraft II is primarily driven by its stature as an esport.
Despite its age and slightly waning interest, StarCraft II competitions still draw tournament prize pools of $500,000. We couldn’t not include it among the most popular esports in the world right now.
Collectible card games have long been popular, but their emergence into the digital space has really caught on, establishing a brand new esport that’s gaining serious momentum.
Crunching the numbers, Hearthstone has enjoyed astounding growth over the past three years. From 2014-2017, the game has gone from a player base of 10 million to 70 million registered players.
Unlike real card games that cost significant money to buy and collect, Hearthstone is a free to play experience that allows players to build decks from the comfort of their homes.
Added to the fact that the game is based on the famous World of Warcraft franchise, it is easy to see why Hearthstone has found success.
Yet, nobody could have quite foreseen just how much interest the game has generated as a spectator sport.
Not only do people love playing Hearthstone, so too does it have an enormous Twitch following, both at the amateur and professional level.
March saw 2.4 million esports hours watched on Twitch, and Hearthstone tends to stick around the top 10 throughout the year thanks to a steady string of tournaments.
Fortnite exploded in popularity throughout 2018, and while its traction as an esport has taken a while to get going, developer Epic Games is serious about its competitive scene this year.
A recent pledge of $100 million in prize money for 2019 puts it right up there as one of the biggest prize pools in the esports ecosystem.
Indeed, 2019 will see the premiere of the Fortnite World Cup which will have $100 million in prizes.
4. Counter-Strike GO
Counter-Strike is as old as the hills. The online squad-based shooter first gained traction way back in the late 1990s as a modification running off Half-Life.
Counter-Strike rose to fame as one of the pioneering esports back when the CPL and World Cyber Games were in full flow.
Later, Source attempted to update the format, powered by Half-Life 2’s more modern engine but it never quite gathered the same momentum. Global Offensive, however, has proved a smashing success and has seen the franchise clamber back to the top of esports pile.
Counter-Strike GO is absolutely on the up, recording ever more impressive view statistics on Twitch – averaging 46.5 million a month- only behind League of Legends and Defense of the Ancients.
Perhaps one reason why Global Offensive’s views on Twitch have seen such impressive growth is the game’s simplicity in comparison to MOBAs. There is no myriad of spells, hexes or complicated strategies to learn in GO’s easier-to-follow 5v5 format.
A single Eleague Major match between Virtus Pro and Astralis recently smashed one million concurrent viewers on Twitch. Global Offensive tournaments often boast prize pools of around $1.5 million.
Of all esports, the game enjoys the most tournaments and total professional players.
Heavily inspired by Team Fortress 2, Overwatch incorporates mechanics from shooters, role-playing, and battle arena games with its emphasis on unique heroes.
It was an instant hit when it launched in 2016, and the arrival of Blizzard’s The Overwatch League in 2018 established it as an esport.
In fact, The Overwatch League arguably represents the most modern and streamlined esports league in the world. The city-based teams, structured tournament format, major investors, and regular scheduling comprises something similar to traditional sports.
The inaugural 2018 season was a huge success, with over 10 million people tuning in to watch the finals. Blizzard has said that 2019’s opening season viewership is up 30% from last year, so there’s every reason to think The Overwatch League could turn into the world’s premier esport competition.
2. Dota 2
When one thinks of MOBA games, Defense of the Ancients surely springs to mind first. It is the Godfather of the genre that is responsible for kickstarting the entire battle arena scene.
Starting life as a modification of World of Warcraft, Dota quickly rose in popularity. Its successor, Dota 2, refined the package, which has since emerged as the most lucrative esport in the world.
Indeed, the numbers speak for themselves; $86 million in prize money, as well as the fact that the top 55 esports players in the world are all Dota 2 players.
However, in terms of amateur player numbers and total views of live streamed Twitch games overall, Dota 2 doesn’t peak at quite the same records as League of Legends.
Where it does trump LoL, though, is in the average volume of those tuning in exclusively to watch professional game tournaments.
1. League of Legends
Dota might have been the first to blueprint the familiar MOBA formula, but League of Legends has been responsible for its total explosion into the mainstream. The game is a complete phenomenon, recording statistics that totally boggle the mind.
April, for example, was the first month in 2017 that the game has not clocked over 90 million total hours watched on live Twitch stream.
LoL doesn’t match the ever popular Dota 2 for total prize money earnings, with 2016’s World Championship featuring a prize pool of just over $5 million dollars to Dota 2’s 2016 The International 1st place prize of nearly $21 million.
But you have to keep in mind that Championship players are paid salaries by Riot Games, whereas DOTA 2 players earn their money entirely through prize pools (and sponsorship).
Yet, the most telling statistics are LoL’s incredible nearly 60 million viewers during that World Championship — more than the NBA finals in 2016.
Last year, LoL sailed past 100 million active users per month, further demonstrating the immense reach of this esport among amateur players.
By comparison, that is nearly eight times as many as Dota 2.
That does it for our list of the most popular esports in the world right now! What are your personal favorites? Let us know in the comments below.