Did you know that the first video game tournament was held in 1972? Now, over five decades later, we have hundreds of tournaments in each big game every year, and those games deserve some recognition. So, here is the list of the most popular esports in 2024, ranked by their combined viewership, prize pools, and tournament numbers.
15. Street Fighter 6
When Street Fighter 6 came out in 2023, fans cheered it as the best game this franchise yielded since SF3, right when it started to seem that the days of massive fighting game tournaments were long past.
The upcoming Capcom X Cup will have a $1,000,000 prize pool, which is absolutely massive for a fighting game tournament in 2024. That’s three times more than it was for Capcom IX.
Another good indicator that the legendary Street Fighter franchise is, well, still fighting is that it held the most tournaments, drew the most viewers and kept raising the tournament rewards far above what was standard for Street Fighter V. Hopefully, they continue that trend in the years to come.
14. Starcraft II
Starcraft II continues to make its presence felt in the esports community more than a decade 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 $40.6 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.
In spite of its age and slightly waning interest, StarCraft II competitions still draw tournament prize pools of $500,000. We just couldn’t avoid including it among the most popular esports in the world right now.
13. PUBG: Battlegrounds
Despite being banned from a couple of countries, regular old PUBG is still faring well on the esports scene and is definitely worth noting as one of the most popular games currently.
It’s hugely popular in China, amassing over 320 million active monthly players. It’s also the only game besides Dota 2 and CS2 that regularly shows up in the top 3 on Steam charts.
However, it has fallen in numbers steadily since 2021, partially because a lot of its players transitioned to PUBG: Mobile and partly because Apex Legends, Fortnite, and Valorant started putting out more and more quality content, stealing their own share of the player base, whilst PUBG was focused on rolling out more regurgitated cosmetics.
If you aren’t familiar with it, Crossfire is basically the Chinese version of CS 1.6. It’s hugely popular there, and even though many claim it is full of cheaters, it still manages to garner millions of dollars in funding for its tournaments, especially in the last few years.
Another thing to bolster the fact that this game shouldn’t be nearly as competitively successful as it is right now is that it’s massively P2W. Who knows, maybe that’s exactly what competitive FPS games need to be successful.
11. Apex Legends
The third biggest non-mobile battle royale in the world, Apex Legends, takes the 11th spot on our list of most popular esports games in 2024.
Since its launch in 2019, it proved to be one of the most innovative and genre-defining games out there. Each day, we see more and more come into the game, much faster than Fortnite or PUBG ever did.
Also, despite being one of the youngest on this list, it has racked up over $21 million in prizes over five years of its existence; not too shabby for a game dominated by gamepad abusers if you ask me.
10. Rainbow Six Siege
Rainbow Six Siege has by far the sweatiest fanbase you’ll ever encounter. Just turning on voice comms is a surefire way for you to lose any mental fortitude needed to play a tactical first-person shooter you had left.
Still, it seems that is exactly what produces great players. Nowadays, R6 is one of the most popular esports games in the West, rewarding its pro players with very big prize pools, especially at its manually held Six Invitational Tournaments.
Its Twitch viewership peaks when there are tournaments, but fortunately, there are streamers like Jynxzi, for example, to keep the fanbase entertained even when there are none.
9. Rocket League
Rocket League’s esport took time to materialize, but its worldwide popularity has seen it emerge as an unlikely force. Unlike some of the other surprise esports hits on this list, it grew organically, bit by bit.
Ultimately, Rocket League is just a fun game that held onto fans who 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 2023 and is not showing signs of slowing down in 2024. It has set records for watch time and the number of tournaments held and even came close to its 2022 total tournament prize pool.
What bodes well for the game in 2024 is that Rocket League continues to have a very strong casual following that plays the game just for fun. Something that games like Counter-Strike or StarCraft could only dream of.
One of the most recent releases on this list, Valorant is the greatest challenger Counter-Strike has in the squad-based FPS genre.
It skyrocketed in popularity immediately after its release back in 2020 and even had popular FPS players and streamers such as Shroud, automatic, and Scream switch over to it.
Since then, it steadily rose in popularity, especially after CS2 kind of flopped on release. It’s still going strong with no signs of ever slowing down. The numbers speak for themselves. In just a few years, it managed to share over $30 million in prizes and hold over 5,500 tournaments, making it one of the fastest-growing esports scenes ever.
Seven years after its release, and despite its decline after 2019, Fortnite still stands near the top of the battle royale esports scene when it comes to popularity.
Its strongest point is the prize pools. Last year’s FNCS Global Championship had a prize pool of $4,000,000 (still a long shot from 2019’s 30 million) and managed to gather over 700k viewers at some point. These are all the highest numbers it had in a while.
When it comes to its Twitch popularity, it generally hovers at around 50 million watch hours per month. That’s a tad bit worse than what CS2 and League of Legends have, but it nevertheless makes it one of the most popular, if not the most popular, esport in the West.
6. Mobile Legends: Bang Bang
The first League of Legends ripo… *cough*, I mean mobile MOBA we’ll be mentioning on this list is Mobile Legends: Bang Bang. Its resemblance to League is truly uncanny. Riot Games and Tencent even went as far as to sue it three times over copyright issues.
However, Mobile Legends is still around and stronger than ever (it had to change its name, though). It’s mostly played in the Philippines and Indonesia, where over 20 million people log into it each day.
However, the most surprising fact about it is its viewership. Last year’s MLBB M5 World Championship was watched by 5 million people at one point, rivaling the record League of Legends set just four days prior. Mighty impressive for a mobile game.
5. PUBG: Mobile
PUBG: Mobile is the foremost battle royale game on mobile. It blew up as soon as it was released back in 2018 and hasn’t stopped growing since then, racking up over 500 million downloads on Google Play Store alone.
Its massively competitive player base also produced an esports scene that gave away over $21 million in prize pools to its players last year only, topping other esports giants such as League of Legends, Counter-Strike, and Fortnite.
What’s more, it outperforms the PC version both in player numbers and in earnings, most of it coming from China, though. Regardless, a mobile game outperforming its PC version is as rare as a hen’s teeth and definitely worth credit.
4. Counter-Strike 2
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. It 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. Then we had Global Offensive, which proved a smashing success and has seen the franchise clamber back to the top of the esports pile.
In late 2023, we had quite an abrupt transition to CS2. The game was very unpolished, forcing many changes that players didn’t like. What more to say than that the biggest CS:GO legend, S1mple, decided to take a break because of how bad the AWP was.
However, a couple of months later, CS2 is finally starting to take shape as a good competitive game, with its first major tournament happening in March.
3. Dota 2
When one thinks of OG 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 Warcraft III, Dota quickly rose in popularity. Its successor, Dota 2, refined the package, which has since emerged as the most lucrative and one of the most popular esports games in the world.
Indeed, the numbers speak for themselves: a cumulative $300 million in prize money during more than a decade of its existence, peaking with the 2021 TI when the total prize pool was a record $40 million.
It shouldn’t surprise you then that 48 out of 50 of the most paid esports players in the world are all Dota 2 players. Imagine winning one tournament and already making more money than 99.99% of all esports players ever will.
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, which shows that it has a more die-hard fanbase.
2. Honor of Kings
If you like mobile MOBAs and haven’t yet heard of Honor of Kings, it’s probably because most of its player base is from Asia. For now, know that it’s coming out with a global release soon, and you can pre-register right now.
Honor of Kings is a game extremely similar to League of Legends. I mean, it started off as an LoL ripoff, the same as Mobile Legends. The map, the champions, the game modes, you name it. It all looks and feels like playing League (only on mobile, though). It even has League’s popularity, hovering around 100 million daily players at the moment.
What surprises me the most about it, though, is that it has one of the highest prize pools of all esports games in the world. Last year’s International Championship alone had around $10 million spread among its participants. That’s a huge dub for the mobile MOBA market in my book.
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.
Last year, during the 2023 League of Legends World Championship, over 6.4 million people around the globe tuned in to watch the finals, making it by far the most popular esports event of all time.
The only thing LoL hasn’t managed to match Dota 2 with is prize money. Since 2016, the Worlds prize pool has fallen to just $2.25 million, which is way below the standards that other top esports have set. We can only hope that will change in the future.
That does it for our list of the world’s most popular esports! Stay tuned to Twinfinite for all the latest gaming news and guides, and be sure to check out the related articles we listed below.