GoBanking Logo
GoBanking Logo

Overwatch, Fortnite and 22 of the Most Lucrative Esports Games in the World

Roman Kosolapov / Shutterstock.com

With the COVID-19 pandemic effectively shutting down major sports leagues around the world, many people find themselves craving some form of competition.

While leagues such as the NBA, NHL and MLB remain in limbo, one sport is having its moment. Competitive gaming, commonly referred to as esports, has become one of the fastest-growing spectator sports in the world over the past few years. In fact, a recent survey from market researcher Newzoo forecasted that global esports revenue would surpass $1 billion in 2020.

The coronavirus outbreak likely has tempered those numbers, with highly lucrative leagues — such as the Overwatch League and the League of Legends Championship Series — being forced to play their seasons online and cancel live events. But while revenues might be down slightly, popularity is as high as ever. Time magazine reported Twitch viewership was up 31% in March. Meanwhile, Variety reported that Verizon has seen a 75% increase in gaming usage since the second half of March.

With more people tuning in to Twitch esports streams to pass the time during this quarantine, GOBankingRates looked at the most lucrative esports games in the world to find out which annual tournaments dish out the biggest cash prizes.

Gamers will be familiar with many platforms on this list, from longstanding sensations such as World of Warcraft and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive to newer, wildly popular hits such as APEX Legends and Fortnite. Some games listed have multiple major tournaments each year, including invitationals and fan-hosted events. This gallery, however, includes only the championship tournaments hosted by the game’s officially sponsored leagues. You might be shocked at how much money elite competitive gamers walk away with.

Last updated: May 7, 2020

Pryimak Anastasiia / Shutterstock.com

Free Fire

Developed and published by Garena, Free Fire is one of the most popular mobile games on the planet. Available for iOS and Android phones, Free Fire was the most downloaded game in 2019 and has more than 500 million downloads on Google Play. It’s a traditional battle royale game, but unlike larger games in the genre, Free Fire consists only of 50 players, which makes it appealing to those looking for shorter matches.

Competitive gamers can rake in serious cash at Free Fire tournaments. The game’s major tournament — the Free Fire World Series — featured a $100,000 prize pool.

PARADORN KOTAN / Shutterstock.com

How Much Players Can Win

  • Prize pool: $100,000
  • First prize: $50,000
  • Team size: 4-5 players

Up Next: How Esports Is Primed To Take Over Traditional Sports — For Good

Pe3k / Shutterstock.com

Tekken 7

The original Tekken debuted in arcades in 1994, with home releases of the game following mainly for PlayStation consoles ever since. Tekken 7 is the latest iteration of the game and follows the traditional 2D fighting game style seen in the Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat series. The Tekken World Tour Finals is the game’s most lucrative tournament, featuring 20 of the world’s best Tekken players. Last year’s winner received a $30,000 prize.

Leonel Calara / Shutterstock.com

How Much Players Can Win

  • Prize pool: $185,000
  • First prize: $30,000
  • Team size: Solo

OpturaDesign / Shutterstock.com

Madden NFL 19

When the summer comes to an end, another Madden game arises. First published in 1988 as John Madden Football, this Electronic Arts title has evolved into one of the best-selling video game franchises of all time. With the NFL season still up in the air, there’s a good chance more people will turn to the video game to help fill the void should the season be lost or shortened.

Prize pools in past Madden events have eclipsed $1 million. Gamers at the most recent Madden Bowl competed for a first-place prize of $65,000.

Konstantin Savusia / Shutterstock.com

How Much Players Can Win

  • Prize pool: $220,000
  • First prize: $65,000
  • Team size: Solo

Read: What a Canceled Season Costs the NBA, MLB, NHL and Other Leagues

charnsitr / Shutterstock.com

Street Fighter V

The classic fighting series from Capcom remains popular among fans around the world. This version of the game debuted in 2016 and is the most recent Street Fighter to date. The game retains its 2D fighting gameplay, pitting two fighters with unique attacks and special abilities against each other.

Competitive Street Fighter V gamers duke it out in the Capcom Cup every year. Last year’s tournament featured 32 of the top Street Fighter gamers in the world and a prize pool of $250,000.

Leonel Calara / Shutterstock.com

How Much Players Can Win

  • Prize pool: $250,000
  • First prize: $120,000
  • Team size: Solo

Daniel Krason / Shutterstock.com

World of Warcraft

Blizzard Entertainment’s MMORPG — for the uninitiated, that’s “massively multiplayer online role-playing game” — debuted in 2004 and became one of the biggest sensations in the gaming world over the next half-decade. At its peak, World of Warcraft had an estimated 12 million active players. The game’s popularity has dipped over the years, but it maintains a dedicated esports audience. Fans show up every year for the Arena World Championship at BlizzCon, where teams fight it out in three vs. three deathmatch-style matches.

Pe3k / Shutterstock.com

How Much Players Can Win

  • Prize pool: $330,000
  • First prize: $132,000
  • Team size: 3-4 players

Pe3k / Shutterstock.com

Apex Legends

One of the newest gaming blockbusters, Apex Legends is a free-to-play battle royale game and was released in early 2019. Developed by Respawn Entertainment and published by EA, players pick a character — or “legend” — and form squads of three, shooting it out across a sprawling map that condenses as the game progresses.

While the game doesn’t have an official culmination tournament, EA and Respawn hosted the first-ever Preseason Invitational in September 2019 in Krakow, Poland. The full prize purse: $500,000.

Lutsenko_Oleksandr / Shutterstock.com

How Much Players Can Win

  • Prize pool: $500,000
  • First prize: $105,000
  • Team size: 3 players

Check Out: Sports Leagues and Teams Are Starting To Cut Salaries — Here’s Who Stands To Lose the Most

Pe3k / Shutterstock.com

FIFA 2019

Another enduring sports video game franchise from EA, FIFA has entertained soccer fans for nearly three decades. The game’s top esports competition, the eWorld Cup, garnered more than 47 million views online in 2019.

Lutsenko_Oleksandr / Shutterstock.com

How Much Players Can Win

  • Prize pool: $500,000
  • First prize: $250,000
  • Team size: Solo

Pryimak Anastasiia / Shutterstock.com

Rocket League

Soccer, but with cars. That’s the premise behind Psyonix’s massively popular Rocket League. Originally released on Windows and PlayStation 4 in 2015, it didn’t take long for the game to become a recognized esport. Rocket League began play in the Electronic Sports League, aka ESL, less than a week after its initial launch. 

In 2016, Psyonix announced the first Rocket League Championship Series, which remains the game’s official competitive league. Last year’s finals took place in Madrid and featured a whopping $529,500 prize pool.

Kerkez / Getty Images/iStockphoto

How Much Players Can Win

  • Prize pool: $529,500
  • First prize: $200,000
  • Team size: 3 players, plus 1 optional alternate

Discover: The Most Incredible Active Sellout Streaks in Sports

Sergey Galyonkin / Wikimedia Commons

StarCraft II

Blizzard’s series of real-time strategy games, StarCraft has been one of the most popular competitive titles in the world, dating to the first iteration of the game in 1998. The game’s most recent culmination tournament, the World Championship Series, saw a prize pool of $2 million along with a $600,000 payout for the finals winners. This would prove to be the last WCS, however. The Washington Post reported in January 2020 that Blizzard struck a deal with ESL and gaming conference DreamHack to form new events and tournaments around StarCraft II going forward, including a $1.8 million prize pool for the upcoming season.

Francesco Carucci / Shutterstock.com

How Much Players Can Win

  • Prize pool: $600,000
  • First prize: $210,000
  • Team size: Solo

ll.studio / Shutterstock.com

CrossFire

CrossFire, a tactical online first-person shooter game developed by South Korea-based Smilegate Entertainment, might not sound familiar to you. While the game is available in 80 countries, including the U.S., a majority of its players hail from Asia, primarily China and South Korea.

To say the game is popular would be an understatement: CrossFire has 650 million registered players and 8 million concurrent users, making it one of the most played online first-person shooter games in the world. So it’s probably not a surprise that the game has a large and dedicated esports following. CrossFire Stars, the game’s top esports tournament, brings in players from around the globe.

How Much Players Can Win

  • Prize pool: $820,000
  • First prize: $500,000
  • Team size: 5 players

Roman Kosolapov / Shutterstock.com

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Similar to CrossFire, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive — also referred to as CS:GO — is the fourth iteration in Valve’s hugely successful Counter-Strike series. Teams of six players compete as either terrorists or counter-terrorists. The goal for each match is simple: Eliminate the other team or complete your team’s objective.

Due to COVID-19, ESL rescheduled the game’s top tournament — the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Major — to November. Because CS:GO typically includes two majors a year with prize pools of $1 million each, the major in November will combine the two prize pools for a grand total of $2 million.

Roman Kosolapov / Shutterstock.com

How Much Players Can Win

  • Prize pool: $1 million
  • First prize: $500,000
  • Team size: 6 players

Did You Know? The XFL and 17 Other Sports Leagues That Failed

Mano Kors / Shutterstock.com

Hearthstone

Yet another Blizzard title, Hearthstone is a free-to-play strategy card game that derives its lore from the Warcraft series. Two players take turns playing cards and using mana crystals to attack their opponent and ultimately destroy his or her hero. By winning matches and completing quests, players earn rewards, such as in-game gold and new cards, that help them improve their decks.

In 2019, the Hearthstone Championship Tour World Championship featured a prize pool of $1 million, and Blizzard introduced a new program called the Hearthstone Grandmasters Global Finals that will have a $500,000 pool prize.

玄史生 / Wikimedia Commons

How Much Players Can Win

  • Prize pool: $1 million
  • First prize: $250,000
  • Team size: Solo

Magic: The Gathering Arena

Developed by Wizards of the Coast, Magic: The Gathering Arena is another free-to-play collectible card game. Unlike Hearthstone, which doesn’t allow players to interrupt a player’s turn, players in Magic can react to an opponent’s move. The objectives, however, are similar: Eliminate the opponent’s health by playing cards that use up mana and cast spells with unique abilities.

Magic: The Gathering Arena’s culmination tournament took place in February 2020 in Honolulu, with prizes totaling $1 million — the largest cash prize ever for a Magic event.

How Much Players Can Win

  • Prize pool: $1 million
  • First prize: $300,000
  • Team size: Solo

Erik S Lesser/EPA / Shutterstock.com

Smite

Developed by Hi-Rez Studios, Smite is a third-person multiplayer online battle arena game in which players control “gods” with unique and ultimate abilities. Players use these abilities to take out enemy players, lock down objectives and defeat the opposing team’s “Phoenix.” Games consist of two teams with five players each. Smite’s esports season culminates at the Hi-Rez Expo. More than $1 million was divvied out at last year’s tournament to PC and console players.

Erik S Lesser/EPA / Shutterstock.com

How Much Players Can Win

  • Prize pool: $1 million
  • First prize: $600,000
  • Team size: 5 players, 1 coach

Learn About: Athletes Who Got Rich for Something Other Than Sports

Barone Firenze / Shutterstock.com

Halo 5

It’s clear this sci-fi shooter game remains a beloved franchise for Xbox users. 343 Industries’ latest entry in the Halo series was met with immediate financial success. Halo 5: Guardians became the fastest-selling Halo game ever, per Microsoft, and grossed more than $400 million in sales in its first 24 hours.

The most recent Halo 5 World Championship Series was held in 2018, but there are plans for the series to start again in 2020 once the next installment of the Halo series — Halo: Infinite — hits store shelves later this year.

logoboom / Shutterstock.com

How Much Players Can Win

  • Prize pool: $1 million
  • First prize: $500,000
  • Team size: 4 players

玄史生 / Wikimedia Commons

Shadowverse

Developed by Japanese game studio Cygames, Shadowverse is another popular digital collectible card game. Like Hearthstone and Magic: The Gathering Arena, Shadowverse is free to play. Unlike those games, Shadowverse uses an anime art style and even has its own anime television show. The game’s culmination tournament is the Shadowverse World Grand Prix, which took place in December in Saitama, Japan. The winner walked away with a $1 million grand prize, while the second-place finisher claimed $200,000.

玄史生 / Wikimedia Commons

How Much Players Can Win

  • Prize pool: $1.3 million
  • First prize: $1 million
  • Team size: Solo

Pe3k / Shutterstock.com

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

Arguably the most popular online shooter game on the market, every iteration of Call of Duty is almost a guarantee to score big sales. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 was no exception. Sales of the military first-person shooter game reached $500 million over the first three days when it was released in October 2018.

The 2019 Call of Duty World League Championship saw 32 teams compete for a $2 million prize pool, with the first-place winners walking away with $800,000.

In October 2019, the Call of Duty League announced a 12-team league and a $6 million prize pool for the 2020 season. Teams will compete in five-on-five matches on the most recent version of the title — Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. All games will be played exclusively on PlayStation 4.

Tinxi / Shutterstock.com

How Much Players Can Win

  • Prize pool: $2 million
  • First prize: $800,000
  • Team size: 5 players, plus 1 substitute

Jimmy Tudeschi / Shutterstock.com

League of Legends

Even if you aren’t that familiar with esports, there’s a chance you’ve heard of League of Legends. It’s one of the most popular competitive games in the world — so popular, in fact, that ESPN aired the League of Legends Championship Series on ESPN2 in April. 

Published by Riot Games, League of Legends is a free-to-play multiplayer online battle arena game. Players take the role of a “champion,” each of whom has a unique set of abilities to use to help their team destroy the “Nexus” located in the enemy team’s base. 

The League of Legends World Championship took place in October 2019 and featured a prize pool of $2.2 million. This was significantly less than the 2018 prize pool of $6.4 million. 

Turu23 / Shutterstock.com

How Much Players Can Win

  • Prize pool: $2.2 million
  • First prize: $825,000
  • Team size: 6-7 players per roster, with games played by teams of 5

Find Out: Who’s Richer — These Sports Stars or Their Significant Others?

agrobacter / Getty Images

Honor of Kings

Honor of Kings boasts 80 million daily active players, along with an astonishing 200 million active monthly users. It’s one of the most widely downloaded games for both iOS and Android, and yet, you’ve probably never heard of it. That’s because the game was developed exclusively for the Chinese market. The game was such a success overseas that its publisher, Tencent, released an international version of the game called Arena of Valor, which also is popular.

The 2019 Honor of Kings World Champions Cup — the game’s culmination tournament — featured 12 teams and a multimillion-dollar prize pool.

OHishiapply / Shutterstock.com

How Much Players Can Win

  • Prize pool: $2.36 million
  • First prize: $1 million
  • Team size: 5 players, 2 substitutes

Pe3k / Shutterstock.com

Rainbow Six Siege

Rainbow Six Siege was the result of a creative shift at Ubisoft, which decided to take the traditionally single-player-focused, narrative-driven series and make it exclusively a multiplayer game with an emphasis on delivering fresh content to its players.

Gameplay is similar to other tactical first-person shooter titles such as Counter-Strike, but with a few key differences. Players in Rainbow Six Siege can destroy and shoot through walls to gain an advantage on the opponent, and there also is the ability to lean around corners, which are features that many of the other shooters on this list lack.

Rainbow Six Siege’s $3 million world championship event — the Six Invitational — took place in February 2020 in a buzzing Place Bell near Montreal. More than 274,000 people tuned in to watch the stream of the final match between Brazil and the United States.

SASCHA STEINBACH/EPA-EFE / Shutterstock.com

How Much Players Can Win

  • Prize pool: $3 million
  • First prize: $999,000
  • Team size: Minimum of 5 players

Pe3k / Shutterstock.com

Overwatch

It’s clear Blizzard knows how to make an esports game that will click with fans. Overwatch, which marked Blizzard’s first foray into the first-person shooter genre, was an instant success. In its first week, more than 7 million people played the game, prompting the company to say it was “one of the most successful global game launches of all time.”

The game is a team-based multiplayer shooter, similar to Valve’s Team Fortress 2, in which players select from a group of “heroes,” each outfitted with special roles and abilities. Players work together to control objectives on the map and eliminate enemies.

Last year’s Overwatch season ran from February to August, with the Grand Finals taking place in September at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. Tickets to the event sold out.

Pe3k / Shutterstock.com

How Much Players Can Win

  • Prize pool: $3.5 million
  • First prize: $1.1 million
  • Team size: 6-12 players per roster, with games played by teams of 6

Zakariyaa Allaoui / Shutterstock.com

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds

The battle royale game mode is one of the hottest trends in gaming. And while Fortnite might have become the household name, this was the game that helped to popularize the genre. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds — colloquially known as PUBG — was created as a Day Z mod by Brendan Greene, aka PlayerUnknown.

The PUBG Global Championship took place in November 2019. The top three teams — Gen.G, Four Angry Men and FaZe Clan — each won more than $749,000.

Aleksandra Suzi / Shutterstock.com

How Much Players Can Win

  • Prize pool: $6 million
  • First prize: $2.28 million
  • Team size: 4 players

Pe3k / Shutterstock.com

Fortnite

Epic Games’ battle royale game was released in the summer of 2017 and experienced a meteoric rise in popularity over the next year. By August 2018, the game had more than 78 million monthly active players, and one of its most popular streamers — Tyler Blevins, aka Ninja — became the first esports player featured on the cover of ESPN The Magazine.

The game hosts several lucrative events with high prize pools, from the $3 million Charity Pro-Am to the $3 million Creative Finals. Last year saw the debut of the $30 million Fortnite World Cup, and more than 19,000 people attended the sold-out event in New York City. The Cup’s Solo Finals drew 2.3 million viewers on YouTube and Twitch, making it the most-watched competitive gaming event of all time outside of China.

Leonard Zhukovsky / Shutterstock.com

How Much Players Can Win

  • Prize pool: $30 million
  • First prize: $3 million
  • Team size: Solo

Next Up: Which NFL Teams Spent the Most in Free Agency?

Andrii Anna photographers / Shutterstock.com

Dota 2

Valve’s Dota 2 was released in July 2013, but its origins date to 2003, when it was just a popular Warcraft 3 mod called Defense of the Ancients. The game pits two teams of five players, each controlling their own “hero,” as they attempt to defend their base from the enemy team and destroy the other team’s “Ancient.”

Dota 2 is arguably the most popular esports game on the planet. Video game analytics website GitHyp reported that 1.1 million viewers streamed the championship finals of last year’s The International — the game’s annual world championship tournament — making it Dota 2’s most-watched event ever on Twitch.

So, just how lucrative of an esports game is Dota 2? The prize pool for last year’s The International was larger than the prize pools of the first 22 games on this list combined. And the tournament’s large prize pools have increased in size year over year. In 2015, The International prize pool totaled $18.4 million. By 2019, that total had eclipsed $34 million.

Fans looking to attend this year’s The International were treated to some disappointing news recently: Valve and the Defense of the Ancients team announced the event was postponed because of travel concerns related to COVID-19. No makeup date has been scheduled.

Roman Kosolapov / Shutterstock.com

How Much Players Can Win