Top Esports Games 2020: Which of them are the world’s most popular titles?

July 29

Competitive gaming has been a popular pastime for decades, but the money and industry around the top Esports games is a relatively recent development. Esports no longer means a group of friends playing Mario Kart in a bedroom; it is now a multi-billion-dollar industry that includes a plethora of titles in every genre, from shooters to simulators and everything in between.

Esports has become much more competitive in recent years and not just with teams. Esports titles themselves constantly compete by trying to capture players’ attention. Nowadays, the best way to capture which esports are considered the best is via player viewership.

Whether you’re a fan of long-running titles like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2, or prefer action-packed games of competitive Fortnite or Apex Legends, 2020 is already an exhilarating year for esports.

Prize pool records are set to be broken yet again this year and more non-gaming brands have sponsored and invested in teams and tournaments. The scene, as a whole, is thriving.

The stalwarts of esports, such as League of Legends, CS: GO, Dota 2, and Overwatch have all had a great start to the year, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has shifted most events to an online-only format. Last year also saw a massive boom in the popularity of mobile esports, especially in Asia. But which is the best esports game in terms of viewership, prize pools, and audience reach throughout the year?

In no particular order, here are the top Esports games in 2020 based on a number of factors, including viewership, events, and overall success.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

It has been eight years since the launch of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO), and to this date, it has maintained its position as one of the top Esports games in the world, with frequent updates to the game, a lucrative market in weapon skins and knives, and a flurry of events every year. Alongside ongoing leagues like the BLAST Premier and ESL Pro League, plenty of top tier tournaments like IEM Katowice 2020, DreamHack Anaheim, and both ESL One events in Rio de Janeiro and Cologne respectively are set to happen later this year.

Figure 1: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (via Valve)

When it comes to viewership, the biggest tournament in 2019 for CS: GO was the IEM Katowice major, which accumulated 1.2 million views with a $1 million prize pool. This is another million in the total prize money awarded since 2013, which is currently at just over $91 million. The official page for HLTV events has all of the upcoming CS: GO Esports action you can tune into or if you fancy competing yourself, jump in-game and play some ranked to test your mettle.

League of Legends

Perhaps the most famous Esports game in the world, League of Legends (LoL) is one of two Massive Online Battle Arenas (MOBAs) dominating the industry right now. It has been almost 11 years since LoL launched, and the grand total prize money awarded so far is a whopping $73.5 million across over 2,400 events. South Korea is by far the most popular and successful market for LoL, with eight of the top 10 earners hailing from the nation. In fact, only one player in the top 25 — Luka “PerkZ” Perkovic — comes from a country other than South Korea or China, showing the popularity and dominance of the two Asian countries within LoL.

Figure 2: League of Legends (via Riot Games)

When it comes to active players, a report from last year states that there’s around eight million concurrent active players in LoL every day, so while that is less than Fortnite (which is available on almost every platform under the sun), it is by far the most popular PC game. If you are interested in watching some League of Legends Esports events, you can head on over to the official League of Legends Esports schedule. Alternatively, you can play ranked in-game to see how you stack up.


Some will say Fortnite is not a proper Esports game due to Epic Games’ tendency to roll out changes right before big events and reluctancy to maintain a healthy competitive metagame, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that over $80 million has been given out in rewards in just over two years. The game took the world by storm when it launched in September 2017 and while the buzz in the general media has died out, the Esports scene is still thriving.

Last year saw the biggest Fortnite Esports event ever; the Fortnite World Cup in New York City. Nothing has been confirmed yet for 2020 but everyone is expecting Epic Games to ramp up the stakes for the next World Cup. Thanks to the amount Epic gave out during 2019, Fortnite quickly surpassed most other Esports titles to have the third all-time highest prize total, surpassed only by CS: GO and Dota 2.

Figure 3: Fortnite (via Epic Games)

“How many people play Fortnite” is a question plenty of people ask, and as of March 2019 – so over a year ago – Fortnite had 250 million registered users. Ask any random person on the street and chances are they will have heard of Fortnite, even if they are not able to tell you exactly what it’s about, which shows just how quickly Fortnite grew. The official Fortnite competitive page lists all the upcoming events and has everything you need to know, or play some of the in-game tournaments to see if you’re good enough to compete yourself.

Dota 2

Dota 2 is the only direct competitor to League of Legends and it comes from Valve, the same studio behind CS: GO. While LoL is immensely popular in Asian regions, the top 25 earners in Dota 2 are spread across 16 different nations, including the U.S.A, China, France, and Romania.

When it comes to prize money, Dota 2 blows every other title out of the water thanks to the method of funding used. The International is the name of the annual event and in the build-up, fans can purchase what is known as the “Compendium” in-game which contains all sorts of content from new modes and consumables to cosmetics and challenges. 25% of all proceeds go towards The International prize pool, which meant that The International 2019 had a whopping $34.3 million available, on top of the $200 million+ that has been on offer over the years.

Figure 4: Dota 2 (via Valve)

Despite having the largest prize pools, Dota 2 does not shine a light to LoL’s player count. The average player count for the last few months is just under 400k according to SteamCharts, and that is approximately 5% of what LoL allegedly gets. To tune in to any upcoming events, take a look at the Dota 2 Liquidpedia page. Fancy a wedge of that enormous prize pool yourself? Play some ranked matches and see if you can handle it.

Call of Duty

One of the only Esports to be played on console, the competitive Call of Duty scene is unique in the fact it moves on to a brand-new title every year. Thanks to Call of Duty’s annual release schedule, players have to learn the ins and outs of a whole new game every October. Right now, we’re on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and just like Activision has been doing with Overwatch for the last few years, the COD League has moved to a franchise-based system.

Figure 5: Call od Duty (via Activision)

This means there’s 12 location-based teams across North America and Europe such as the London Royal Ravens, Los Angeles Guerrillas, and Toronto Ultras. While previous years have had a few large-scale events throughout the season, you can tune into live Call of Duty Esports almost every two weeks as the 12 teams compete for a total of $6 million. Check out the full schedule on the official Call of Duty League page.

When it comes to the Call of Duty player count, since it’s played across so many different platforms and Activision does not release official numbers, there’s no way to know for certain. We do know however that the game has passed the $1 billion mark and that Call of Duty is still one of the most popular franchises in the world. At the time of writing, Modern Warfare doesn’t have a ranked queue in-game, but you can enter via the CDL Challenges open league.


Overwatch 2 may be on the horizon this year, but the first game is still succeeding as an Esport game and has been for a good number of years now. The Overwatch League has a whopping 20 teams that compete over 26 weeks for their share of $5 million and now we’re into the third season, it means things should be fairly smooth sailing. Long gone are the days of the Shanghai Dragons losing 42 matches on the bounce because every team is more than capable of winning each match.

When it comes to Overwatch Esports, South Korea and the U.S.A are the dominant countries, with 24 of the top 25 top earners hailing from either one (the only other player is from Sweden). Almost $22 million has been dished out so far and while the seasonal playoffs are the culmination of the top teams, the Overwatch World Cup is perhaps the most exciting tournament to watch as a fan so you can root for your country.

Coming up in the Overwatch League Schedule are matches starting on February 8 running all the way until mid-August, followed by the World Cup later in the year. Although every platform has ranked play, Overwatch Esports is only on PC. You can get stuck in by competing in the Overwatch Open Division once you’re confident enough in your abilities.

Honourable Mentions

Of course, these are not the only Esports. There are hundreds of games played at a competitive level, including Farming Simulator – this is not a joke. Titles that just missed out on a spot in the top list include both PUBG and Apex Legends, two successful battle royale games that are unfortunately living in the shadow of Fortnite. There’s also PUBG Mobile, which is impressively even more popular than its mainstream counterpart.

Clockwise: Street Fighter V, Apex Legends, PUBG and, FIFA ’20

FIFA 20 deserves a mention too, as the most successful sports Esport, with multiple tournaments throughout the year including the ePremier League in partnership with the actual Premier League. Then there’s Hearthstone, Blizzard’s Warcraft inspired card game; Rainbow Six Siege, a tactical shooter with countless events throughout the year; and Rocket League, a sports-driving hybrid that is one of the easiest Esports to watch and understand. That’s not even mentioning the number of fighting games like Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Super Smash Bros, and the like.

If a video game can be played competitively online, there’s a big chance it has an Esports scene, even if it’s not one of the biggest. Scour the web and you’ll undoubtedly find something for your favourite title.

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