Despite what many people believe, esports isn’t really a new phenomenon. The first esports event was held in 1972 when Space Invaders Championship gathered 10,000 players. The modern format can be traced to 1998 when StarCraft 2 tournament attracted 50 million viewers. 17 million of them were watching via Twitch. Since then, those numbers continued to rise, alongside the prize pools. The best esports teams and players can now earn sums previously reserved only for the best tennis, soccer, or basketball players. Esports tournaments gather more sponsors each year, allowing them to pay their athletes sums previously unimaginable.
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The Overwatch League
The Overwatch League demonstrates just how the game has become popular, in spite of the fact that it had to compete with established titles. It consists of 20 teams, all of which are permanent franchises. Each represents a city, with most coming from America, like San Francisco Shock, New York Excelsior, and Los Angeles Valiant. China has several representatives as well. Shanghai Dragons are current leaders in standings, followed by Guangzhou Charge and Hangzhou Spark. Canada has two representatives, the Toronto Defiant and Vancouver Titans, while the honor of Europe is defended by the London Spitfire. The league is organized by Blizzard, the company that developed the game. The prize pool for this year is $5 million.
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NBA 2K League
Sports games became a great meeting point for traditional sports and esports fans. People who enjoy both have the opportunity to enjoy many games that depict popular sports like soccer or football. For years, though, basketball seems to be among the most popular ones. NBA 2K franchise has been going strong for decades and during that time has attracted a massive following. In many ways, NBA 2K league mimics the real NBA. They hold combines to determine the strengths and weaknesses of aspiring players, so that teams can draft them. After a 15-week regular season, the top seven teams advance to playoffs. The winner of the league takes home $420,000, while the entire prize pool is $900,000. Compared to some other esports tournaments, this is a rather modest sum. However, the league is still young and that amount will surely increase in the future.
Call of Duty Championship
Call of Duty is one of the most popular gaming franchises in history. Their annual Call of Duty Championship, held every year since 2013, is played for the title of the World Champion of the Year. Although some changes, like switching streaming platform from Twitch to YouTube, has somewhat diminished their viewership, it is still one of the most-watched tournaments on the planet. Each year, 32 teams compete in the Championship, playing the most recent Call of Duty title. In 2019, that was Black Ops 4, while in 2020, it was Modern Warfare. 2020 tournament was held online, due to Covid-19 pandemics, and was won by Dallas Empire, with Atlanta Faze as runner-up.
The International (Dota 2)
The International is the premier annual esports tournament for Dota 2. It is hosted by Valve, which established it in 2011. 18 teams from all over the world compete for the Aegis of Champions trophy. 12 of them are top-ranked teams in Dota Pro Circuit, while 6 are the winners of regional championships. For years, it was held in Seattle, but since 2018, it was decided to change host cities each year. In 2019, it was held in Shanghai, while in 2020 it was planned for Stockholm. Unfortunately, the global pandemic forced the organizers to postpone the event for 2021, making 2020 the first year without The International since it was founded. It is one of the richest gaming tournaments in the world. The prize pool in 2019 was $25 million. In 2020, it was supposed to be even bigger, with almost $35 million planned for the best teams.
League of Legends World Championship
The culmination of every League of Legends competitive season, the League of Legends World Championship attracts the best teams each year. In 2020, 22 teams gathered in Shanghai to determine the champion for Season 10. From September 25th to October 31st, teams battled in Shanghai Media Tech Studio, while the finals were held at Pudong Football Stadium. The winner was the South Korean team Damwon Gaming, while the host representatives Suning finished second.