The Most Popular Esports in 2023
The last few years have seen the blue touch paper well and truly lit for the world of Esports. Whether it’s English Premier League (EPL) icons taking part in competitive FIFA events or Formula One drivers getting behind the virtual F1 wheel, the mainstream world has quickly sampled its first taste of competitive video gaming – and the majority liked what they saw.
Combine these crossover video games with more conventional video games and it’s easy to see the potential for the global Esports market. Even English football icon David Beckham has seen fit to invest heavily in his own Esports franchise, which is no surprise when you consider Statista anticipates the global Esports industry posting revenues of $1.624 billion this year.
For those yet to engage with the Esports scene first hand, below we’ve provided an introduction to five of the leading Esports titles in 2023 – and almost certainly beyond.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO)
CS:GO has one of the biggest legions of professional Esports players. According to ActivePlayer.io, there are approximately 15,550 CS:GO professionals active in the Esports scene. In addition, there’s also said to be around 36 million gamers that play CS:GO on a monthly basis worldwide.
The Counter-Strike franchise has been delighting stealth-loving first-person shooters since the turn of the new millennium. The latest CS:GO release in 2012 is still enjoyed today at the most competitive level thanks largely to ongoing updates and patches, as well as expensive skins to enhance gameplay. Some of the biggest CS:GO tournaments carry prize pools of $1 million or greater, like IEM Katowice.
CS:GO has a special place in the hearts of fans of competitive first-person shooters. It’s likely to be consigned to the history books in the near future, with the impending release of Counter-Strike 2. Valve Corporation is set to reach computer screens sometime this summer, which will be unveiled as a free-to-download update for existing CS:GO gamers. Competitive CS:GO players will be encouraged by reports stating that Counter-Strike 2’s game servers will be “tickless”. This eliminates one of the biggest bugbears of CS:GO gamers, who are often critical of the server’s tick rate, causing potential lag in crucial moments of combat.
League of Legends
League of Legends goes even further than CS:GO in the player activity stakes. ActivePlayer.io believes there are 150 million monthly League of Legends players on average worldwide. It is a game and concept that’s really taken flight in the Asian market, attracting a player base that’s ten-fold larger than DOTA 2’s, which is also one of the most popular multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) Esports titles.
Given the popularity of this game in Asia, it’s perhaps no surprise to find all the top ten players – based on tournament earnings – come from this continent, with eight from South Korea and two from China.
The League of Legends World Championship is the biggest event in the LoL Esports schedule. Given the game’s soaring interest in Asia, it’s no surprise that this year’s Worlds will be staged in South Korea this fall. The tournament will feature 22 teams competing from no less than nine regions worldwide. South Korean teams have been the dominant force at previous Worlds, winning seven of the 12 championships since its inception in 2011.
Did you know that operators of the leading global poker tours believe there to be over 100 million active poker players worldwide. While some of them play poker exclusively offline at live events, there are many millions who also enjoy online poker games and tournaments on platforms such as PokerStars, the leader in the online poker industry. Some have questioned whether this pastime should be considered an Esport, but it is a digital game that’s attracted substantial interest from the Twitch platform, which is one of the leading streaming portals for Esports professionals.
It also meets the definition of what a “sport” is, given that it requires physical (and mental) exertion and a healthy dose of skill to compete and win. There is also a crossover between online poker and other Esports, with some of the leading poker professionals also specializing in Esports verticals. Dutch poker pro Lex Veldhuis is a prime example, with the 39-year-old a keen competitive gamer of strategy titles like StarCraft before moving to card games.
Many believe that Fortnite is the most popular Esport of all time. Although it has a fraction of the number of professional players that CS:GO has (6,474 according to ActivePlayer.io), there are 236.5 million monthly players of this fascinating game worldwide.
Fortnite was the brainchild of Epic Games, and was originally released in July 2017. The Battle Royale game mode is now one of the most played Esports games on the planet. Epic still organizes a host of Fortnite tournaments worldwide, including the Champion Series: Invitational which carries a $1 million prize pool.
Fortnite is also helping to shape the wider Esports community. At the Olympic Esports Series 2023, a new International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) Challenge will be built in Fortnite, with competitors put to the test with their shooting accuracy. It’s the latest in a long line of Esports titles that will be featured at this year’s series, including Zwift (cycling), Just Dance (dance sport) and Gran Turismo 7 (motor racing).
DOTA 2, developed by Valve Corporation, is a successful MOBA video game that’s amassed a huge following around the world. Devised as the sequel to Defense of the Ancients, a modified community-inspired game for Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, DOTA 2 is now an Esports behemoth.
Perhaps the biggest reason for DOTA 2’s inclusion on this list is the commercial success of its number-one tournament, ‘The International’. It has a monstrous prize pool, which has hit $34 million in past years. The 2022 edition enjoyed a prize pool worth $18.93 million.
In summary, it’s clear to see the breadth of competitive video gaming that’s already engulfed the mainstream gaming community. With new releases coming all the time and regular patches and updates being worked on for existing iconic titles, Esports is in great shape to continue enchanting Gen Zers.