Esports went from being a fancy name for calling kids playing video games to one of the largest and fastest-growing industries in the world in a matter of years. However, it took a while for esports to gain recognition and acceptance amongst viewers and bettors, and there were many obstacles the competitive video game industry had to overcome to reach the status it has now.
Some of esports' impressive growth has to do with the modernization of our everyday life, accessibility of computers and gaming consoles, as well as the change of demographics. With people who were playing Space Invaders in the early 80s turning into adults, it was only a matter of time before they started to look for ways to turn their favorite pastime as a kid into a profession.
Nowadays, you can find esports everywhere you look, be it in a TV ad on your favorite sports channel, on social media, and even on the news and newspaper. Like in the sports industry, there are many different esports titles and genres in which athletes compete - but which are the most popular?
Like there are cultural differences between different nations from different regions of the world, so are the people's preferences for video games. However, when it comes to the question of which are the most popular esports titles in the world, the world's population seems to agree on which are the top dogs in the esports industry.
Dota 2 retained its spot as the third-most-popular esports title in 2020, even though it was hit much harder by the pandemic than Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and League of Legends. That is mainly because Dota 2 esports scene relies on the season-culminating tournament - The International championship.
Regardless, Dota 2 secured a comfortable place as the third-most-popular esports title of 2020 with 253,396,874 hours watched – over 110,000 more than the fourth-placed PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds.
Although Dota 2 will struggle to reach the heights of CS:GO and LoL in terms of popularity, Valve's MOBA title will always remain as one of the most popular games in the Western world.
Its most popular tournament of 2020 was the ESL One Los Angeles 2020 - Online: Europe & CIS.
The final match of the tournament, between Virtus.pro and OG, gathered 508,082 viewers, which was a rather modest accomplishment. In comparison, The International (TI) 2019 finals match between Team Liquid and OG peaked at 1,968,397 viewers.
Unfortunately, TI was not hosted in 2020 but is set to make a return in October 2021.
Counter-Strike (CS) is easily one of the most popular video games in the world. Having first saw the light of day in 2000, Counter-Strike has since gone through four different series in Counter-Strike, Counter-Strike: Condition Zero, Counter-Strike: Source, and the most recent; Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) was released in 2012 as the title that would further build on the success the game has had throughout its history, and mainly to help its pro play, which at that point already had a decade-long history of competitive play.
CS has come a long way since the release of CS:GO, and is now viewed as one of the most popular esports titles across the globe. Although the CS:GO competitive scene isn't as popular in Asian countries, it has garnered a massive following across the US and Europe, which house some of the world's best teams.
Despite being denied many international events last year due to the COVID-19 outbreak, CS:GO viewership held strong and combined for 354,260,901 hours watched across all platforms. The most-watched match of the year was IEM Katowice 2020 grand finals between G2 Esports and Natus Vincere, which collected over 1 million viewers who watched the game simultaneously.
Having the ability to continue its competitive scene alive via online events has certainly helped CS:GO. However, it's fair to assume that its popularity will continue to grow once LAN events return to the schedule permanently.
The undisputed king when it comes to popularity, League of Legends (LoL) has long stood tall above all other esports titles as the most popular game in the world. LoL has become synonymous with the term "the most-watched esports discipline," which is largely due to its popularity in China and South Korea.
Like CS:GO, LoL has a long and illustrious history behind it, dating back to 2011, when the first LoL World Championship was held in Stockholm, Sweden. The event looked more like a LAN gathering in an abandoned warehouse, but it didn't take long before LoL events moved to some of the most prominent sporting venues in the US, Europe, China, and South Korea.
By 2013, LoL became one of the most popular video games in the world, and the organizers soon needed bigger and better venues to support hordes of fans. By its third season, LoL World Championship moved to Staples Center.
In the years that followed, the tournament visited Seoul's World Cup Stadium, Mercedes-Benz-Arena, Beijing's Bird's Nest, Incheon's Munhak Stadium, AccorHotels Arena in Paris, and most recently, the Pudong Football Stadium in Shanghai, China.
Throughout all those years, LoL's popularity continued to grow and has reached new heights in 2020. Over the year, LoL gained 580,847,087 hours watched, a 21% increase from 2019.
An impressive number, but it gets better – the LoL World Championship final match between DAMWON KIA and Suning attracted over 3.8 million viewers.
Oddly enough, the most-watched LoL esports match happened at the 2019 LoL World Championship, when 3,958,787 people tuned in for the game between G2 Esports and SK Telecom T1.
Get all the latest sports news, expert tips and reviews.