Most Popular Esports Games in 2021

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Most Popular Esports Games in 2021

Esports are competitive games played in tournaments. The prizes at stake attract millions of players worldwide and viewers too, as it seems watching people play is growing to become one of the biggest trends in recent times.

The industry generates massive revenues, being valued at close to £1 billion and still growing, but in the end most of that revenue is generated through just a handful of the biggest esports games.

Given that UK gamers are part of this trend with over 3000 professionals, our aim is to provide you with a data-driven assessment of the esports games that really count in 2021.

Table of contents

  1. 5 Top Esports Games in 2021
  2. 5 Mobile Esports on the Rise
  3. eSports Stats
  4. Who is the highest paid esports gamer?
  5. Why are people so hyped on esports?

5 Top Esports Games in 2021

While the main attractions in terms of viewership and player base remain the legendary Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2, UK gamers know other fascinating video games are catching up.

First, let's see how the current esports landscape looks like, with the top 5 biggest ones in terms of earnings and reach:

1. Dota 2

Dota 2

Release Year Genre Platform Tournaments Highest Paid Player
2013 MOBA PC The International $6.98 million

Given its millions of lovers and haters alike, we are pressed to reserve the top position in our list of esports to Dota 2. With over 100 UK gamers playing it at a professional level, this game is on everyone’s lips: some praise the strategy required to thrive at it, others despise the funny-looking animated champions.

From the community to the community

Valve Corporation developed this battle arena-type game. The company employed an interesting model to be able to offer the prizes it's known for, both in Dota 2 and CS tournaments: crowdfunding. This is how Johan Sundstein, who goes by the alias N0tail, has managed to earn almost $7 million.

This fantasy multiplayer online game brings together teams of 5 from around the network to battle with enchanted weapons and ultimate magic attacks to conquer and destroy the enemy’s base.

2. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Counter-Strike Global Offensive

Release Year Genre Platform Notable Tournaments Highest Paid Player
2012 FPS PC, Xbox 360, PS3 The Major Championships $1.9 million

Released in 2012 by the same Valve Corporation, the first-person shooter has thousands of professional players worldwide and uncountable casual players. It is widely considered the biggest eSport when it comes to shooters, so it should not surprise us that 20 million people play it actively. UK gamers are fond of it too, with over 1 million active players.

Why is CS:GO so popular?

It's interesting to note how Counter-Strike arose to become one of the top esports games around. It must have to do with the added complexity of the game compared to earlier instalments. You start with a pistol and progressively earn more money to buy better gear. Moreover, upping through the ranks is somewhat strenuous too.

So, it's not all reduced to an endless fight between Counters vs Terrorists.

Members have specific roles as:
  • Entry fraggers
  • Supports
  • In-game leaders
  • Lurkers
  • Snipers

Important

A member of famed team Astralis, Peter Rasmussen aka dupreeh has surely mastered all these roles. He played in each of them to become the highest earning esports gamer in the entire CS: GO scene.

3. League of Legends

League of Legends

Release Year Genre Platform Notable Tournaments Highest Paid Player
2009 MOBA PC MSI, Worlds, Kespa Cup, European Masters $1.25 million

Wonder why LoL is one of the most popular esports games?

Folks at Riot Games have gone a long way to popularize MOBA gaming, although one must admit that it's World of Warcraft that started it all. The launch of League of Legends on PC was a step forward for the genre, especially since the game is free to play, unlike its predecessor, which required a subscription.

Dota is not LoL!

For non-hardcore gamers, the unfolding of the game is almost indistinguishable from Dota 2. Still, esports masters will tell you that they are indeed very different things. League of Legends is more fast-paced and easier to master, and its mechanics are way more straightforward. In the end, it’s just a matter of preference: players who want a quick round of action will simply go for League of Legends.

While its popularity in the West is undoubted, and UK gamers play it intensively, the top 19 LoL earners worldwide are from Asia. It’s the case with supremely successful South-Korean pro-player Lee ‘Faker’ Sang-hyeok, who has earned over $1 million with nothing but a gamepad and, well, hundreds of rage quits.

4. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

Call of Duty

Release Year Genre Platform Notable Tournaments Highest Paid Player
2019 FPS PC, Xbox, PS4 Call of Duty League $1.32 million

Some consider it controversial that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare won the 38th Golden Joystick award in 2020, but it didn't happen accidentally. People from all walks of life and locations worldwide have been intensively playing this first-person shooter since 2003, and have come to regard it one of the biggest esports games.

Strategic shooter action

The Call of Duty franchise has claimed its place among the giants not only for providing one of the most significant prize pools in the esports scene but more importantly for the new game modes and strategic gameplay improvements it always brings in newer instalments.

For example

The new Gunfight 2v2 mode has been hailed as the greatest asset of Modern Warfare. Indeed, the combination of frantic action that simultaneously requires cautious play, hiding and knife ambushing makes esports gamers and watchers alike shiver with excitement.

5. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege

Release Year Genre Platform Notable Tournaments Highest Paid Player
2015 FPS PC, Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Stadia European League, Japan League, Six Invitational $373 thousand

Many think Ubisoft's Rainbow Six is a direct competitor to CS: GO. It's not hard to see why. The central theme is a confrontation between a Counter-Terrorists squad and the ever so dreadful Terrorists, but the game is no imitation.

Rainbow Six battle rounds are longer, and players get a whole stack of weapons right from the start. Many UK gamers prefer it for just that, not having to go through the entire economy of CS: GO.

A slow but steady growth

At launch, Rainbow Six had so many bugs that virtually the entire esports gamers scene laughed at it. In time, though, Ubisoft has provided constant updates, which enabled them to lure in masses of esports gamers. As of last year, there were over 50 million registered players.

The Six Invitational is the most prestigious yearly event for Rainbow Six. This year, the total prize money at stake for the tournament amounts to $3 million.

Star player Niclas Mouritzen, aka 'Pengu,' is the top earner with close to $400 thousand.

5 Mobile Esports on the Rise

The most popular esports games right now belong to the FPS and MOBA genres. But UK gamers play a lot of other types of competitive PC games.

Moreover, there was a time when the likes of Dota 2 and Rainbow Six Siege had just a few thousand players, and nobody foresaw their quick ascension.

Let’s see what are the 5 best esports games that threaten to steal the show this year.

Important

Other genres are catching up big time, and games on your phone are not called like that anymore, but mobile esports.

  • Hearthstone

Hearthstone

Release Year Genre Platform Notable Tournaments Highest Paid Player
2014 Card game PC, Android, iOS Hearthstone Masters $343 thousand

Hearthstone is Blizzard Entertainment’s model of a digital collectible card game, based on the Warcraft universe. Since most UK gamers are familiar with Warcraft, the game has made waves ever since its launch.

How does Hearthstone stand apart?

Digital card games can indeed be boring. Still, in Hearthstone, players can interact at any time. You can cast a spell card or otherwise counteract the opponent's attacks even in their turn, making it a lot more dynamic than other card games, which can be a bit static and too linear for a true esports gamer.

Hearthstone reached its peak in popularity in 2018, with 100 million registered players.

  • Overwatch

Overwatch

Release Year Genre Platform Notable Tournaments Highest Paid Player
2016 Fantasy FPS PC, Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch Overwatch World Cup $222 thousand

Another Blizzard-made title took esports gamers by storm with its $4 million prize pool. While not entirely a mobile esport, it is compatible with a mobile console, the Nintendo Switch.

The developers didn’t intend to make it an esports game

Its features made it a go-to from the start, the main reason why this esports game has reached more than 30 million concurrent players at the peak.

The short match duration, gameplay speed and simple design make for an action-packed 10 minute. This is ideal for viewers too, prompting Blizzard to develop official competitions for esports gamers and offer attractive prizes.

Key features

Overwatch is mainly a squad-based shooter, but it comes with a twist. Esports gamers prefer it for its semi-futuristic setting with contemporary elements. It feels like a real future, in a class-based system in which esports gamers must come up with endless strategies to come out a winner.

While the game is currently leaking viewers and sponsors and some gamers consider it to be ‘dying’, we have included it because of its accessibility. Millions still play it because the fluent and straightforward mechanics make for a good training for when the time will come to play more demanding shooters.

  • Arena of Valor

Arena of Valor

Release Year Genre Platform Notable Tournaments Highest Paid Player
2015 MOBA Android, iOS, Nintendo Switch Arena of Valor World Cup, King Pro League $832 thousand

Arena of Valor is the leading mobile MOBA esport game in terms of revenue. Developed by Tencent, the parent company of Riot Games, the game shares a lot with its older brother, League of Legends.

Overall, the handheld esports game has grossed over $10 billion, which is surprising, if not shocking, for a title released just over 5 years ago.

Will you join the Arena?

In classic battle arena fashion, players combat in teams of 5 to conquer the opponent's turf. But it's the simplicity and portability that attract millions of gamers to the Arena. Its intuitive gameplay and features are meant to introduce newcomer esports gamers to the battle arena genre.

Tournament prizes are not short of spectacular either. Chinese players claim most, and the highest ever earner who goes by the alias Fly has added over $800 thousand to his account.

  • Garena Free Fire

Garena Free Fire

Release Year Genre Platform Notable Tournaments Highest Paid Player
2017 Battle Royale, Shooter Android, iOS Free Fire World Series $41 thousand

Fans and esports gamers alike certainly remember this year’s Free Fire World Series in Singapore. It broke several records, becoming the most popular event of this kind.

Fun fact

The tournament attained the highest ever viewership in esports’ history with 5 million unique viewers at the peak, all in just 9 hours of airtime.

On average, 2 million people watched the event constantly. That's another record.

Garena gameplay details

Essentially, Garena is a battle royale game with two main game modes: survival and 4v4 squad clash. Both game modes are set on remote islands. The maps are vast and well-defined in terms of graphics.

You can hide in the bushes or near the structures, snipe your way to victory, ambush enemies and drive vehicles to the battlegrounds. There's a whole lot of places to loot and weapon variety, which adds to its attractiveness.

The highest paid esports player in Garena earned around $41000. While this is nowhere near the staggering millions some Dota 2 esports gamers may make, it is a lot for a mobile game. It all suggests that mobile esports games are here to stay.

  • Brawl Stars

Brawl Stars

Release Year Genre Platform Notable Tournaments Highest Paid Player
2017 MOBA Android, iOS Brawl Stars World Finals $60 thousand

Brawl Stars has managed to accrue $200 million in revenues in its first months, making it one of the fastest-growing mobile games of all time.

Fun fact

Did you know that the first ever team to win a Brawl Stars championship consisted entirely of UK gamers?

The gist of Brawl

Supercell's mobile battle arena game is a third-person multiplayer shooter with numerous distinctive features. Players can chat and socialize, create squads, and combine their champions' abilities. The view is top-down, similar to other battle arena games, and the characters look a bit like cartoons.

This up-and-coming mobile esports game has been nominated for the 15th British Academy Games Award and EE Mobile Game of the Year. It's no wonder since people downloaded it over 200 million times worldwide.

eSports Stats

We aim to provide UK gamers with a bias-free assessment of the esports landscape. Thus, in the following section, we lay out the core facts that pertain to it. Stick with us and discover the significant peaks in the industry.

What esports game makes the most money?

What esports game makes the most money

The logical thing would be that an esports game offering such a massive prize pool must make enough money to handle those prizes. The chart shows the biggest esports games in terms of prize pool for 2021.

Which esports game is most popular?

Which esports game is most popular

To assess esports' popularity is to get the measure of viewership. The graph comprises viewers' most-watched esports tournaments worldwide by the total hours spent on Twitch.

Who is the highest paid esports gamer?

Player ID Country Total Earnings
N0tail Denmark $6,9 million
JerAx Finland $6.4 million
Ana Australia $6 million
Ceb France $5.5 million
Topson Finland $5.4 million

What esport game has the largest player base?

Game Number of Players
PUBG 1 billion (downloads)
Fortnite 350 million (accounts)
League of Legends 111 million (peak monthly players)
Hearthstone 100 million
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege 50 million
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive 46 million (owners on Steam)
Dota 2 13 million (peak monthly players)

For each 1 pro gamer out there, millions practice daily.

Why are people so hyped on esports?

  • Consider the staggering sums that circulate: the esports industry is projected to grow to £1.44 billion by 2022.
  • It's a basic fact that gaming has permeated into each sector of society: virtually everybody plays video games.
  • And when you think of a potential career as an esports gamer, the incomes don't seem unpleasing at all.

Be aware

Most are not ready to face potential health problems, addiction, a lot of sitting down and so on. It doesn't mean you'll get the nasty part, of course, but it's a risk and path not many can take. Not dissimilar to a 'real' athlete's way of life, except maybe the latter is healthier.

Recommendation

Follow your favourite esports players and teams closely. Try to analyze their abilities. When you can objectively assess they're on a series of consecutive successes, it might be a good idea to go through UK casino list and place a wager.

References

Since forever a student of life and writer at his core, he loves to place bets on football matches in his spare time. Combining the art of prediction and a rigorously trained intuition, he has joined the iGaming world to promote a responsible and data-driven approach to sports betting.

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