The Biggest Prize Pools in eSports Tournaments

Esports continues to grow in popularity, and more and more people are starting to see it as a true sport. This includes bookmakers: Esports bets that used to be not very interesting (for example Starcraft 2 betting) are now played by a much larger number of people. There are many reasons for this, but one of the most important is the prize pools: Esports events distribute millions of dollars in prizes each year, and some have grown to compete with national football leagues. Esports players now earn much more and can see this job as a professional career. So, what are the biggest prize pools in esports tournaments? Which games’ events distribute millions of dollars in prizes? Below, we’ve listed the biggest esports events for you, with prizes starting at millions of dollars.

The International

The International is hosted by Valve, the producer of the game, and it is a global tournament for DOTA 2. It was first held in 2011 and has been held annually ever since. Eighteen teams are competing in the tournament, and these teams are determined by the DOTA Pro Circuit matches that continue throughout the year. Pro Circuit consists of local matches and leagues held in America, Latin America, Europe, China, and CIS countries. When the tournament was first held, the grand prize was $1 million, and this amount was fully funded by Valve.

In 2013, a system called “crowdfunding” was adopted. In this system, part of the revenue from in-game battle pass sales is transferred to the prize pool. In 2013, the prize pool reached $2.8 million with the crowdfunding system, and this number continued to increase continuously in the following years. In other words, the players themselves now finance the prize pool.

Since DOTA 2 is one of the most popular esports games, this figure can reach quite big amounts. If you ask how big it is, let us state that The International is in the top 5 on the list of esports tournaments with the largest prize pool. In other words, the first half of the list consists only of The International event. In this regard, we can define the top 5 of the list as follows:

  1. The International (2019) – 34.33 million USD
  2. The International (2018) – 25.53 million USD
  3. The International (2017) – 24.69 million USD
  4. The International (2016) – 20.77 million USD
  5. The International (2015) – 18.43 million USD

DOTA 2 alone has handed out more than a hundred million dollars in prizes, and the reward accumulated in the prize pool continues to increase each year. We do not expect another game to enter the top 5 of the list in the near future: the crowdfunding system has really made a difference. The International will always be the esports tournament with the most money in its prize pool.

Fortnite World Cup

An army clutching guns running towards the camera while others fall in with umbrellas.

The Fortnite World Cup has been organized by Epic Games since 2018. Epic Games aims to make this game the most popular esports game in the world and realizes that the easiest way to do this is to increase the money in the prize pool. Unlike the crowdfunding model implemented by Valve, the tournament prize is funded by Epic Games. The difference of this tournament from the others is that it is almost completely online. Players and teams participating in the solo and duo finals are determined by ranked matches throughout the year. Other esports games take a more old-school approach: they rent huge places, put gaming computers in them, and turn the tournament into a social event in itself. The Fortnite World Cup is not like that: anyone can get a chance to participate in the finals by playing Fortnite ranked matches anywhere in the world. In this process, Epic Games also attracts attention on social media by placing leading players and famous streamers in the same team. Sixth and seventh on our list is the Fortnite World Cup prize pool: Although not as big as The International, it is possible to earn millions of dollars in this tournament.

  1. Fortnite World Cup Finals (Solo) – 15.29 million USD
  2. Fortnite World Cup Finals (Duo) – 15.10 million USD

To be honest, in a few years, the Fortnite World Cup could become a real rival to The International: It has only a two-year history and has already surpassed many older games. As long as Epic Games continues to support it, the money in the prize pool will continue to increase.

League of Legends World Championship

Lots of enemies fighting on grass.

This tournament has been organized by the game’s developer Riot Games since 2011. League of Legends (LoL) matches, which are usually a part of Dreamhack, continue throughout the year and the teams to compete in the finals are determined this way. The number of teams varies over the years: only 8 teams competed in 2011, but in 2020 this number increased to 22. The tournament is so popular that some analysts expect it to become a part of the Olympics after a while. Until now, the number in the prize pool of the tournament has not exceeded $10 million, which is why Lol World Championship is in the ninth and tenth place on our list. Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten the eighth place: That rank belongs again to The International. In short, the last three rows of our list are determined as follows:

  1. The International (2014) – 10.93 million USD
  2. LoL World Championship (2018) – 6.45 million USD
  3. LoL World Championship (2019) – 5.07 million USD

To summarize, there are actually only three leagues on the top 10 list, and we do not expect this to change in the near future. The rankings within the list itself may change, but different games will not be able to make it into the top 10: These are the most popular games in the esports industry and will remain so for a long time.