Electronic sports have taken the world in storm. These four games are the driving forces for its success and its ongoing development.
Ever since the inception of video games, players have been searching for means to compete against each other and over the years, competitive games have emerged and created an industry that - in 2015 alone - grossed a total of $748 million (679 million euros). With TV companies broadcasting the eSports scene's biggest tournaments, the industry has long since entered the mainstream and has surpassed a lot of conventional sports in terms of viewership and prize money. Out of all the eSports titles, the following four offer the biggest prize money, viewing figures and player bases.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Starting as a modification to the highly successful game Half-Life, Counter-Strike quickly became a household name for lovers of the first-person-shooter genre. Over a decade and two sequels later, the game has built up a loyal player base with the current title in the series, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), which boasts around 10 million individual players per month.
To people unfamiliar with gaming and eSports in general, this game might be one of the more accessible ones since the game is pretty simple. Ten players face off against each other: Five terrorists try to plant a bomb while five counter-terrorists try to prevent that from happening. The team that wins the majority of 30 rounds of play wins the game.
It is not enough to engage in shootouts with the enemy, but the terrorists also need to execute elaborate strategies to find a way to draw the counter-terrorists away from the targeted sites. This coupled with the fact that the game requires extremely quick reactions make this a game at which only a few people can get to the highest level.
Ever since its inception, the original version of the game and its successors have developed a strong following, leaving similar titles behind by a great margin. An increasing number of people have taken up watching other people play the game in recent years and a total of 1.6 million viewers watched the finals of this year's MLG Columbus Major Tournament. Dozens of tournaments are held every year, with many of them offering more than $1 million in prize money.
League of Legends / Defence of the Ancients 2
LoL and DoTA 2 are games in the same genre and - although some would beg to differ - it makes sense to deal with them together.
DoTA was the founding father of the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game genre, in which two five-man teams attempt to destroy each other's base. In the game, each player plays a hero and during the game he or she can buy items to strengthen his or her character in some way. Borrowing heavily from the original title, LoL however added a host of new characters and also brought a lot of game-play changes to the table.
These two games live in stark contrast to Counter-Strike and to first-person shooters in general. Living off of their complexity rather than aim and reaction times, these games offer a lot of different possibilities for defeating one's enemy. Health, armor, magic damage, magic resistance and a lot of other factors affect the characters and often determine which role they fulfill. To underline that, the items can increase values of certain factors. This means that from the very start, the player needs to have a well-thought-out idea of which items he or she plans pursue and which hero to pick with respect to the enemy lineup. This concept is underlined by the structure of the map that is being played on.
Although League of Legends has taken away a considerable amount of spotlight from DoTA2, both games are at the forefront of electronic sports in two ways. LoL currently boasts the biggest player base with over 30 million active users per month, whereas DoTA 2 is setting new records in terms of prize pools every year. At the International 6, its DoTA2's biggest tournament, a total of $20 million was up for grabs. LOL, DoTA2 and CS:GO are the golden trio of eSports game in terms of viewership and production quality.
Even if you are familiar with the titles mentioned above, Overwatch may be new to you. Overwatch is one of the fastest-growing eSports titles and even had a dedicated professional player base by the time of its beta release. The publisher, Blizzard, has been marketing it as an eSports title by targeting professionals and players of other highly successful games such as CS:GO or LoL. This makes sense, because the game combines the strongest and most compelling aspects of both genres.
Similar to League of Legends, Overwatch has a lot of different heroes with different purposes, which once again puts strong emphasis on a team's composition. For fans of the first-person shooter genre, Overwatch offers fast-paced combat and heroes that very closely imitate the feeling of pure first-person shooters. The idea behind the game is pretty simple. One team has to defend a target, while the other is out to attack it.
The game has not been out for a long time, but it has flourished among professionals and tournaments are already offering $100,000 in prize money. Most of the major eSports organizations have added Overwatch teams to the squads they field for other titles. There is no question whether this game is will stay among the leading titles in eSports . Since it has already garnered a television broadcast deal similar to that CS:GO, the game is projected to soon surpass other titles such as Hearthstone or Call of Duty.
Just a decade ago, nobody could have imagined that people would be watching other people play computer games in venues designed to host football games or rock concerts, but now, eSports are definitely here to stay.