Esports have been growing for years, and there's still no sign of it slowing down. Despite of this, not every big title gets an even cut of the pie. Shooters like Fortnite are struggling, while MOBAs are getting bigger and bigger. What makes League of Legends and Dota 2 such popular esports games, and which one is ahead?
League of Legends and Dota 2 continue to set new records in esports. While LoL continues to grow in viewership, Valve continues to pay out higher prize money than ever before, each year at The International. All thanks to us, the fans!
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There are also more and more tournaments and advertising deals taking place. Sales are growing, and so is the player base.
League of Legends: Bigger events, lower prize money, & many players
League of Legends is incredibly popular, and attracts massive viewership. During Worlds 2020, more than 1 billion hours were watched live! The first LEC weekend in January brought 231,000 people in front of the screen — a new record for the European league.
LoL tournaments are, above all, huge events. They feature stage shows that can almost hold a candle to the Super Bowl. Even the global pandemic couldn't stop Riot from putting on an entertaining show via live streams. Thus, it's no wonder that Riot's World Championship keeps winning the award for best esports event at the Game Awards.
League of Legends has not only a lot of fans, but also a lot of professional players (more than 7,000). There are many chances to compete in different leagues, and make it to the World Championship. With well-known teams like Rogue, G2 Esports, and Schalke 04, the mainstream audience is the main target.
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To make up for that, LoL has less prize money than its direct competitor, Dota 2. Last year, there was only $2,250,000 USD at stake during Worlds, but that can be made up for by deals with big sponsors. Still, Riot's monolith definitely has room for growth.
Dota 2: The International, high prize money, fewer players
Dota 2 has a reputation for being less accessible, but more rewarding, than LoL. This is also evident in Valve's approach to esports. Every year, The International takes place, and every year, players have to qualify in regional leagues and majors.
This event is the highlight of the Dota 2 competitive scene, but compared to Worlds, it's more like a huge LAN party. It attracts far fewer spectators (over a million in 2019), but considering the player base, more people are watching Dota 2 than playing it. Peculiar!
Dota 2 still has about half as many professional players as League of Legends. Cool teams like Alliance, OG, or Team Liquid still exist, and they also have the chance to win significantly more cash. That's because every year, the prize pool gets bigger and bigger. In 2019, it was almost $35 million, with only $1.6 million coming from Valve. The rest is all accumulated by sales of the annual Battle Pass.
In 2020, however, The International was canceled due to the pandemic... but it'll be making a glorious return. Money isn't everything, and Valve needs to prove that they can make Dota 2 interesting for a wider audience. The announcement of DOTA: Dragon's Blood was a step in the right direction, and something that nobody saw coming!
Shooters: CS:GO and Fortnite in comparison
As far as shooters go, CS:GO is by far the biggest title. With more than 13,000 professional players, the game is more popular than LoL and Dota 2 combined. In terms of audience size and prize money, they can't hold a candle to it either. When Fortnite hit the market in 2017, it looked like there might be some real competition, but Epic's esports scene still has a lot to improve.
Fortnite's tournament system is simply non-organic, and was a push from Epic Games to gain popularity. There is no classic league system like in LoL, which is why anyone can qualify for the World Cup. Extremely young and inexperienced players, with natural talent, get to the top without having a plan or even being part of an organization. That's certainly not a bad thing for many.
Fortnite continues to be popular with viewers, but the prize money is getting less with each passing year. Many players believe that they will no longer be able to make a living from esports if they stick with Fortnite. There is also a lack of income from sponsorship deals, which is totally normal for other games. Eventually, the esports scene in Fortnite will die out and make way for other titles like PUBG and Overwatch.
Conclusion: League of Legends dominates the scene
Overall, League of Legends is clearly the top dog among esports games. Riot Games doesn't pay out as much as Valve, but it's about much more than just the money. Valve is definitely lacking in the marketing department over the past decade. With LoL, fans get awesome events, and for professional players, it's worth it to play LoL instead of another game. Everything seems completely thought out, which means Riot is always one step ahead of the competition.
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Original article by EarlyGame's Laura Pippig.