There’s no doubt about it – the esports industry is taking over the world. With each passing year, competitive tournaments become bigger, more prolific, and more valuable, with some of them boasting multi-million dollar prize pools. At the highest tier, these tournaments are watched by millions of people around the world, and it’s estimated that there are more than two billion gamers on the planet. For some, esports games are a career, and for others, they’re just a hobby.
One thing is for sure – esports games are shaping the future of our increasingly digital world. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking in terms of revenue streams, viewership figures, sponsorship opportunities, or content creation – almost every area of the industry is growing. We’re here today to offer you a glimpse into the diverse, dynamic, and ever-growing world of esports and the games that fuel the scene.
Read on to learn everything you need to know about esports.
Esports Games List 2023
Here’s a quick summary of the biggest esports games in the industry today, based on overall viewership, prize pools, and profile.
- Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
- Dota 2
- League of Legends
- Rainbow Six Siege
- Call of Duty
- Arena of Valor
Let’s be honest, if you’re totally new to the concept, you’ll be asking, ‘what exactly is esports’?
Every year, dozens – if not hundreds – of new video games are released, and some of them amass a mighty following almost overnight. Why is it that some games or genres fare so much better than others? Are there particular types of games that are more suited to becoming esports games? Where are the connections between esports and betting, and what does the future look like for these two industries?
There are countless questions that arise when you start probing into the esports industry. It’s a veritable beast and there’s so much to learn, from the most minor mechanics to the multi-billion-dollar value of the industry itself. Fortunately, you’re in the best place to start learning, as this is probably the most comprehensive, ultimate guide to esports games and the industry that drives their popularity forward.
What is Esports and Where Did it Come From?
So, you understand that the esports industry exists, but where exactly did it come from? For the last decade or so, competitive gaming has been on a massive and unstoppable rise, growing immeasurably over a relatively short period of time. Once upon a time, esports, and gaming in general, was a stigmatised concept, with many non-gaming individuals believing it to be a nerdy, basement-dwelling practice.
Today, there can be no doubting the value of esports.
By definition, esports is any form of competition based around video games. Technically, when someone logs on to play a game of Call of Duty or a round of Fortnite, they’re partaking in esports, as they’re competing against other players on a digital platform. Commonly, the ‘esports’ that we’re referring to concerns the high-stakes tournaments and organised events that take place all around the world throughout the course of a year.
There are thousands of esports tournaments in the calendar, spread out across dozens of titles, both niche and mainstream. If you go back ten years, you’ll see small venues, minuscule prize pools, and relatively average players. Today, there are prize pools upwards of $40 million, and esports professionals are considered to be legitimate athletes with rigorous training schedules.
Where did it all begin?
If we go back to 1996, we see the release of Quake, a game that is often referred to as the grandfather of modern esports. In 1997, a legendary competitor by the name of Denis ‘Thresh’ Fong won a Ferrari 328 in an iconic tournament played on the Quake platform. This is widely considered to be the first-ever modern esports event, and it sparked an industry that would twenty years later, be worth $1 billion.
However, the success of the esports industry took a while – it wasn’t until the late 2000s and early 2010s that esports became a mainstream concept. Today, competitive gaming is reaching new heights with each passing tournament and with each new release. It’s a global industry, with the most popular and most highly-skilled players travelling around the world to compete in some of the biggest, most valuable stadiums and venues on Earth.
There’s no question – the esports industry will continue to grow in the coming years, exceeding and decimating all set expectations.
What Makes a Game an Esport?Let’s be honest – the gaming industry can be seen as oversaturated. There are countless games released every year, some of which have development budgets worth hundreds of millions of dollars. However, not every title boasts a competitive scene, with many of the world’s best-selling titles lacking a multiplayer mode altogether. It’s not incorrect to suggest that the list of ‘esports games’ is relatively small – at least at the highest levels.
If you take a step back and examine the industry, you’ll notice that only a few titles pull in the viewers. There’s a ‘Big Three’ in the industry, made up of CSGO, Dota 2, and League of Legends. While there are many other titles that boast a competitive landscape, these three games drive the core of the esports industry ever forward.
With that in mind, what does it actually take to become an esports game? Why is there no guarantee that a standard multiplayer game will become an esports title?
1. Skill expression
Firstly, we need to look at the fundamental way in which players are literally seen within a game. While most video games are designed to be fun, accessible, and relatively seamless, the best esports titles have more of a focus on improvement, grinding, and visibility of skill.
For instance, when we’re talking about Rainbow Six Siege, CSGO, or Call of Duty, it’s all about the ranks, statistics, and the gameplay itself. If you’re a skilful player, you’ll be recognised by the game through any number of systems – charms, ranks, emblems, and so on. There’s an inherent opportunity in an esports game to understand and take advantage of a string of mechanics that will improve your abilities as a player.
While a single-player game might focus on a story, the graphics, or on the voice acting, an esports game focuses on the opportunity to stand out from the crowd. If you’re good enough, people will know about it, and you’ll be showcased within the game. If you ascend to the truly impressive levels of greatness, you could wind up competing for an esports organisation.
Ultimately, if a game is unpopular, it won’t have a thriving esports scene – and maybe, it won’t have an esports scene at all. While you’re free to master whatever game you so desire, if you find yourself ‘getting good’ at something unpopular, it’ll never end up leading to anything. However, if you pick up a game like CSGO, which boasts millions of active players, you’ll always have an audience and a pool of competitors to fight against and to prove yourself with.
There are very few tournaments based around games with a smaller audience. If there are, they tend to be local, with small prize pools (if any at all), and almost no coverage. Let’s take Call of Duty as an example – it’s arguably the most popular first-person shooter franchise in the world. It doesn’t boast a vibrant esports scene, as there’s only one major tournament, but when that tournament is live, it pulls in millions of viewers.
If there’s a budding esports game with a small following and no real audience potential, esports organisations simply won’t want to get involved with it. At the end of the day, it’s just bad business.
3. Viewing experience
It’s not all about the popularity of the game and the ability to express your skill – an esports game has to be fun to watch. For instance, it’s no good building a game that everybody enjoys playing but nobody enjoys watching. It’s a strange balance that must be struck for an esports game to succeed. These days, esports tournaments are played in front of tens of thousands of fans, with hundreds of thousands watching from around the world via streams.
This is the beating heart of the esports industry – the viewers. If a game can be exciting, engaging, and entertaining enough for the viewership levels to climb, a hurdle has been well and truly overcome. Typically, it’s totally free to watch all esports tournaments, which removes a huge blocker when compared to traditional sports, for example. It’s accessible, and that’s important because when you’re trying to pull in more viewers, you want there to be no blockers in place.
What Are The Most Common Esports Genres?
It’s a diverse world out there, and there is a plethora of genres that boast their own distinct characteristics. They provide differing gaming experiences, with some being aimed at the more casual players, while others remain deeply complex and are directed more to the hardcore gamer. For esports games, while a competitive nature is at their core, there are several different genres that all feed into the industry.
Here are the key genres that you need to be aware of when learning about an esports games list:
1. Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA)
Examples: Dota 2, League of Legends, Smite, Heroes of the Storm, Arena of Valor
Multiplayer Online Battle Arean games, such as League of Legends, make up the most popular group of esports games in the world. They’re well known for taking traditional, conventional ‘real-time strategy’ formulae and mixing in roleplaying elements. By doing this, they allow each player to individually control a single character and use it to fight against a group of opponents while also utilising strategical units and mechanics, such as an economic structure.
If you’re just getting started with esports games, MOBAs can seem extremely complex – and that’s because they are. Typically, a MOBA boasts fast-paced gameplay combined with a wide array of characters, customisation, and itemisation options. It can make for a harrowing experience for the inexperienced player, but for the professionals, it means that they truly are the most skilled players in the world.
This genre is so powerful and popular that it forms the backbone of the esports industry. In 2021, records were shattered when a Dota 2 tournament came up with a $40 million prize pool – the biggest ever seen. It’s a great example of the power of the MOBA genre.
2. First-Person Shooter (FPS)
Examples: CS:GO, Call of Duty, Rainbow Six Siege, Overwatch
Behind MOBA titles, first-person shooter esports games contribute massively to the popularity of esports in general. As gamers, we’ve known and loved first-person shooter games since the 1990s, and today, they make up some of the most profitable and advanced franchises in the business. There’s a diverse range of sub-genres within the first-person shooter category, ranging from sci-fi to hero shooters, and from retro combat to battle royales.
For the professionals competing in the first-person shooter esports games, it’s all about razor-sharp accuracy and intense reflex abilities. For those playing CSGO and Call of Duty, there’s a strong requirement for split-second decisions that can impact an entire tournament. In some cases, it can all come down to a single bullet. In 2023 and beyond, many of the best esports games are first-person shooters.
3. Fighting Games
Examples: Street Fighter, Super Smash Bros, Tekken
Fighting games, otherwise known as ‘beat-em-ups’, have existed for decades. They’re as retro as you can get, and they typically revolve around two players beating the snot out of each other across a series of rounds. They can be more complex, such as in the case of Super Smash Bros., but ultimately, they’re very basic games that follow the same formula time after time. However, that doesn’t take away from their overall value, as fighting games are a staple in the esports industry.
For some, these games are the most exciting, bar none. They can often feature intense, perfectly-balanced match-ups that see each fight go down to the wire, with a single combo or a sudden flurry changing the fortunes of one player within the blink of an eye. It’s easy to see why they’re some of the most immersive esports games in the business.
4. Real-Time Strategy (RTS)
Examples: StarCraft: Brood War, Warcraft III, StarCraft II
For many years, RTS games have sadly been on the decline, working their way out of popularity. Once upon a time, real-time strategy titles were the bread and butter of the esports industry, but now, they pick up almost no viewers. Unfortunately, this is most likely due to the inherent complexity of a real-time strategy game, which tends to boast economic mechanics, the management of units and entire armies, and stacks of micromanagement mechanics.
As the ‘rapid reward’ concept has emerged, many esports fans have pushed away from real-time strategy titles. It’s much more satisfying to watch something fast-paced and remarkably simple than it is to watch something complex and long-winded. It’s a sad fact, but when it comes to the best esports games in 2023, we may be seeing the end of real-time strategy games.
5. Sports Games
Examples: FIFA, Madden NFL, NBA 2K, Pro Evolution Soccer, Rocket League
Bizarrely, sports games aren’t all that popular when it comes to the esports industry. There’s a theory that suggests sports games aren’t popular because real-world variants of the sport exist – and people would much rather watch that than a digital variant. However, titles like Rocket League, which is a fictional, fantasy sport, still do quite well, simply because they cannot be replicated in real life.
If you’re totally new to esports games but are familiar with real-world sports, then this will be an acceptable entry point into the industry. For the most part, the video game variants of real sports boast the same rulesets, teams, players, and leagues, and with modern graphics, they genuinely look like the real thing.
6. Battle Royale
Examples: PUBG, Fortnite, Apex Legends, Call of Duty Warzone
Since 2017, battle royale games have experienced an overwhelming and undeniable surge in popularity. They all follow a simple concept – a large assortment of players fighting on a single map until the last man (or team) is standing. Throughout the match, there may be environmental dangers that keep the players moving, such as an ever-shrinking circle of deadly gas. We’ve seen some intense, massive tournaments in the last few years where battle royale games are concerned, and there’s no doubt that they make up some of the most valuable esports titles in the industry.
Most of the success of the battle royale genre comes from the fact that almost all of these games are free-to-play and ‘cross-platform’. This means that you can play with people on any other platform – PlayStation, Xbox, PC, and sometimes even Mobile. Every top-tier battle royale game is free-to-play, making them truly accessible and opening up their doors to tens of millions of players. It’s the perfect environment for an esports ecosystem.
What Are The Next Big Esports?
Currently, there are very few ‘new’ things in the esports space. Typically, the best esports tournaments out there have been going for many years, and they likely will be around for years to come. For instance, The International, which is Dota 2’s biggest tournament, celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2021. While new games are launching all the time, it can sometimes take a while to establish an esports scene.
For instance, Overwatch launched in 2016, and it wasn’t until 2017 that the Overwatch League first went live. This proved to be a very popular tournament, but it required the groundwork for the game to be set ahead of time. If it wasn’t, nobody would have even known what Overwatch was, and therefore, they wouldn’t have invested in the esports scene.
The Growth of Mobile Esports
It can be hard to look far ahead, as while we know what games are coming out ahead of time, we can’t predict how successful or popular they’d be. For the most part, the esports games out there today are a constant, and they’ll remain so for some time. There’s nothing likely to overtake the likes of CSGO, League of Legends, or Dota 2 at any point in the near future. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t changes happening all the time in esports, and recently, we’ve seen a huge rise in mobile gaming, and therefore mobile esports.
Once upon a time, games like Warcraft powered the esports industry. We bore witness to venues bursting at the seams with heavy, clunky computer equipment, with weighty CRT monitors bending desks and dozens of PCs lined up, chugging away. In recent years, mobile esports have seen massive growth, and all you need to compete in those is a mobile device.
In the last few years, we’ve seen top mobile titles emerge and prove their immense value, such as:
- Garena Free Fire
- PUBG Mobile
- Mobile Legends: Bang Bang
- COD Mobile
- Clash of Clans
- League of Legends: Wild Rift
Again, owing to their vast accessibility, mobile esports titles are hugely popular. There are audiences that number in the tens of millions, and as time goes on, mobile esports are simply becoming industry leaders. While there are few expectations that mobile esports will ever be as popular as mainstream esports, they’re a great example of the changes occurring within the industry.
Other than that, it’s very difficult to know what’s coming next. There are franchises that change on a yearly basis, such as Call of Duty, but the core tournament structure behind the games themselves doesn’t actually change.
If there’s one area of the esports industry we should draw attention to in terms of growth, it’s esports betting.
What Makes Esports Games Popular For Gambling?
That’s right – esports betting. If you’re totally new to the industry, you might be wondering how this even applies, but in recent years, esports betting has become a massive valuable vertical. It’s a hugely popular area for bettors in general, and day by day, more betting sites are opening up esports betting markets for their punters. There’s a vast crossover taking place, with many betting sites sponsoring esports organisations and tournaments, slapping their brand on every surface possible.
For instance, top betting firm Betway has been known to partner up with more than a few esports organisations. For years, GG.bet has been the lead betting partner for many iconic esports tournaments, typically focusing on the likes of CSGO.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, esports betting saw an unimaginable rise in popularity. This was because traditional sports couldn’t be played, and instead, esports betting markets became the reigning champion. It was as though a mass revolution had taken place overnight, with many traditional bettors now turning to digital markets, betting on video games they’d never even heard of.
It was enough to kickstart a popularity train that is yet to slow down. As gaming becomes more mainstream, many more people are starting to understand its potential and value, and the gravitation towards esports betting becomes increasingly stronger. Those that grew up playing games are now at the age when they can legally bet on them – and many do so. If there’s one word to describe the world of esports, it would be ‘social’ – and these days, the esports and betting industries are both fuelled by young, social, progressive individuals.
As esports grows as an industry, it becomes more organised, regulated, and structured. This means that, way ahead of time, punters can learn what to expect from the world of esports betting. It becomes infinitely easier to be more prepared when you know what’s coming, and in most cases, esports bettors will do their research ahead of placing a few wagers. Once upon a time, it was impossible to know anything about esports competitors.
Today, you can find out everything you need to know about esports games and the people that play them. It’s just like football, basketball, or tennis, and given enough time, there could be a huge push that makes esports betting more profitable than betting on any other sport.
If you know anything about betting, you’ll know that esports odds can be found on basically any betting platform around. For some platforms, these markets might be relatively plain – nothing more than outright winners, for example. However, for the more specialist websites, you’ll find exotic markets and offers made up specifically for esports betting.
Esports Betting Games
There’s definitely a correlation present between the most popular esports titles and the most valuable esports betting games.
According to research, the most popular esports betting game is CSGO, and on some platforms, it makes up more than 55% of all esports wagers placed. Behind CSGO is Dota 2, followed closely by League of Legends. In fact, outside of these three titles, just 5% of all esports wagers are placed on ‘other’ games. This includes the likes of Rainbow Six, Overwatch, Call of Duty, PUBG, Fortnite, and so on.
However, in many cases, this gulf of difference can be explained by the sheer volume of tournaments being played. For instance, Call of Duty only has one major league, and it takes place once a year over a period of several months. If we compare this to CSGO, we see an immediate difference, with CSGO boasting several global leagues, such as ESL and BLAST, as well as major tournaments and a world championship event.
It’s easy to understand which esports betting games are the most prominent. It’s a case of picking an esports betting site and checking out the esports options available. If you’ll spend a few seconds looking, you’ll see titles like CSGO at the top of the pack boasting the most diverse markets.
Esports Games in 2023
With many esports franchises returning from a cold period caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, worldwide esports tournaments are back in earnest. In 2022, some of the most high-profile, high-stakes tournaments made a valiant return to stadiums around the world. For instance, Halo, whose esports scene collapsed in 2018, has made a strong return, coming back in 2022 with the Halo Championship Series.
We could also talk about Rainbow Six – many tournaments in this space were cancelled owing to the pandemic. However, in 2023, a diverse and densely-packed esports schedule exists, with many major tournaments being held around the world. Many franchises saw a bold return to LAN events, such as the Call of Duty League, which in 2021 re-opened live, in-person tournaments, welcoming back tens of thousands of fans.
There’s no doubt that 2023 will be a huge year for esports. As an expectation, many experts suggest that the overall value of the industry will swell as the year goes on.
Fortunately, it’s dramatically easy to get involved with the esports industry. If you want to be an esports fan in 2023, you can do so simply by tuning in to a live stream and watching some gameplay. If you want something a little easier to digest, consider watching a streamer on Twitch or YouTube as they explore an esports title like CSGO. If you want to start dabbling in esports betting, you’ll need to have at least a little knowledge of the game you’re actually gambling on.
Emerging Crypto Games and Esports
As technology becomes brighter and bolder, advancements are happening every day. In the diverse, dynamic world of esports, we’re constantly seeing crossovers coming in from the cryptocurrency industry. This impacts the esports industry in several ways, from tournament prizes and sponsorships to esports betting sites and even the core mechanics of the games themselves.
While we’ve seen a lot of resistance from gaming fans in general, developers seem intent on introducing cryptocurrency elements into their games. It’s only a matter of time before this directly impacts the many esports games out there, but for now, nothing has really changed. However, there’s an ongoing trend that is leading to the development of crypto and NFT-based games, and crypto esports betting is becoming a much more popular concept.
For instance, in 2022, the development of a game called Mokens League was teased. As a part of its reveal, developers claimed it would perfectly fuse together esports and the collection and ownership of NFTs. We’ve drawn up articles that explain NFT gambling and crypto gaming at length, as they’re a totally different ball game and a conversation for another day.
Regardless, we’ll likely see many more crossovers between these two industries as we move through 2023. At the least, we’ll see more partnerships. In the last year, esports organisations have partnered with crypto firms, such as FaZe Clan with MoonPay, in order to build strong correlations between the two industries.
As technology advances the board, who knows what will change next?