Esports Tournaments Guide: Schedule, Insights and More

The esports industry revolves around tournaments. Whether they’re hosted by third-party companies or a game’s developers, these events are the beginning and end of their games’ competitive scene. What started as basement LAN parties has exploded into globetrotting tournament series with tens of millions on the line.

With more and more tournaments available now than ever before, there’s never been a better time to start esports betting. The sheer volume of esports events and betting opportunities is due to two significant factors. The first is decentralization. Anyone can host an esports tournament, not just the developers of a game or a governing body. The second is accessibility; thanks to the digital nature of video games, tournaments can take place entirely online with hundreds of teams competing. That second trait let esports continue its growth throughout the 2020 pandemic. Now the industry is converting that momentum into a successful new year.

So how did esports tournaments go from small private events to multi-million dollar celebrations of gaming skill? The short answer is time. While they might seem like a recent phenomenon, esports tournaments have existed for almost four decades now. 2021 will be another historic year in esports history, punctuated by massive tournaments for the hottest competitive titles. This is our guide to the history of esports tournaments and the most important esports tournaments of 2021.

Esports & Gaming Tournaments for 2021

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The History of Esports Tournaments

The first-ever gaming tournament looked very different from what we have today. The Space Invaders Championship is the first recorded video game competition, and it was hosted in 1980 for the Atari 2600. The titular title didn’t feature multiplayer, so the highest score decided the winner. The prize was an arcade machine for the titular game.

Esports events first began resembling their modern form in 1997. Quake supermajor Red Annihilation was the first major competitive gaming event featuring international competition for a very swanky prize, a brand-new Ferrari 328 GTS Cabriolet, which went to Dennis “Thresh” Fong. The 16-man international bracket formed a template for other games to copy, and some of the culture from the event is kept alive today. Players across esports are occasionally rewarded with exotic cars as a callback to Red Annihilation.

While Starcraft 2 isn’t considered one of the biggest esports today, the game’s predecessor Starcraft: Brood War was incredibly influential in the early days of esports. The game enjoyed a massive following in Korea, where fully-professional Starcraft esports tournaments were often shown on television. The MBCGame StarCraft League became the driving force of competitive gaming. Their esports tournaments were the first to reach six-digit prize pools, peaking in 2007 at $126,451.20 for GOMTV MSL #2.

After Starcraft proved that esports were both a search for the best players and a form of entertainment, many other games followed suit. Many of the esports tournaments you see in the sportsbooks have connections to the industry’s early days. Counter-Strike, Dota 2, Starcraft 2, and Call of Duty can trace their roots to the early days of esports. What was once an underground subculture has become an international sensation with millions of fans and thousands of professional players.

The best esports tournaments to watch in 2021

Even with LAN competition off the table due to the coronavirus pandemic, 2020 was a record-setting year in esports. Viewership and bettor participation shot sky-high thanks to the lull in traditional sports competitions. If you’re only interested in betting on the most prominent esports tournaments 2021, there are three games to keep an eye on. Multiplayer online battle arenas League of Legends and Dota 2 and first-person tactical shooter Counter-Strike: Global Offensive make up the Big Three of esports. These titles have the biggest prize pools and the most competitive teams. All three titles are also free-to-play, meaning that their best players are pulled from millions all over the world.

Each of these games took a different approach to tackle the pandemic. Valve esports, Dota, and CS:GO chose to postpone their first-party events until international travel became feasible, while League of Legends took a very NBA-esque approach by quarantining players for their year-end event. Listed below are the biggest esports tournaments 2021 brings for each of the Big Three, as well as a formal league for the newest top-tier esport.

League of Legends Worlds 2021

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the most popular free-to-play game will also host the most significant esports tournaments 2021 has to offer. Riot Games’ end-of-year event is one of the longest esports events in history, with more than a month of top-level League. That rigorous competitive process comes with very handsome rewards; 2020 Worlds’ partially crowd-funded prize pool was just under $6,450,000. League of Legends’ popularity as an esports cannot be understated. Even just the Worlds 2020 group stage exceeded 1,000,000 viewers, something no other esport can match. The grand finals drew over 3.8 million spectators.

LoL Worlds 2020 Shanghai China

Dota 2 Pro Circuit

Dota’s premier professional league returned in 2020. The Dota Pro Circuit is broken up into two divisions for each of six regions. A $225,000 prize pool graces the Upper Division, and the Majors’ prize pools will start at $500,000. These events will run twice yearly, providing a near 24/7 stream of professional Dota to bet on. While most Dota tournament providers hosted their esports tournaments online throughout 2020, the scene is slowly returning to its LAN roots at the Majors.
While details for its distribution have yet to be revealed, the $40,000,000+ prize pool of The International 10 will be the largest in all of esports tournaments history. That summertime event will cap off Dota’s 2021 gaming competitions with a bang.

CS:GO Major Championships

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive held most of its esports tournaments online in 2020, but the tactical shooter will return to LAN play with aplomb in October. PGL has announced plans for a Counter-Strike Major with a $2,000,000 prize pool. The event will once again bring CS:GO teams from all over the world together to compete.
Valve seems to be putting more stock in Counter-Strike over Dota in their gaming tournaments 2021 plan. $2 million gaming competitions aren’t common, and the event will set a new prize pool for record for CS:GO. The PGL Major won’t be the only CS:GO event this year. Plenty of esports tournaments online and offline are being prepared by some of the most famous gaming competition hosts like DreamHack and the Electronic Sports League.

VALORANT Champions Tour 2021

VALORANT is the newest esports to begin appearing at gaming competitions. The five-a-side tactical shooter is similar to Counter-Strike but borrows many elements from other successful competitive titles. VALORANT’s first gaming tournaments in 2021 are a series of regional competitions. While the regional events are online esports tournaments, the best from all over the world will congregate for VALORANT Champions 2021 in November. The top 16 teams in the world will compete in a two-week long tournament for a chance to be crowned the world champion. Riot Games plans to elevate their FPS to the same competitive heights as League of Legends.

HOW did the Global Pandemic affect Esports Tournaments?

While the 2020 coronavirus pandemic has put several industries on pause, the esports world has only worked harder to fill the gap. Gaming competitions have leveraged their unique advantages over the traditional sports world, and more betting sites than ever have added esports to their sportsbook.

Online esports tournaments dominated the pro scene for every game in 2020. Several developers, including League of Legends creator Riot Games and multi-title juggernaut Activision-Blizzard, have taken their first-party esports tournaments online. That doesn’t even include numerous third-party hosts like DreamHack, StarLadder and the Electronic Sports League. Online tournaments are much cheaper to run than in-person esports tournaments, so there’s an extra incentive to create gaming competition betting opportunities.

HyperX Esports Arena Las Vegas

That’s not to say that the pandemic hasn’t affected esports; almost all in-person competition has been put on standby. LAN competition is traditionally the highest form of esports competition, and travel restrictions mean that international competitions are almost a complete no-go. There have been international tournaments between China and Southeast Asia, and Eastern and Western Europe can still fight, but the latency of online matches means that all games are effectively region-locked. There’s at least one example of late-corona LAN esports tournaments in September’s China Dota2 Pro Cup, but it’s an exception to the online-only rule.

What comes next for Esports

The world of gaming tournaments 2021 has gone through many highs-and-lows in its four decades of existence. While the coronavirus pandemic has stifled the industry in some ways, it also opened the door to innovative solutions and professionalism. Riot Games’ willingness to sequester its players in a corona-free bubble shows how seriously esports are treated. Valve’s esports Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive will also resume isolated in-person play at gaming tournaments 2021. The lack of traditional sports has made esports more popular than ever, and new fans will stick around for longer than any virus. Expect esports to capitalize on their built-up momentum in 2021 with bigger viewer counts and even larger prize pools. Massive growth isn’t a big deal for esports. Just like handing out Ferraris to MVPs, it’s borderline a tradition.

Whether you’re waiting for offline events to return or ready to jump into your first esports bet, look to Betway, Pinnacle and for the best betting experience.