Gaming tournaments have always been a crucial part of the esports ecosystem. The roots of competitive gaming might be in players chasing high scores and showcasing their skill on digital arenas, but esports wouldn’t become the global phenomenon it is today without the actual trophies and venues. And there’s no better way to prove this than to look at the numbers.

Over the years, video gaming tournaments went from having limited viewership and token prizes to reaching multimillion audiences and record-breaking prize pools. So, how on earth did this trend start? And just how big will it get in the future?

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Esports & Gaming Tournaments for 2020

What is the history of gaming tournaments?

If you were to look for the earliest large-scale video game competition, you’d have to turn to the Space Invaders Championship. Hosted in 1980 for the eponymous Atari 2600 title, it featured over 10,000 participants and made several headlines that put gaming in the public eye. Of course, this event was quite different from the esports tournaments 2019. The goal was to get the highest score possible, so the competition had more in common with an endurance test than the fast-paced action of contemporary esports events.

It wasn’t until 17 years later that the general public saw the first example of the gaming tournaments we know today. And that tournament was the Red Annihilation. Not only did this competition involve 16 strongest Quake players battling against each other in thrilling one-on-one matches, but its winner—Dennis “Thresh” Fong—was awarded Ferrari 328 GTS Cabriolet as the grand prize.

But perhaps the most important milestone in the history of video gaming tournaments was StarCraft: Brood War. Released in 1998, this Blizzard Entertainment title took the gaming scene by storm and introduced the novel concepts of tactics and strategy. The game was especially well received in South Korea, and by the end of 2007, StarCraft II events like the OnGameNet Starleague (OSL) and MBCGame StarCraft League (MSL) proved that top esports tournaments were more than capable of reaching high production standards and six-figure prize pools.

Granted, worldwide success was still a ways off for competitive gaming. It was only half a decade later that games like Dota 2, League of Legends, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive came around and completely revolutionized the esports landscape. And it’s largely because of them that gaming keeps reaching new heights today, with examples like the Fortnite Wolrd Cup, FIFA eWorld Cup 2019 and the Overwatch League season.

What are the best esports tournaments 2019?

There are several ways to evaluate a gaming competition, so every ranking of the best esports tournaments 2019 will largely come down to the author’s perspective. Some believe that great events have to have high viewership. Others are of the opinion that a good event doesn’t exist without high production value. Others yet will claim that top esports tournaments need to present top-tier gameplay and a high level of competition.

Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in the middle. In this day and age, the esports scene is filled competitions and emerging games, so tournament organizers need to tick all the boxes if they want to stand out from the crowd. With that in mind, here are some events that managed to do just that:

Worlds (League of Legends)

Worlds (or the League of Legends World Championship) is by far the most-watched tournament in esports history. The 2018 version of this event reached a peak of 200 million concurrent viewers, and there’s every reason to believe these numbers will keep going up in the coming years.

league of legends tournaments

Of course, such success didn’t come out of the blue. It’s no secret that League of Legends has a massive player base all over the globe, so there are plenty of eyeballs interested in seeing gaming tournaments for this esport. Throw in a 6.45 million dollar prize pool and a ridiculous level of competition, and it’s not exactly surprising why Worlds is such a huge hit in the esports industry.

The International (Dota 2)

The International plays a similar role in the world of Dota 2. Sure, its peak of 15 million concurrent viewers might not look that impressive if you compare it to Worlds, but it’s still a gigantic number that some of the largest esports tournaments could only dream of. Especially when you consider that Dota 2 is one of the most challenging games on the market.

dota 2 esports tournaments

But what really stands out about this tournament is its prize pool. The International 2018 offered $25 million dollars in prize money, making it the highest-paying event in esports history. Combine that with a large number of world-class participants, and The International has all the prerequisites of the best esports tournaments 2019.

CS:GO Major Championships (Counter-Strike: Global Offensive)

We’ll be frank: CS:GO Major Championships (or Majors) is a pretty broad category. These are premier Counter-Strike: Global Offensive events sponsored by the game’s developer – Valve Corporation – and arranged by established tournament organizers. The biggest CS:GO Major Championship – the ELEAGUE Major 2018 – reached a peak of 1.8 million concurrent viewers, which is more than enough to make it one of the largest esports tournaments in the world.

csgo gaming tournaments

On top of that, every Major comes with a million-dollar prize pool. And while that doesn’t put it in the same league as Worlds or The International, the fact that there are several CS:GO Major Championships a year certainly evens out the scales. Finally, winning a Major is considered the crowning achievement among Counter-Strike pros, so you can expect a high level of competition at these gaming tournaments.

Final words on Esports Tournaments 2020

The esports scene is defined by its growth. Several decades ago, you would be hard-pressed to find gaming events with more than a couple of hundred attendees. Nowadays, the largest esports tournaments fill huge venues like the Rogers Arena, Staples Center, and even Bird’s Nest. And while the future of some esports can be uncertain, there’s no denying that gaming tournaments will continue to grow as a whole.