A look back in to 2019 Esports to understand the most watched Esports games and tournaments

10:30, 23 Feb 2020

Viewership in the esports industry is largely devoted to the tournaments that take place throughout the year since these tournaments have the most competent and talented gamers versing each other to take home the enormous prize pool set. This is why millions of people invest their time, enjoying high-end competitions across different titles. 

Statista revealed in a survey that a total of 454 million viewers tuned in to watch these tournaments and amongst them the greater majority were dedicated, and passionate esports enthusiasts. The massive number of views isn’t concentrated around a single event or a single game. Each game contributes towards this achievement; however, some games do have the largest audience than their counterparts and therefore enjoy higher viewership rates. 

Since the format of each tournament and game is different it is harder to classify them into the same category and analyze them. Esports Charts, an analytical firm, has categorized the viewership into three main categories:

Most Hours Watched

Dominated by the 3 main Esports titles in the industry, League of Legends, Dota2 and Counter Strike

Most popular Esports tournaments of 2019 by Hours Watched
Image via Esports Charts

Average Viewers

No surprise the Fortnite World Cup features

Most popular Esports tournaments of 2019 by Average Viewers
Image via Esports Charts

Peak Viewers

A strong and obvious presence for League of Legends, with the Fortnite World Cup Finals featuring in second.

Most popular Esports tournaments of 2019 by Peak Viewers
Image via Esports Charts

Based on these three major categories, we can derive the 5 most viewed esports events of 2019, as well as compare them to the figures of last year, explicitly defining the growth of the esports industry.

1. League of Legends World Championship

At number one is The World Championship which took place in three of Europe’s famous cities: Berlin, Germany; Madrid, Spain; Paris, France. 24 teams were given the opportunity to face off for the $2.2 million on the line. After a series of nail-biting matches, FunPlus Phoenix took home the crown.

Peak Viewers: 3.9M (2019) vs 2.1M (2018) 85% increase
Hours watched: 137M (2019) vs 83M (2018) 65% increase
Average Viewers: 1 M (2019) vs 630,000 (2018) 58.7% increase

2. Fortnite World Cup 2019 Finals 

Fortnite World Cup Finals
Image via The Verge

One of the most-watched and anticipated tournaments in esports history. It had a prize pool of $30,000,000. The main event was categorized into Solo, Duo, and creative modes. 16-year-old Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf outlasted 100 players alone for $3,000,000, while David “aqua” W. will split the prize money with his Dutch teammate Emil "nyhrox" Bergquist. Since this was the first version of Fortnite World Cup its statistics are compared to Fortnite Pro-AM 2018.

Peak Viewers: 2.3M (2019) vs 2M (2018) 15% increase
Hours watched: 22.7M (2019) vs 10.7M (2018) 112% increase
Average Viewers: 1.15M (2019) vs 1.2M (2018) 2.5% decrease

3. Free Fire World Series 2019 Rio

The most viewed mobile esports tournament of 2019 and the only mobile tournament to make it to the top 5. Garena’s mobile battle royale was played in Rio de Janeiro, where the players competed for a prize pool of $380,000. The tournament was surprisingly broadcasted in 10 different languages. Team Corinthians earned themselves a victory on their home ground. Since this tournament was introduced this year, its statistics will be compared to those of Arena of Valor World Cup 2018. 

Peak Viewers: 2M (2019) vs 480,000 (2018) 316% increase.
Hours watched: 7.6M (2019) vs 10.7M (2018) 30% decrease
Average Viewers: 1.2M (2019) vs 160,000 (2018) 650% increase. 

4. The International 2019:

TI9 was the pinnacle of Dota 2’s competitive season with the top 18 battling for the world title. This year’s event broke two records: It was the most-watched event in the history of Dota 2; it had the highest prize pool in esports history. The event had a magnanimous prize pool of $34.3 million, and OG took home the largest share of the prize after defeating their rivals, Team Liquid.

Peak Viewers: 1.9M (2019) vs 1.3M (2018) 46% increase.
Hours watched: 88M (2019) vs 64M (2018) 37.5% increase.
Average Viewers: 730,000 (2019) vs 530,000 (2018) 38% increase. 

Dota 2 The International 2019
Image via Valve

5. Mid-Season Invitational 2019:

The Mid-Season Invitational is an annual League of Legends tournaments hosted by Riot Games. The 2019 version was held between 13 teams with a prize pool of $1,000,000. European team G2 Esports subdued North American Team Liquid for this year’s MSI title.

Peak Viewers: 1.7M (2019) vs 994,000 (2018) 71% increase.
Hours watched: 43M (2019) vs 31M (2018) 39% increase.
Average Viewers: 520,000 (2019) vs 370,000 (2018) 40.5% increase. 

It’s hard to know that viewership is growing without actually taking the time to review the statistics and understand the context of different events, but arranging data from both years simultaneously allows us to visualize the growth of the esports industry.

Looking back at the data compiled, here are the main takeaways:

  1. Mobile esports is on the rise as it encountered enormous growth compared to the previous year. 
  2. Excluding the mobile tournament, there was 54.25% growth in Peak viewers, 64% in the number of hours watched, and 34% in Peak viewers. This proves that the esports industry is growing at a faster rate than ever before.
  3. Old viewership records were broken and new ones were established.
  4. Amongst these top 5 tournaments, the 1st and the 5th were of League of Legends which is a sign that it has one of the largest esports presence. 
  5. The future for the esports industry is bright, and events hosted in 2020 can have higher viewership than those of 2019.

Main image via Riot Games

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