20 years ago, it was hard to find an esports tournament with more than a few thousand bucks on the line. Now in 2022, esports tournament prize pools have exploded into the tens of millions. A big prize pool does triple duty by incentivizing competition, building prestige, and attracting viewers. Esports fans want to see their favorite teams compete for millions of dollars, and tournament organizers aim to please. Here are the biggest prize pools in esports history for each major esport.
In 2020, most of the Call of Duty League’s debut season played out online. Nevertheless, the league’s playoff round included one of the largest prize pools in esports history. The Dallas Empire defeated Atlanta FaZe in the grand finals, winning $1.5 million and first place at CDL Champs 2020 after edging them out in the winner’s bracket.
For the first time in 2017, Riot Games permitted League of Legends players to boost the total prize pool of the competition by purchasing in-game items. The prize pool was raised to a total of $6.4 million after a year, making it the richest competition in the game’s history. Following a 3-0 victory over Europe’s Fnatic in the championship match, China’s Invictus Gaming took home the lion’s share of $2.4 million in prize money.
One of the largest prize pools in esports history was offered at the opening tournament of the 2021 PUBG season. The PUBG Global Invitational was a tournament held online and offline in Incheon, South Korea. Susquehanna Soniqs won a whopping $1,296,189 in prize money in 2021. It’s a lot of cash, but it’s still less than another battle royale prize on this list.
Twelve of the top Honor of Kings teams competed for the world champion title at the 2021 Honor of Kings World Champion Cup, which was held in Beijing. After some back-and-forth action in the group stage, QG Happy ultimately prevailed, crushing Gank Gaming in the championship match. Honor of Kings isn’t a popular esports in Europe and the United States, but massive prize pools like these help introduce the game to new players.
One of the largest prize pools in esports history was offered during Epic’s first Fortnite World Cup Finals. The first tournament featured two main events with more than $30 million split between them. While David “aqua” W and Emil “Nyhrox” Bergquist Pedersen split $3 million after winning the pair finals, Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf earned $3 million in the solo finals. This makes Bugha the highest-earning esports player of all time if you exclude players from the final game on this list.
For ten years running, Valve’s annual Dota 2 world tournament has shattered the record for esports prize money. Although the event offered a total of $1.6 million in 2011 and 2012, it has become the most prosperous prize pools in esports history. The top 20 highest-earning players in esports have all won The International, making the event a clear kingmaker for esports pros.
Dennis “Thresh” Fong won the red Ferrari 328 owned by Quake creator John Carmac in 1997, marking the debut of eSports prizes. A Rolex was awarded to Johan “Toxjq” Quick in 2006 for winning the WSVG Quake 4 championship. Those were undoubtedly impressive at the time, but today’s prize pools are so huge that winners can easily retire after winning. Nowadays, players win massive prizes playing different online games. From PUBG and Dota 2 to online pokies, anyone stands a chance of winning prizes by gaming.