2019 has been a big year for esports, something that becomes quite evident when we look back at the prize pools for tournaments in the year.
Esports events in 2019 awarded over $211 million in prize pool money, according to Esports Earnings. This is a big jump from last year, where esports teams and players earned a total of $162.7 million. In 2014, only $37.5 million was handed out at esports tournaments, an amount that was almost beaten by just one esports event in 2019.
Prize pools growing means there’s not only more support for the esports industry when it comes to sponsorships and investments, but also from fans as well. Bigger prize pools also attract bigger esports organizations, better players, and even more investment.
Let’s take a look at some of the prize pools in 2019 that have proven the esports industry’s continued growth and success.
This major Dota 2 tournament broke every prize pool record there is by surpassing the event’s previous $30 million record. Over $15.6 million of that amount went to the winners, OG, while more than $4.4 million went to Team Liquid, who lost in the finals 3-1.
The $34 million was made possible thanks to the sale of Dota 2 Battle Passes, proving just how powerful crowdfunded prize pools can be. Valve had set aside $1.6 million as the initial prize pool, along with 25% of all Battle Pass sales throughout the year. In 2019, that percentage was almost $33 million, meaning almost the entirety of the prize pool was funded by fans. The $34 million from TI9 makes up almost 16% of the total esports prize money earned in 2019.
The International has continued to be the largest esports event year after year. The major has awarded $140 million in total since its inaugural event in 2011. Back then, the prize pool was just $1.6 million. That grew to over $2.8 million in 2013. That number was dwarfed completely the following year, when the prize pool rose to $10.9 million. The prize pool has continued to greatly increase year after year, so fans are already at the edge of their seats for 2020.
When Epic Games finally decided to support Fortnite as a serious esport, they did so in extravagant fashion. The developers vowed in February to contribute $100 million towards Fortnite esports for 2019 alone, with $30 million of that going to the Fortnite World Cup prize pool.
16-year-old Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf won $3 million for coming in first in the Solo Cup, the same amount given to the Duo Cup winners to split between the two of them. The prize money for other players on the top of the leaderboard was also in the millions, making it one of the most lucrative esports tournaments of the year.
With events like the Fortnite World Cup and the Champion Series Season X, Fortnite’s prize pools in 2019 made up an astounding 30% of the total prize money given out this year. According to Esports Earnings, Fortnite’s worldwide prize pools have knocked Counter-Strike: Global Offensive out of the second-place spot and are only behind Dota 2.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has had a shaky history in esports, but 2019 was a big year for the battle royale in terms of prize support. The PUBG Global Championship shot PUBG straight up to the fourth highest esports prize pool spot for 2019.
Overwatch League’s second season had over double the prize money it had in 2018, bringing it up to $3.5 million. The dominant San Francisco Shock took the entire prize for beating the Vancouver Titans in the playoff finals. The OWL also gave out $500,000 to the winner of each stage of the season, meaning the Shock earned $4 million that season.
Although Fortnite pushed CSGO into the third-place spot for highest prize pool total, the FPS is still one of the top esports titles in the industry. Although no one event could truly come close to the Fortnite World Cup or TI9, the immense number of CSGO tournaments held in 2019 helped it maintain in the top three.
CSGO awarded $20 million total in 2019, spread over 600 events held all over the world. This is more events than Fortnite and Dota 2 had combined. Still, CSGO didn’t see much of a change from last year, unlike those other two esports. The premier tournaments, like Katowice, had the same prize money distribution as last year, and they even had 220 less tournaments than in 2018.
The World Championship may have had some of the best viewing records of 2019, even beating out Fortnite, but the prize pool isn’t as impressive as some of the other big esports titles in this list. It’s no wonder Dota 2 players take all of the top spots in highest earning esports player lists when the largest LoL event of the year doesn’t even come close in terms of prizing. FunPlus Phoenix went home with $834,000 for their surprise victory at Worlds.
League of Legends gave out over $9 million in prizes total in 2019, beating its previous record of $6.4 million in 2018. As the game continues to draw in viewers and players, maybe Riot Games will consider a crowdfunded prize pool system similar to Dota 2 down the road. For now, most of the money in pro League of Legends comes in the form of high player salaries.