It’s that time of the year where we’ve exhausted most of the huge year-end tournaments for the major titles. We all sigh a deep breath, yearning and awaiting the next “season” of big esports, but smile as we realize what a great job we’ve done to move forward in esports collectively, reinforce that we’re all on the same team, and proceed happily ever after.
Just kidding, it’s everyone vs. everyone and my esport is better than yours. What are we, softies? No, we’re ruthless e-gamers. And so now, it’s time to compare viewership and logistics for the recent “de-facto” end-of-season tournaments across the major titles.
First thing’s first, last year was cancelled. So how do we measure this appropriately, when the competition kept their events running? It’s truly impossible to get an accurate representation here, so we’ll work with what we have.
Anyway, let’s cut to the chase. In the first part of this two (or three?) part series, we’ll discuss what pays the bills : prize money.
Huge Prize Pools
When looking at prize money for the events, it’s worth mentioning it in the context of total infrastructure. No cap—TI prize pools blast everything out of the water every year, but the teams aren’t salaried by the developer and the income is very “top heavy” and not sustainable for lower-rated teams.
I know what you’re thinking. “Who cares about lower rated teams?” Well, okay, true, but...
Alright, most LCS/LEC/LCK/LPL games aren’t as entertaining as they should be. And nothing sounds quite as cool to the normie mainstream as “$40 million dollars.” This is an absolutely insane prize pool. The winning team takes home almost half of that—a whopping $18.2 million dollars, awarded to Team Spirit this year.
The only other way you’re going to win that amount of money sitting in front of a computer screen analyzing graphs, numbers, and flaming your monitor is getting obscenely lucky on a random dog coin in the crypto market. Becoming a doctor? Forget about it, just master support in Dota 2.
Play big, win big
Now, let’s talk about Worlds. The prize pool is, uhm… a little bit lower. Okay, it’s actually just a smidge over $2m USD. The funny thing? This is still outrageously large in esports, but is absolutely dwarfed by The International. Worlds prize pool is 5% of its MOBA competitor’s, and the icing on the cake? 1st place takes less than 25% of it, meaning less than $500,000.
Still, we mentioned earlier than infrastructurally, Riot does support the game and its ecosystem in other ways. But bro, we’re talkin’ ‘bout big, fat, tourney prize pools! I suppose it’s only fair that since League of Legends is twenty times easier than Dota 2, it receives twenty times less prize money for the ultimate showdown.
Guys, RELAX, I’M KIDDING.
Back to Valve. CS:GO’s closest equivalent to a Worlds this year, after a long drought of offline, S-tier competition, is PGL Major Stockholm 2021. This boasted a prize pool of $2,000,000 on the money (hah.) Natus Vincere took half of that at $1,000,000 for winning first.
It’s worth noting that by CS:GO standards, this is the biggest prize pool we’ve seen, with most other majors of the same calibre only reaching $1,000,000 prize pools such as StarLadder Berlin Major 2019, IEM XIII - Katowice, and FACEIT Major: London 2018 as the most recent examples.
All in all, is this even close? No, that’s a rhetorical question so stop thinking about it. TI crushes everyone here. Always has, and always will, from the looks of it. You can argue the sustainability angle from Riot but...look, I’m just saying TIs have been running for just as long as World Championships in League of Legends.
CS:GO pros certainly aren’t starving for extra money despite the (comparatively) lower prize pools, with all the majors scattered throughout the year with the world returning to supposed normalcy on top of player salaries, but as this is about prize pools, CS:GO clearly takes last place. But c’mon, it wasn’t really a Worlds, just a return to S-tier majors on the LAN stage. We can’t be disingenuous, but it’s also our only comparison point.
Where Riot Games lags behind in prize pools, it makes up for via side projects that market the game. Take the recent Netflix series “Arcane”. it was really good and -
Wait a minute, Dota 2 has a Netflix series too. Welp, your move, Riot.