eSports in 2017 is larger than ever and there’s no better evidence of that than the amount of prize money tournaments are offering. In 2017 alone, more than $73 million dollars have been won by players across more than 70 different games, with four months left in the year. At the top reigns Dota 2 after its massive $25 million pool for The International 2017, but it’s not the only game funding a stable and sustainable environment for players. 12 different games have now crossed the $1,000,000 prize pool mark, with more quickly approaching.
These details come from eSports Earnings, which tracks tournament and league prize pools along with player earnings. While there’s no guarantee that the numbers are wholly accurate or all-encompassing, they are without a doubt representative. Here’s the list of games that have crossed the impressive $1,000,000 threshold in 2017 (so far):
- Dota 2 – $32,803,807
- Counter Strike: Global Offensive – $10,728,225
- League of Legends – $5,326,843
- Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare $4,001,705
- Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft – $2,080,029
- Heroes of the Storm – $2,042,366
- StarCraft II – $2,019,501
- Overwatch – $1,850,413
- Halo 5: Guardians – $1,420,000
- FIFA 17 – $1,378,797
- Smite – $1,242,900
- Quake Champions – $1,013,988
Keep in mind that the ordering here isn’t necessarily the focus. Certain games complete their circuits at different points in the year, so games like League of Legends and Overwatch haven’t completed their largest tournaments yet. Or take for instance Madden NFL 17, sitting at $904,000, which won’t climb much higher since Madden NFL 18 is now available.
Crossing over $1,000,000 in total prize pool is an impressive accomplishment, but the amount of games is worth noting as well. In 2016 ten games eclipsed the $1 M total, six did it in 2013, and the first broke onto the scene in 2005 (Counter-Strike).
Perhaps the best news is that every game from 2016 has made the 2017 list, although Call of Duty is represented by Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare this year instead of Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 in 2016. Creating communities and scenes that are lasting, where players can feel like participation isn’t hugely risky to their long-term success, is and will continue to be eSports’ most important challenge.
That said, as exciting as the increased amount of money in eSports is, it would be naive to claim that the overall competitive video game environment is healthy for most players. It’s absolutely getting better, but it’s not there yet. For example, the average earnings per player are less than $7,000 a year, and the median earnings per player are $440.67.
Those numbers are slanted because most game scenes are inclusive for casual players, but some are bigger than others. $1,000,000 of Quake Champions‘ $1,013.988 comes from just two major tournaments whereas Counter Strike: Global Offensive‘s $10,728,225 comes from 510 tournaments. Both are impressive, but both aren’t supportive of growing, thriving, and healthy player-bases.
There’s no denying that eSports will continue to rapidly grow for the foreseeable future. Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds‘ eSports community is only just getting started, the huge, expensive Overwatch League doesn’t start until next year, League of Legends is franchising its North American league next year, and it feels like a AAA game isn’t launched these days without some consideration for eSports.
Let’s just hope that player rights and earnings continue to grow and evolve at the same pace. Less than 250 players have earned $50,000 so far this year.
[Note: Electronics Arts reached out to Game Rant with clarification regarding the prize pools for both Madden NFL 17 and Madden NFL 18. The Madden NFL 17 Championship Series, now ended, had a prize pool total of over $1 million. However, the first tournament in the series was held in December 2016, which is why its $100,000 prize pool wasn’t included in our totals. Madden NFL 18‘s Championship Series prize pool goes above and beyond, partnering directly with the NFL and increasing the prize pool for the series to $1.15 million. The Madden franchise is certain to climb over $1 million in prize pool total in 2017, but didn’t meet the constraints of this article’s list at the time of publication.]