In the world of video gaming, there are certain games that have spawned competitive play in global tournaments, and even resulted in gamers become known as sports personalities, winning sponsorship deals alongside prize pots worth millions.
These competitive video games are often referred to as esports, and when combining tournaments, media coverage, and online interest, this niche is fast becoming a multi-billion-dollar industry around the world.
The Electronic Sports League is one of the most popular, combining competitions for different esports titles, but there are also separate leagues and tournaments for all sorts of different games, from sports games to first person shooters.
Skilled gamers stand to make a lot of money in these tournaments, with prizes for the winners into seven figures and the notoriety, sponsorship options, and even things like YouTube fame and fortune available.
So, which competitive video games are the most popular? Here are five of the best, in no particular order.
Launched by Epic Games in 2017, Fortnite has fast become one of the most popular video games ever. The online play style is mostly as a Battle Royale, where to win you have to be the last one standing out of the 100 people that start the game.
During gameplay, your chosen character has to look for resources, searching buildings and looting so they can defend themselves. Players can also build structures to help protect themselves or find the right vantage point to take out other players. The playable area shrinks at certain points in the game to force players closer until there is one player victorious.
Famous tournaments for Fortnite players include the Fortnite Fall Skirmish Series and the Fortnite Summer Skirmish Series as well as the Fortnite World Cup.
This surprisingly popular game launched by Psyonix back in 2015 has a really strange premise – a five-minute soccer match played by ridiculously souped-up cars – but has found a really strong following in the esports circuit because there is so much skill needed to play well.
The match takes place inside a dome, and the oversized ball will bounce off the walls, the ceiling, and other cars in strange ways that seem unpredictable and random to the uninitiated. Playing solo is one thing, but there is a whole added layer of difficulty when playing as part of a team, with flips, jumps, and strikes everywhere.
Pro Rocket League players aim to enter the Rocket League Championship Series for a chance to win a six-figure prize pot (and bragging rights).
Counter Strike: Global Offensive
This military-based first-person shooter was developed by Valve, and it came out in 2012. While some of the gameplay and graphics seem dated, with background rendering not up to the same standard that we might expect from more modern war games, Counter Strike remains a popular competitive video game.
In the game, a team of players is dropped into the game area with a specific set of objectives, as either a terrorist group or the counter terrorists trying to stop them. The objective might be to blow up a building, rescue the hostages, or simply kill all the opponents, and the team earns points for every objective they complete.
Players of Counter Strike can take part in the ELEAGUE and World Electronic Sports Games (WESG) tournaments.
Poker has a long and storied history, both as a physical game played in casinos or in the back rooms of bars, and in online spaces.
The growth of online casino sites in the UK and around the world has allowed casino games like poker to become more accessible. This has contributed to the rise of popularity in competitive casino games.
PokerStars hold the biggest online poker tournaments, with one event that they hosted in 2013 which was entered by 225,000 people from all across the world. They also hold the events with the biggest prize funds; in 2020 their Sunday Millions tournament had a total prize pot of more than $17 million.
In online poker tournaments, players have to progress through the rounds as they would in a physical tournament, but they are not limited by location and can play from wherever they are, which makes it pretty exciting.
Originally launched by Capcom in 1987 as an arcade game, the simple premise and familiar graphics of the Street Fighter franchise makes it a really popular esport that has been featured in the mainstream media many times.
In the game, players choose a character and fight it out against another player. Each character has specific skills and abilities, and an often bloody and gory finishing move. The game lasts for three rounds, and the players fight to the death in every round.
Street Fighter tournaments and competitions are often broadcast on TV channels like Disney XD and ESPN, and there is also the Capcom Pro Tour competition for players to take part in for the chance to win a significant prize pot.
The Future of Competitive Gaming
With well-known brands like Red Bull getting behind esports, it is no wonder that the competitive gaming industry is growing so fast. Sponsoring esports athletes in Fortnite, League of Legends, and Dota, Red Bull is one of the biggest names in esports across the world – and there is so much more to come.
Whether you prefer playing poker, shooting everyone, or enjoy a game of soccer with cars, there is an esports competition that you can enter and with millions of dollars available to be won, professional gaming could be a valid career choice for those who have the skills (and the time to grind and sweat enough to be considered for leagues and tournaments).