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Esports, whether they are deemed true sports or not, have become one of the most popular pass times in the world. Esports fans consist of; the professional gamers who play competitively, the amateur gamers who play for fun, streamers, analysts, online audiences and live audiences. Esports have a place for everyone and anyone. Due to the fact that the majority of the most popular esports franchises are free to play and free to watch on streaming sites such as Twitch, it is not difficult to see why esports are competing with traditional sports in viewing figures and popularity.

Audiences are free to bet on the outcomes of live esports matches, like they would if they were watching a traditional sport such as football or tennis, esports are becoming more and more popular each passing day and with this popularity comes investment and with investment comes even more popularity.

Iain Fenton, writing for ‘Technolgiblog’ gives us a sneak peek into the world of esports and runs us through a top five list of the most popular esports.

Dota 2

Officially released in 2013 after two years of beta testing, DOta 2 is an online battle arena multiplayer game. Dota 2 is played in matches between two teams that consist of five players. Each of the 10 players independently control a title character, each one, of more than a hundred characters, have their own unique skills and abilities to use in matches. A team wins by being the first to destroy their opponents ‘ancient’ a large structure located in the opposing teams base.

According to statistics website Newzoo.com, Dota 2 was the third most watched game on Twitch – the primary medium for professional esports coverage – during March 2017. Some major gaming publications, including PC Gamer, have called Dota 2 one of the best computer games of all time. Since its release in 2013, Dota 2 has been the most played game on Steam with over 630,000 average players per hour in 2016, nearly double that of the game in second place.

Dota 2 tournaments and league events are also extremely poplar with audiences. The best Dota 2 players in the world are currently competing at the Kiev Major where there is a prize pool of $3 million – one of the biggest prize pools in esports history. The game has been known to become a “way of life” for many players – the addictiveness of the game has been likened to gambling and poker. Some universities have even held Dota 2 seminars teaching students the fundamentals and core skills to use in the game. 

League of Legends

The most popular and watched computer game of them all, there is no stopping League of Legends. Similar to Dota 2, League of Legends or LoL as it is affectionately known, is an online battle arena multiplayer game. LoL has the largest footprint of any game within streaming media communities. It is the most watched game on Twitch by quite a long way. In 2016, the company that developed Lol – Riot Games – suggested that there are over 100 million active players playing LoL each month.

League of Legends has one of the biggest competitive scenes in the world. LoL esports tournaments take place all over the world. Regional LoL tournaments exist in USA, China, South Korea and various other regions. These regional tournaments end at the annual World Championship. The 2016 LoL World Championship had a prize pool of over $6million and an audience viewership of 43 million unique viewers.

CS: GO

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO) is a multi-player first person shooter game. A different kind of game to LoL and Dota 2 completely, CS: GO pits two teams against each other and are tasked with eliminating one another whilst completing certain objectives. CS: GO is especially popular with female gamers – CS: GO hosts female only tournaments and there are many female esports athletes who play the game.

However, some female CS: GO athletes have complained about the female only events, one such person is ESports pro Julia ‘CSGO’ Strunkowski, she says: “The problem with female only events is that we are staying on the same level. Right now my me and my team are trying to become better as a team, to win events but we don’t really need much to win it. If we could play against males, we would need to do even more and harder work for it. I really hope that one day some girls fight hard enough and put more time into the game so that there will be a girl who competes with and against males.”

CS: GO is, however, currently the most popular esports franchise to watch in the UK and is regularly competing with LoL for the number one most watched esports franchise on Twitch. CS: GO won the esports game of the year award in 2015.

FIFA 17

Although the FIFA football franchise has been around the gaming scene for decades, it is a relative new comer to the esports scene. For those of you who don’t know, FIFA 17 is a football game, it’s not complicated, it’s not particularly strategy based – it is just football. However, it’s popularity is growing.

Real football clubs across the world are beginning to see the value in esports. Major European football clubs such as PSG, Roma and Wolfsburg have begun signing professional esports FIFA athletes to represent the respective clubs at esports tournaments. These football clubs are recognizing the huge audiences that esports are attracting and the massive growth in the sector. Two of the biggest clubs in the world – Barcelona and Real Madrid are expected to announce an esports team in the near future. Television broadcasters have begun buying the rights to air esports FIFA tournaments on their channels. Fox Sports in the USA and BT Sports in Europe are the first TV channels to do this. The growth of FIFA as an esports is set to become massive, it is just up to the FIFA developers – EA – to provide a game capable of being balanced and competitive enough for professional gamers to compete in.

Hearthstone

Hearthstone is a free-to-play turn based card game between two opponents. It is based on the lore of the existing Warcraft series (another extremely popular esport) where each player has a selected hero with a unique power and a constructed deck of 30 cards. The players must then use a variety of different tools and tactics in order to reduce their opponent’s health to zero.

The developers of Hearthstone, Blizzard Entertainment, have reported that there are more than 50 million Hearthstone players. Similar to other esports, the best of these players compete in tournaments for cash prizes which are streamed free of charge for any viewer with an internet connection to watch.