Despite all the cancellations, delays and uncertainties 2020 managed to bring about, the impressive growth seen across the Esports industry over the past few years has continued to spiral on to new heights. Millions of dollars have been invested into the scene’s biggest competitions and events that seamlessly made the jump to the online era, new high profile partnerships with the likes of Gucci and Mercedes-Benz were forged and the player counts for titles such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2 saw spikes in popularity not seen for years in their respective scenes.
And all of that doesn’t even begin to take into account the huge explosion in viewership seen on platforms such as Twitch.tv, the online streaming platform of choice for most Esports games and competitions.
Here are some of the hottest stories to look out for in the Esports scene with 2021 looming large on the horizon.
Who Will Be The FPS Of Choice?
2020 was rocked by the announcement of Valorant, Riot Games’ foray into the world of first person shooters. With Riot Games being a part of the same company as Tencent, the owners of League of Legends, and Valorant being a first person shooter centred around two teams of five, the comparisons to Valve Corporation have been obvious.
First person shooters are, for many, the easiest gate into the world of Esports. Games such as Call of Duty, Overwatch and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) are all a lot easier for a layman to jump in and follow, whilst titles such as Dota, League of Legends and even other games such as Hearthstone possess a great deal of strategy and language that only those with a good understanding of these titles will know the meaning of.
That’s not to say of course that FPS games don’t have any strategy or skill ceiling to them, but there’s no denying the appeal it has to the more mainstream audiences out there, and the invention of Valorant as a game shows Riot understand the power of this.
CS:GO has managed to ride out 2020 without seeing too much being taken away from it by Valorant, however the expected return of LAN tournaments and a more accessible scene for the fans of the game could begin to see the tide turn in Riot’s favour.
And what of the likes of Overwatch and Call of Duty? Whilst there still seems to be something of an identity crisis for both these franchises in terms of what they want to be as games, the return of LAN events and greater ability for teams and players to move around the world should see the return of both the global Overwatch and Call of Duty leagues. Activision are sure to keep pumping out the CoD titles over the next year, and the long awaited sequel to Overwatch could both shake up the FPS scene hugely going forward into the new year.
Who Will Be The Biggest Earning Event?
2020 has, understandably, not been the biggest in terms of events and prize pools so far. CS:GO, which normally houses at least five or six events that house a prize pool of over $1 million, has only had two events over $600k in 2020 and both of them are Flashpoint events.
In more normal times, Dota 2’s The International is more often than not has the honour of calling itself the world’s most lucrative Esports event in the world. It’s one of the most popular events for Dota 2 betting fans to wager on, attracts some of the biggest crowds in the community and regularly boasts a prize pool of over $30 million.
2019 saw a new challenger emerge for the throne however, with the very first edition of the Fortnite World Cup. Held in New York City, the prize pool for the event topped $35 million split across the solos, duos and creative editions and managed to snag the crown for the biggest prize purse in Esports history.
It would only hold that title for a month or so before the 2019 edition of The International, whose aggressive crowdfunding campaign managed to not only make it the most lucrative edition to date, but also what is still the biggest prize in Esports history with just over $36 million.
With both these competitions put on hold over the course of 2020, it’ll be fascinating to see them renew their rivalry across 2021.