In honor of it being the week of the International, I wanted to discuss the events that have helped legitimize esports. From DOTA to League, all the way to fighting games and Counter-Strike, each game has pushed the scene forward with events that not only grab the attention of esports fans, but even more importantly the general public.
The five events mentioned below have all played an important role in building up their respective scenes. They have not only been great for publicity but have also made careers in esports a reality. They have partially changed the communities in which these events take place. Here are the five most essential events today.
5. Call of Duty World Championships
Activision has made serious strides into making Call of Duty a premiere title within the esports landscape. The creation of the Call of Duty Championship, with prize pools over $1 million, along with the creation of Call of Duty World League, is the support this game needed.
It’s not only given fans more to watch each weekend but also gives them a reason to follow along as the season moves closer to the World Championship. In a short time, Call of Duty has become the premier console shooter and it’s thanks to this.
4. ESL CS:GO
Counter-Strike is different than the other esports. The scene doesn’t have one championship event that takes priority over the others. It’s an open landscape with many different events that offer plenty of payouts.
However, there’s one league that consistently puts together the most competitive and prestigious events. ESL has always been a major contributor to Counter-Strike dating back to 1.6, but in Global Offensive they’ve stepped up significantly. The one other event to rival ESL is Turner’s ELEAGUE which brought in a million unique viewers on Twitch alone.
For this reason, I have to mention Counter-Strike in this discussion. While it doesn’t have a keystone tournament like The International or Evo, the largest events in CS surpass any other event in terms of general interest. ESL is a great example of this, but there’s plenty of other tournaments that also take precedent in this argument.
3. League of Legends – Worlds
League of Legends wasn’t the first game to popularize the esports age, but it’s mostly responsible for the boom in popularity since the creation of the League Championship Series. The LCS has been a major success, in terms of growing esports, and has kept players interested in the game since release.
Continually, the League of Legends season culminates into the World Championships, a month long tournament that brings together all the regional champions. League is essentially the only title currently that has a system that funnels into a championship event. 15 days of competition while a litany of the best teams compete for millions in prizes on the big stage of Madison Square Garden and other stadiums.
By the same token, no other event comes close to the history of the Evolution series. Dating back to 1996, Evo has been the linchpin for all the growth in the fighting game community. Evo has single handily brought the underground community into the Mandalay Bay Stadium.
It’s hard to say that any other event matches the intensity that Evo cultivates. Once a player gets on that grand stage, it’s almost a guarantee that something amazing will follow. It’s also the one event that doesn’t require any knowledge coming in because of the simplicity of fighting games. Anyone can enjoy it and more importantly, anyone can feel the hype generated from the world’s most prestigious fighting game tournament.
In spite of the fact that Evo has a significantly lower prize pool than these other events, it’s still considered by many to be the most meaningful tournament for the players. Coupled with the history, an Evo trophy means something more than just a check. It’s a chance to cement a legacy as one of the greats.
1. The International
Finally, we reach The International. It’s an event responsible for bringing in a new generation of esports fans. It not only has the highest prize pool in esports, but in a short time has become the most sought after trophy in the entire scene.
It’s a life changing event. The rush of playing for millions of dollars amps up the intensity levels. Even as a fan, the adrenaline begins to pump. It’s a wild ride from start to finish, and not one event has been a let down in seven years. Valve’s responsible for making it an event in every sense of the word. It’s no longer just a DOTA tournament, it’s a happening in the Seattle area.