Esports players have seen some outrageous payouts over the last five years. While the overall size of a prize pool doesn’t determine the prestige of an event, it is—for obvious reasons—one of the major factors players use to determine whether they’ll show up.
The first esports prize was given away in 1997 when Dennis “Thresh” Fong won Quake developer John Carmac’s red Ferrari 328. In 2006, Johan “Toxjq” Quick won a Rolex from the WSVG Quake 4 championship. Those were certainly remarkable in their time. But today’s prize pools are large enough that players can often retire upon winning them.
A huge part of this is due to the popularity of crowdfunding since developers have started to offer unique in-game items to their vast player bases in order to increase the size of the overall prize pool. Valve, the developer of Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, is the most successful company to employ the model at this time. Its marquee Dota 2 event, The International, has experienced tremendous growth throughout the past eight years of competition.
Here are the biggest prize pools in the industry. But because Dota 2 and League of Legends would make up the majority of the top 10, we’ve divided the list into two separate categories: Overall largest prize pool per tournament series and one for the overall largest prize pools in esports history.
Valve’s annual world championship in Dota 2 has broken the record for esports prize pools for eight years in a row. While offering a total of $1.6 million in 2011 and 2012, since 2013, the event has been the most successful example of crowdfunded prize pools in esports history.
The most recent iteration of the event, The International 8, ended up reaching $25.5 million in total, resulting in the eventual winners, OG, taking home a total of $11.2 million for their efforts.
Riot Games allowed League of Legends fans to increase the overall prize pool of the event through the purchase of in-game items for the first time in 2017. A year later, the prize pool was increased to $6.4 million overall, making it the largest event in the game’s history in terms of prize money.
China’s Invictus Gaming took home $2.4 million of the prize pool after defeating Europe’s Fnatic 3-0 in the grand finals.
Fortnite: Battle Royale has exploded over the past year. To go alongside the success of the popular battle royale, Epic Games revealed $100 million for esports tournament prize pools in the first year of competitive play. A good chunk of that money was awarded through the Fall Skirmish Series – Club Standings.
The Fortnite record-setting prize pool will surpass this mark after the World Cup on July 28, where $30 million will be up for grabs
Acting as a precursor for the eventual Dota 2 Major circuit, the 2015 Dota 2 Asia Championship’s prize pool of $3,057,000 only edges the Valve Majors out by $57,000. Taking place in Shanghai, China, the event saw Evil Geniuses’ newly-assembled roster take home the championship in one of the most one-sided grand finals in Dota 2 history. They beat Vici Gaming 3-0.
Although the overall structure of Dota 2 Majors has changed significantly since their debut in November 2015, the first two years of the majors offered a $3 million prize pool per event. Given their substantial prize pools, the events were, aside from The International, the largest tournaments taking place in the Dota 2 competitive circuit. Out of all the teams that have attended the majors, OG have been the masters of the tournament series—winning four out of six Dota 2 Majors.
Sponsored in full by Microsoft Studios, the 2016 Halo World Championship’s prize purse landed at a total of $2.5 million. Featuring the entire world’s Halo elite, CLG ended up taking home the event, as well as $1 million.
Activision decided to up the ante by doubling the overall prize pool of the 2016 Call of Duty World League Championship. This tournament hasn’t been surpassed yet by any other event in the game’s history, and it’s the only Call of Duty entry on this list.
The third edition of League of Legends’ Mid-Season Invitational saw the tournament’s initial $250,000 prize pool increase to $1.6 million from in-game skin sales.
In the eighth week of the Fortnite Summer Skirmish Series, $1.6 million was awarded for the tournament’s top participants. The 355th ranked player in the world, Austin “Morgausse” Etue, went against all odds and won the first-place prize of $250,000.
1) The International 8 – $25.5 million
2) The International 7 – $24.6 million
3) The International 6 – $20.4 million
4) The International 5 – $18.4 million
5) The International 4 – $10.9 million
6) 2018 League of Legends World Championship – $6.4 million
7) 2016 League of Legends World Championship – $5 million
8) 2017 League of Legends World Championship – $4.9 million
9) Fortnite Fall Skirmish Series – Clubs Standings – $4 million
10) 2015 Dota 2 Asia Championship – $3 million