The top 10 highest prize pools in esports
Esports has seen some outrageous payouts in the last five years alone. While the overall size of a prize pool doesn't determine the prestige of an event, it is—for obvious reason—one of the major things 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 in 2006. 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, as developers have begun offer unique in-game items to their vast playerbases in order to increase the size of the overall prize pool. Valve, developer of Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, is currently the most successful to employ the model. Its marquee Dota 2 event, the International, has experienced tremendous growth throughout the past six 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.
Overall prize pools per tournament series
1) The International 6 - $20.4 million
Valve's annual world championship in Dota 2 has broken the records of prize pools in esports for the past seven years. 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 6, ended up reaching $20.4 million in total, resulting in the eventual winners, Wings Gaming, taking home a total of $9,1 million for their efforts.
2) The 2016 League of Legends World Championship - $5 million
For the first time in League of Legends history, Riot Games allowed fans to increase the overall prize pool of the event through the purchase of in-game items. While initially offering a total of $2 million, the overall prize pool was increased to $5 million overall, making it the largest event in the game's history in terms of prize money.
3) The Dota 2 Asia Championship - $3 million
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, as the squad defeated Vici Gaming 3-0.
4) The Dota 2 Valve Majors - $3 million
Offering a total of $3 million per event, the Dota 2 Majors are the biggest events in the competitive Dota 2 circuit aside from the International. Debuting in November with the Frankfurt Major, team OG have been the masters of the tournament series, as the organization has won four out of five Dota 2 Majors.
5) The 2015 Smite World Championship - $2.6 million
The inaugural world championship for Smite saw the tournament's overall prize pool increased by $1.6 million after Hi-Rez Studios implemented crowdfunding. Taking place in Atlanta's Cobb Energy Center, the winners in Cognitive Gaming earned took home $1.3 million, roughly half of the prize pool.
6) The 2016 Halo World Championship - $2.5 million
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, Counter Logic Gaming's troop ended up taking home the event, as well as $1 million.
7) The 2016 Call of Duty XP Championship - $2 million
After world championships, Activision decided to up the ante by doubling the overall prize pool of the 2016 Call of Duty XP Championship. The event has not yet been surpassed by any other event in the game's history, and is the only entry of the game on this list.
8) 2016 World Esports Games - $1.5 million
The first attempt at creating an esports world cup in recent years saw Chinese sales giant Alibaba offer a total of $1.5 million in both CS:GO and Dota 2.
9) ELEAGUE Season 1 - $1.4 million
Turner Sports' very first CS:GO tournament didn't only offer incredible production and matches, but also one of the largest prize pools in the game's history.
10) BlizzCon 2016 World Championship - $1 million
The 11th-annual BlizzCon event hosted the conclusions of both Hearthstone's and Heroes of the Storm's world championships, and offered both games a cool $1 million in prize money.
Overall largest prize pools
1) The International 6 - $20.4 million
2) The International 5 - $18.4 million
3) The International 4 - $10.9 million
4) 2016 League of Legends World Championship - $5 million
5) 2015 Dota 2 Asia Championship - $3 million
6) The Dota 2 Majors - $3 million
7) The International 3 - $2.8 million
8) 2016 Smite World Championship - $2.6 million
9) 2016 Halo World Championship - $2.5 million
10) 2014-2015 League of Legends World Championship - $2.1 million