Esports players have seen some outrageous payouts over the last 20 years. While the overall size of a prize pool doesn’t determine the prestige of an event, it’s quite clearly 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 boom in prize money is due to the popularity of crowdfunding. Developers have begun to offer unique in-game items to their vast player bases to increase the size of the overall prize pool.
Valve, the developer of Dota 2 and CS:GO, 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 overall largest prize pools in esports history.
Overall prize pools per tournament series
1) The International 9 – $34.3 million
Valve’s annual world championship in Dota 2 has broken the record for esports prize pools for nine 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.
2) The 2019 Fortnite World Cup Finals – $30.4 million
Epic’s first Fortnite World Cup Finals featured one of the biggest prize pools in esports history.
The inaugural tournament was split into two main events. Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf earned $3 million in the solo finals, while David “aqua” W and Emil “Nyhrox” Bergquist Pedersen shared $3 million after winning the duo finals.
3) The 2018 League of Legends World Championship – $6.4 million
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.
4) The 2020 Call of Duty League Championship – $4.6 million
Most of the inaugural season of the Call of Duty League was held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But despite the circumstances, the playoff portion of the league saw one of the biggest prize pools in esports history.
After a narrow victory in the winners bracket, the Dallas Empire dismantled Atlanta FaZe in the grand finals and took home $1.5 million for coming in first place at CDL Champs 2020.
5) The 2020 Honor of Kings World Champion Cup – $4.6 million
The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic didn’t stop China from hosting the biggest mobile esports tournament in history.
The Honor of Kings World Champion Cup, hosted in Shanghai and Beijing, saw 12 of the best Honor of Kings teams battle for the No. 1 spot. In the end, after back-and-forth action in the group stage, Turnso Gaming came out on top, narrowly beating Dynamite Gaming in the grand finals.
6) The 2019 PUBG Global Championship – $4 million
The final event of the 2019 competitive PUBG season boasted one of the biggest prize pools in esports history. The 2019 PUBG Global Championship saw Korean team Gen.G win the competition and take home $2,239,808 in earnings. The team had a spur of back-to-back wins in the 2019 season, winning tournament after tournament. The Global Championship was just the cherry on the top.
7) Fortnite Fall Skirmish Series – Clubs Standings – $4 million
Fortnite has exploded over the past few years. To coincide with the success of the popular battle royale, Epic 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.
8) Overwatch League 2019 – Playoffs – $3.5 million
The second playoffs of the Overwatch league saw the tournament’s overall prize pool increased to $3.5 million. Taking place in the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, the San Francisco Shock beat Vancouver Titans to claim the title.
9) 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 edged 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.
10) The Dota 2 Valve Majors – $3 million
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.
Overall largest prize pools
1) The International 9 – $34.3 million
2) 2019 Fortnite World Cup Finals – $30.4 million
3) The International 8 – $25.5 million
4) The International 7 – $24.7 million
5) The International 6 – $20.7 million
6) The International 5 – $18.4 million
7) The International 4 – $10.9 million
8) 2018 League of Legends World Championship – $6.4 million
9) 2016 League of Legends World Championship – $5 million
10) 2017 League of Legends World Championship – $4.9 million
The 10th annual edition of Dota 2’s The International will be held in August 2021 with a $40 million prize pool—the largest on this list. The tournament was postponed in 2020 because of the global pandemic.