Twenty-five million dollars in prize money has been awarded since Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’s release four years ago. ELEAGUE’s $1.1M prize pool shattered the mark on Dec. 3 when OpTic Gaming took first place in Atlanta.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is the third highest paying esport, according to esportsearnings.com. Combined, all three Counter-Strike titles have awarded $38.8M since 2000, surpassing League of Legends’ $36.7M.
CS:GO has paid out more this year than the 16 year total of all of its predecessors. Winnings are projected to be just over $16M by the end of 2016, up from last year’s $6.3M.
Payouts have nearly tripled each year since 2014 and this year is no different. Assuming growth continues at this rate, total winnings could exceed $40M by the end of 2017.
The surge in earnings is partially due to Valve’s decision to raise major payouts from $250,000 to a cool million. Tournament organizers have upped the ante as well by saturating the calendar with frequent high-dollar events, such as the $300,000 Intel Extreme Masters, which wrapped in Oakland last week.
By comparison, the first version of Counter-Strike generated $10.7M in esports earnings. The game saw steady growth until peaking in 2006. Players enjoyed a five year golden-age of one million dollar earnings from 2005-2010.
Its sequel, Counter-Strike: Source, was only prevalent for two years, paying over $600,000 from 2007-2008. That success was made possible by the televised Championship Gaming Series’ half-million dollar seasons. The next-highest paying event was a mere $85,000 at World Cyber Games 2005.
At $1.4M, ELEAGUE’s first season remains the highest-paying Counter-Strike event in history. Turner’s televised league is the only non-major to break the million dollar mark. ELEAGUE will kick off the new year with another million dollar tournament by hosting the next major Jan. 22-29.
On the success of CS:GO and esports, Christina Alejandre, GM of ELEAGUE and VP of esports at Turner Sports, said, “We’re thrilled with the first two seasons of ELEAGUE and we’re proud to be associated with the long and storied history of CS:GO. We’re looking forward to the upcoming ELEAGUE Major next month and our continued efforts to provide even greater exposure for the game and all of esports.”
Fnatic is the highest earning team, cashing in over $1.8M in 120 tournaments. The legendary lineup from Sweden has claimed 21 titles, including three major championships. But Fnatic has yet to find success since a major roster change in August.
Five teams have earned over one million dollars playing CS:GO, and 20 teams have won over $250,000. Luminosity Gaming is the most efficient organization, averaging $29,120 per tournament thanks to the rampant success of their previous lineup.
ECS Season 2 Finals will be the last event of the year. Eight teams, including ELEAGUE champions OpTic Gaming, will face off in Anaheim, California Dec. 9-11 for a slice of the $750,000 pie.
Counter-Strike’s persistence is nothing short of remarkable, especially when you consider that the franchise peaked 10 years ago. Today, events are paying out 10 times as much, and we have yet to explore crowd-funding options such as Dota’s latest The International events. This old game isn’t going anywhere and 2017 is shaping up to be another landmark year.
How big will the CS:GO prize pool get next year? Tweet us @GAMURScom or comment below.
Patrick “Sabo” Flannigan is one of the first esports casters, starting with the Team Sportscast Network in 2001. He currently writes about esports, and co-hosts This Week in CS.
Follow @patflannigan and say hi.