The top 10 highest prize pools in esports
Esports players have 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 reasons—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. 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 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 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 7 - $24.6 million
Valve's annual world championship in Dota 2 has broken the record for esports prize pools for seven 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 7, ended up reaching $24.6 million in total, resulting in the eventual winners, Team Liquid, taking home a total of $10.8 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
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.
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—Cognitive Gaming—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, CLG's troop ended up taking home the event, as well as $1 million.
7) The 2016 Call of Duty World League Championship - $2 million
Activision decided to up the ante by doubling the overall prize pool of the 2016 Call of Duty World League Championship. This tournament has not yet been surpassed by any other event in the game's history, and it's the only Call of Duty entry on this list.
8) 2017 Mid-Season Invitational - $1.6 million
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.
9) 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.
10) ELEAGUE Season One - $1.4 million
Turner Sports' first CS:GO tournament not only offered incredible production and matches, but also one of the largest prize pools in the game's history.
Overall largest prize pools
1) The International 7 - $24.6 million
2) The International 6 - $20.4 million
3) The International 5 - $18.4 million
4) The International 4 - $10.9 million
5) 2016 League of Legends World Championship - $5 million
6) 2017 League of Legends World Championship - $4.9 million
7) 2015 Dota 2 Asia Championship - $3 million
8) The Dota 2 Majors - $3 million
9) The International 3 - $2.8 million
10) 2016 Smite World Championship - $2.6 million