in Gaming

2021: A Record-Breaking Year in eSports

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Major Championships - MLG Columbus Luminosity vs Navi - CC BY-SA

2021 has been an eventful year for esports, with the return of many highly anticipated live events, tournaments with record-breaking viewership and prize pool, and new trends and esports games.

As 2022 is only within a blink of an eye, let’s review 2021 in esports.

Record-breaking Views and Prize Pools

2021 sees the growth of mobile games, especially in the Southeast Asian, Chines, Brazil, and Indian regions. However, the stigma surrounding mobile esports games in the West is still strong, that is why its growth is not as big as in the East.

Nevertheless, according to research by Game Refinery, shooters have become a significant genre in mobile gaming, ranking 6th in the US iOS market. One game’s growth stood out among the rest, which is Garena Free Fire which managed to double its revenues on iOS in the US.

The game is generally similar to its competitor battle royal games, however, it moves at a faster pace, blending PUBG Mobile’s gameplay style with Fortnite’s over-the-top weapons and elements.

Thus, it is not surprising that the 2021 Free Fire World Series Singapore becomes the esports event with the highest viewership ever in history, hitting as high as 5.4 million. Its average viewership is still impressive, with over 2 million. This year’s Free Fire World Series was won by Thailand’s Phoenix Force, bagging the top prize of $500,000.

CoD Mobile: Masters China

The next biggest event of the year is Call of Duty Mobile: Masters China. In its second season, the event broke the record of total hours watched for an esports event with over 281 million total hours watched, based on the data from Esports Charts. The number is over 100 million more than the number two on the record, League of Legends.

The number is largely due to the event taking very long. It ran for 10 weeks, with 231 hours of air time. During its run, it had an average of over 1.2 million viewers, peaking at over 1.98 million viewers.

LoL and Dota 2

League of Legends World Championship 2021, or more familiarly known as LoL Worlds 2021, also holds the number of viewership and total hours watched no less impressive than Garena Free Fire.

With audiences from North America, Europe, China, and Korea, its peak viewership hit 4 million viewers during the grand finals match between Edward Gaming and DAMWON KIA. On average, LoL Worlds garnered barely 1.3 million viewers with over 174 total hours watched.

If Free Fire and Call of Duty Mobile topped the mobile gaming category, League of Legends broke the record for the most-watched PC-based esports in history. Its fame has also grown further after the release of the Netflix hit series “Arcane” in November 2021, based on the characters in the game.

Meanwhile, in terms of prize pools, no event beats Dota 2’s The International 10. Its $40 million prize pool broke all the existing records, over 7 million more than the prize pool in 2019. The number is very high largely due to the event’s prize pool having been partly crowdfunded through the in-game battle pass known as the Compendium, since 2013.