esports Tournaments - Do They Really Fill Stadiums?

The 5 most famous esports tournaments worldwide

Gamer at an Esports tournament

Professional gaming is not yet an official sport, but the hype is still huge. Esports events are on the rise and captivate tens of thousands of spectators. But what are the biggest eSports tournaments? And where do they take place? We have taken a closer look at five of the world's biggest eSports events. Come with us as we examine the world of electronic sports.

The most popular tournament games

There are numerous games on the market. But only a few games are suitable for the tournament format. We'll give you a short overview of the three most popular competitive games:


CS:GO stands for the computer game Counter Strike: Global Offensive, which belongs to the genre of the online tactical shooters. Two teams with five players each compete against each other for map dominance.

The most played scenario is bomb defusion: the "terrorists" are tasked with planting and defending a bomb site. The "counter terrorists" must then stop the terrorists by defusing the bomb. If the bomb is planted and detonated, the terrorists get the point. After a certain number of rounds the teams change their roles.

The two teams play a total of 30 rounds, first team to 16 wins the set. In a best of 3 scenario, first team with 2 sets wins the match. In a best of 5 scenario, first team with 3 sets wins the match and moves to the next round.


League of Legends

League of Legends, also called LoL, belongs to the free playable genre of Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA). League of Legends is a real-time strategy game, in which two teams compete against each other on a map designed like an arena and try to take each other's base.

Tournaments are usually played on 5v5 maps. The map is divided into two halves so that each team has a territory with a main structure. The object of the game is to conquer the opponent's main structure.

A game usually lasts 15 to 60 minutes. As in CS:GO, there are best of 1, best of 3 and best of 5 scenarios. Esports tournaments for LoL are usually organised by the game developer Riot Games.

Dota 2

Dota 2 is a MOBA, real-time strategy game developed by Valve. Dota 2 and League of Legends are very similar in their game mechanics. In Dota 2, too, the objective is to capture the opponent's base. However, due to the abilities of the numerous playable characters, Dota 2 is much more tactical and less centered on the one game character. With over a hundred heroes to choose from, DOTA is a very diverse game.

The game is played in teams of five. A round takes about 15 to 60 minutes. The tournament scenario differs depending on the event. In a double knockout system, a team must lose twice to be eliminated.


The ESL, the Electronic Sports League, is one of the best known tournament providers in Germany. The Cologne-based eSports company now offers tournaments and leagues in over 50 different disciplines. One of its tournament formats is the ESL ONE, which takes place in Germany.


The summer in Cologne is all about esports. In addition to the annual gamescom, the world's largest event for computer and video games, CS:GO teams will compete there at the esports event ESL ONE Cologne. 15,000 esports enthusiasts make the pilgrimage to the esports tournament in the LANXESS Arena in Cologne to cheer on their favorite teams - an atmosphere similar to that of the World Cup:

Cologne is not the only venue for the ESL. The ESL ONE holds tournaments worldwide for CS:GO in other metropolises:

  • ESL ONE Cologne, Germany (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018)
  • ESL ONE Katowice, Poland (2015)
  • ESL ONE Belo Horizonte, Brazil (2018)


Just like the first person shooter Counterstrike, DOTA 2 has garnered a large fanbase in the eSports scene. In 2017, the tournament took place in Hamburg for the first time, but thousands of eSports fans have already gathered in Frankfurt in previous years to cheer on DOTA teams. The esports event, endowed with one million dollars, attracted 10,000 people to the Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg in 2017:

The previous venues also attract numerous visitors:

  • ESL ONE Frankfurt, Germany (2014, 2015, 2016)
  • ESL ONE Birmingham, UK (2018)
  • ESL ONE Katowice, Poland (2018)
  • ESL ONE Genting, Malaysia (2017, 2018)

2. ESL Intel Extrem Masters (IEM)

First held in 2007, the Intel Extrem Masters (IEM) is a league in which the world's best players compete. The highlight of a season is the World Championship, which is held at the end of the tournament. Since 2014, the Polish city of Katowice has been the venue of choice for the pompous final:

While the total prize money in Season 1 (2007) was a mere $160,000, with the only two games being Counterstrike and WarCraft, esports fans in Season 11 (2018) can look forward to a total prize pool of $1,373,750 for Counterstrike, StarCraft and League of Legends. It remains to be seen whether the eSports industry will continue to grow as strong in the coming years.

But one thing is certain: the enthusiasm for esports is a worldwide phenomenon. Season 11 takes place on three continents:

  • Shanghai, China
  • Oakland, USA
  • Gyeonggi, South Korea
  • Katowice, Poland


3. League of Legends Championship Series (LCS)

While a variety of games are played in the ESL One and ESL Intel Extreme Masters Tournaments, the LCS only focuses on one game: League of Legends. The tournament is run by the game's own creator: Riot Games. The tournament is divided into Spring and Summer, meaning grand finals are held twice a year.

EU League of Legends Championship Series (EU LCS)

10 teams, one goal: to win the League of Legends Championship Series in Europe. The undisputed record holder is the team fnatic. The team is not only one of the oldest in the professional field of LoL (League of Legends), but has already won the grand finals seven times (as of 2018). Most recently, they were able to win over the esports team of FC Schalke 04:

Did you know?

  • Each participant in the LCS receives a salary of $12,500. In addition to the base pay, prize money can easily reach into the six-figure range.
  • Throughout the previous years, a trend has become clear. Podium finishers are always from teams fnatic and G2 Esports. Only in the summer of 2014 could a member from another team, Alliance, win a tournament.

NA League of Legends Championship Series (NA LCS)

The counterpart to the European LoL League is the NA LCS, the North American League of Legends Championship Series. Here the esports greats Cloud 9 and Team Liquid dominate the finals:

Did you know?

  • In contrast to the EU LCS, the American eSport athletes do not play a best-of-2 but a best-of-3. So in Europe it is possible that after two rounds there is no clear winner. As in soccer, the European teams receive three points for a win, and one point for a draw.
  • In 2014, the North American team "LMQ/i" consisted of five Chinese players. After that, Riot Games introduced the rule that at least three of the five players must be native. So in North American teams, at least three players should be American or Canadian.
  • The NA LCS center is located in Los Angeles, while the EU LCS has set up its headquarters in Berlin, having previously been based in the esports capital Cologne for many years.
  • The team Team SoloMid has achieved the most victories. All in all they've won the finals six times and four times they came in second. 2018 was the first time they did not make the finals.

4. League of Legends World Championship

Game developer Riot Games does not only organise a league for its MOBA Game League of Legends, but also a world championship. In total, 24 teams from around the world took part in the League of Legends World Championship in 2018:

The World Cup casts a spell over players and spectators around the world. So far the event has been held on three continents. A single World Cup often takes place in different countries and cities:

  • Jönköping, Sweden (DreamHack 2011)
  • Taipei, Taiwan / Singapore, Republic of Singapore/ Busan, South Korea / Seoul, South Korea (2014)
  • Paris, France / London, Great Britain / Brussels, Belgium / Berlin, Germany (2015)
  • USA: San Francisco / Chicago / New York / Los Angeles (2016)
  • China: Wuhan / Guangzhou / Shanghei / Beijing (2017)
  • South Korea: Seoul / Busan / Gwangju / Incheon (2018)

While there was originally a prize pool of $100,000 for players in Sweden in 2011, the prize pool grew to $4.5 million in China in 2017.

But it's not just the prize pool that's increasing. The number of spectators also continues to grow. Over 80,000 spectators filled an entire soccer stadium in China where SK Telecom T1 and Samsung Galaxy fought for the title in the final. 40 million viewers also followed the event via live stream.

5. The International

The International is the world's largest endowed eSports event, with 25.5 million dollars in prize money at stake in the Dota2 tournament. The 1st place finishers Team OG received 11.2 million dollars and the two last place finishers received $63,580 dollars. Although the tournament was organised by the game's developer Valve itself, most of the prize money came from the fans. Their combined in-game purchases made up the majority of the prize money. In 2018, the promoters paid only 1.6 million by themselves.

Because of the enormous prize pool, esports both men and woman are expected to compete in the high-stakes tournament. You can also see this in the short report on the final teams Team Liquid and Newbee at The International 2017:

The Esports event is now held mainly in North America, although the foundation was laid in the eSports metropolis of Cologne. The venues so far have been:

  • Cologne, Germany (2011)
  • Seattle, USA (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017)
  • Vancouver, Canada (2018)

Did you know?

The make-up of teams in the grand finals is predominantly Asian, for example the Chinese teams PSG.LGD (2018), Newbee (2017, 2014) or Wings Gaming (2016). However, esports tournament winners come from all corners of the globe, for example the American team Evil Geniuses (2015), from international teams Team Liquid (2017) or from European team OG (2018).

Esports tournaments - the enthusiasm remains

So do esports events really fill stadiums? Yes, they do. The ESL ONE Cologne 2017 even broke all spectator records according to information from ESL Gaming. In addition to the 15,000 daily spectators in the LANXESS Arena, more than 180,000 viewers watched the stream on Sliver TV. And the following on social networks was also huge, with 30 million unique users.

Earning money by gaming becomes more and more attainable as esports tournaments fill whole arenas. Do you want to become a professional esports athlete yourself? Then we have some tips for you on Fitness and nutrition in esports. Or do you have a team yourself or are you involved in an esports club? Then take a look at our Esports Jerseys. With these you will make an instant impression at your next tournament - no matter if you are a player, a coach or fan.


Image Credits: Titel image © gettyimages/gorodenkoff