Esports is soaring in popularity and more than 450 million people across the globe now identify as fans of the competitive gaming scene. However, the majority of its supporters are clustered in a handful of key regions that have really embraced its potential. These are the top five countries that are currently showing the greatest love and affection for the esports industry:
A record-breaking 205 million fans tuned in as Invictus beat Fnatic 3-0 to seize the League of Legends World Championship last year. More than 200 million of those viewers were Chinese, and they were delighted to see a team from their homeland seize glory for the first time in history.
China hosts the League of Legends Pro League, one of the four Tier 1 LoL championships in the world, and it has been growing in popularity every year. It has now skyrocketed since Invictus lifted the Summoner’s Cup and it is more exciting and competitive than ever.
The world’s richest esports tournament is The International, which brings the greatest Dota 2 teams together once a year to fight for fame and fortune. It has been running for eight years and three Chinese teams have won it during that time: Invictus in 2012, Newbee in 2014 and Wings in 2016.
As a result, there are 13 Chinese esports stars in the 40 highest earners of all time. China has also enjoyed success at games like Arena of Valor, WarCraft III and Hearthstone, although it has not shown much interest yet in first-person shooters or sports games.
Danish powerhouse Astralis has reigned supreme over the CS:GO scene for the past 18 months. Dev1ce, dupreeh, Xyp9x, gla1ve and Magisk surged to victory at the last two Majors – the FACEIT London Major in September 2018 and IEM Katowice Major in March 2019 – during a period of unprecedented dominance.
Astralis has since had a bit of a wobble, and they are no longer at the top of the world rankings, but they could soon return to the summit. If you check out the Unikrn’s best esports betting odds, you will see that they are among the favorites to win upcoming Starladder Major in Berlin, and if they pull it off they will become the first team to ever win three on the bounce.
Denmark has produced many of the finest CS:GO players of all-time, but its success is not confined to Valve’s leading FPS. Danish star N0tail is the captain of OG, the European team that won The International 2018. He is now the third highest-earning esports star in history.
Denmark also boasts the highest-earning Rainbow Six Siege player of all time, Pengu, while Danes have enjoyed considerable success in the burgeoning Fortnite esports scene too. The small Scandinavian nation certainly punches well above its weight within the competitive gaming circuit.
Speaking of Scandinavian nations shining on the world stage, Sweden has been churning out esports superstars since for the past decade. The first ever CS:GO Major took place on Jonkoping and it was an all-Swedish affair, with Fnatic beating Ninjas in Pyjamas. NiP gained sweet revenge by toppling Fnatic at ESL One Cologne 2014, before Fnatic won both Majors in 2015. It remains the joint most successful CS:GO team of all time, along with Astralis.
Olofmeister is arguably the best CS:GO player in history, while the likes of JW, flusha and KRiMZ have also enjoyed tremendous success. Elsewhere, s4 was part of the OG team that won The International last year, while Zai and pueliedie have also enjoyed success within Dota 2.
Rekkles continues to fly the flag for Sweden within the Fnatic LoL team, where he is a highly regarded bot laner. Swede Armada is the second highest earning Super Smash Bros. Melee player in history, and Swedish stars have also dazzled with their brilliance at Rainbow Six Siege, Hearthstone, Quake 4, Heroes of the Storm and Rocket League.
The USA is rapidly emerging as a superpower within the nascent esports industry. It was a little late to the party, but it now boasts many of the richest and most famous teams in the world, including Cloud9, Team SoloMid, Echo Fox and Optic Gaming. Team Liquid has moved its CS:GO and LoL teams to a stunning Alienware Training Facility in Los Angeles too, and it will surely not be long until America is the global epicenter of the competitive gaming scene.
An army of US celebrities, rappers, sports stars and actors has invested heavily in the esports industry over the past few years. Snoop Dogg, Will Smith, Michael Jordan, Steph Curry, Ashton Kutcher, Jennifer Lopez, Steve Aoki and Mark Cuban are among the big names that have backed it to the hilt, as they know just how much potential it has.
The American esports scene is now cash rich, and that is starting to translate into success at big tournaments. Evil Genius’ 2015 triumph is America’s sole victory at The International, while there has never been a US winner at the LoL Worlds, but Cloud9 broke new ground by winning the ELEAGUE Major in Boston last year.
The Americans at Team Liquid are now bossing the CS:GO scene, having dethroned Astralis atop the world rankings, and Stewie2K is arguably the world’s finest player at the moments. In SonicFox, the USA boasts arguably the greatest star of the entire esports scene. Gamers from the US also cleaned up at the recent Fortnite World Cup in New York. Bugha won the top prize in the solo event, while psalm, EpikWhale and Ceice also became overnight millionaires.
South Korea was the first country to thrust esports into the mainstream and it remains the pre-eminent market for the competitive gaming industry. StarCraft, LoL and Overwatch players are revered like celebrities in Korea, tournaments attract huge audiences in TV and online and it is the home of many of the finest players in the world.
Korean teams have won the LoL Worlds in five times in the past six years. Invictus Gaming’s victory last year ended the country’s winning streak, but Invictus’ best two players were Korean. Faker is the most famous esports star in the world and widely considered to be the greatest LoL player of all time, while the likes of Duke, Wolf, Bang and Benji are all megastars too.
South Korea is similarly dominant within StarCraft: 17 of the world’s top 20 highest earning players hail from its shores. In some years, all eight players at the StarCraft II World Championship Series quarter-finals have been Korean.
The Koreans are not typically interested in first-person shooters, as they tend to prefer strategy games, but Overwatch is the exception to the rule. All of the top 10 best players of all time are Korean, with Gesture, Profit and Closer leading the way.
The USA is bidding to seize the initiative in the global esports arms scene, but American esports pros have a long way to go before they are revered like their Korean counterparts. Companies like Samsung and SK Telecom have invested heavily in pro gaming, while the government has also given it a boost by creating world-leading infrastructure, so the Asian nation should retain its status as a global center for esporting excellence long into the future.