Biggest Competition Pools for Virtual Gamers

In recent years, eSports have become one of the most popular forms of entertainment worldwide. Not only have certain leagues picked up international followings, but teams and players are now becoming household topics around the world.

For example, ‘Faker’ or Lee Sang-hyeok is one of the all-time highest earners to play League of Legends. He’s won three world titles, brought in over $1.2 million in winnings in 2020 alone, and regularly streams to millions of subscribers on Twitch.

But events like the League of Legends World Championship aren’t novel to online gaming. In fact, before there were eSports or streaming platforms like Twitch, other strategy games ruled the virtual domain. Let’s take a closer look at the biggest competition pools for online gamers—in eSports and beyond.

Online Poker

In the early 2000s, poker shifted into an online format to great success. The added convenience allowed newcomers to try their hand at the complex game. However, it has since become the primary playing ground for the world’s top pros and novices alike.

Established in 2017, Global Poker has one of the US’s largest playing pools. Today, over 250,000 players use the platform to access ring games and tournaments. The company’s promotions are also popular for players of all experience levels, from time-specific deals like Amped Up to holiday themes like the 25 Days of Christmas promotion.

The idea is to deliver new opportunities for those who play poker online and may want a new type of format to try out. It’s similar to video gamers who may want to try out a new game within their genre, such as switching from Call of Duty to Rainbow Six Siege.

Mobile Legends: Bang Bang

Once again, those who think about online gaming competitions might immediately think of PC games. However, mobile titles are now being adapted for international competitions, just like traditional eSports and online poker. Back in 2016, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang introduced mobile gamers to a battle arena title.

The game has since reached over 1 billion downloads and hit a peak monthly user rate of 100 million. What began as a phenomenon in Southeast Asia has since become one of the world’s virtual competition pools. The world championship now includes a prize pool of over $800,000 and, last year, had a peak viewership of 3.18 million.

Uniquely, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang includes mythical heroes originating in Southeast Asia, along with actual people. Fictional legends include Ghatokacha and Badang, along with real-life stars like Manny Pacquiao, who is immortalized in the game as Paquito.

Dota 2

Though the League of Legends World Championship is often regarded as the world’s biggest eSports competition, Dota 2 has two primary tournaments that match the LoL World Championship in terms of size and clout.

The Dota 2 ‘The International’ has a prize pool of close to $34 million. Since its launch in 2011, The International has relied on players to help fund the prize pool. While top players today are recruited to compete on teams, the game’s open format and availability mean that any player could someday compete in The International.

Aside from the annual championship, Dota 2 includes regional finals and tours around the world. This makes it one of the most accessible eSports for virtual gamers to compete in. For example, the Dota Pro Circuit includes multiple tournaments in each global region with prize pools of over $100,000.

Special Mention: ICPC Programming

As exemplified with online poker, not all virtual competitions are based on eSports. In fact, one of the biggest virtual competitions in the US is based on computer programming. The International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC) operates worldwide to find the top programmers at universities to enter the World Finals.

The competition has been hosted since 1977 and includes over 50,000 students worldwide who enter from over 3,000 universities in over 110 countries. Competitors are tasked to work in groups of three to perform and solve algorithmic programming challenges within a certain time limit.