Last Updated: 12th December 2021

The Biggest Prize Money in Esports History and the Biggest Winners

The number of people worldwide who watch esports has grown exponentially in recent years. By 2024, this figure is expected to rise over 285 million, with frequent esports viewers and 291.6 occasional watchers. 
With esports being so popular, many people may wonder how much money there is to win at these tournaments? Is it even worth playing? Let us take a look at the largest prize pools ever and what games have won them.

Written by: Big Piggyy

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The Biggest Prize Money in Esports History


The International (2019)

  • The International 2019 was the 9th iteration of The International, an annual Dota 2 world championship esports tournament hosted by Valve.
  • The event was held in August at the Mercedes-Benz Area in Shanghai. It followed the 2018 tournament format, with 18 teams competing.  Twelve of these teams did not go through the regional qualifications. Still, they were invited based on their performance in the DOTA Pro Circuit (DPC). At the same time, the other six teams made their way through the regional qualifications held in July 2019. 
  • OG won after beating Team Liquid in a best-of-five battle to become the only team to win back-to-back.  The prize pool, raised by the DOTA community through its battle pass feature, amounted to US$34 million. 


The International (2018)

  • The International 2018 heralded a series of tournaments from October 2017 until June, known as the Dota Pro Circuit (DPC).
  • The top eight ranking teams in the DPC  received direct invitations to attend the 2018 events and battle for the US$25 million prizes.  These were Team Secret, Vici Gaming,, Team Liquid, PSG.LGD, VGJ.Thunder, and Newbee. The other eight teams that completed the championship were regional qualifiers.
  • For the first time since 2013, the main event took place in Vancouver, Canada, from August 20-25. The grand finals were a best-of-five battle between OG and PSG LGD, which OG eventually won 3 -2. 
  • Interestingly, OG went through the regional qualifiers to comply with tournament rules following a roster shuffle in May 2018. Three members left the OG team: Tal “Fly” Aizik, Gustav “s4” Magnusson, and Roman “Resolut1on” Fominok.


The International (2017)

  • Online qualifications began in June with the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), China, Europe, North America, South America, and Southeast Asia participating. From August 2nd to 5, teams played two separate best-of-two round-robin groups, with each group consisting of nine teams. The lowest placed team from both were eliminated from the competition.  The top four finishers from each group advanced them to the upper bracket. In contrast, those who finished at the bottom advanced to the lower bracket.
  • The tournament ended at Key Arena in Seattle with sixteen teams playing double-elimination battles from August 7th to 12. The First Lower Bracket Round is Best of 1, Grand Finals are Best of 5, and the rest are Best of 3. 
  • The Final Round was a match between Team Liquid and Newbee, with Team Liquid emerging as the champion. The prize money for this tournament was almost US$11 million. 


The International (2016)

  • The sixth iteration of The International competition began in June with a qualifying phase. It ended after its finals at KeyArena (Seattle) back in August, where they awarded over $20 million as their prize pool.
  • Grand Finals’ best of five were between the upper bracket winner, Wings Gaming. They lost their first game to Digital Chaos before winning three consecutive games and grabbing victory through superior strategy.


The International (2015)

  • The 2015 International Dota 2 Championships was the fifth annual edition of The International. For its fourth consecutive year, the championship was hosted in Seattle. For the second successive time, it was held at KeyArena with a 17000+ seating capacity. The audience includes press members who can view live streams online during any given event day or evening session. 
  • The tournament was announced on January 7th with notable changes from previous years, such as an increase from 8 teams at KeyArena into the main event that featured just more than halfway through TI6’s Main Event. 
  • The prize pool for The International is now at an all-time high, with the total number of dollars awarded this year reaching $18,429,613. This includes 25% from compendium sales and points you can earn by leveling up your own Compendium in-game. 
  • The event was a massive success, with ten professional teams invited to compete. Four regional winners and two ‘wildcard’ invitations were also going out, making it an incredible sixteen participants. 
  • The competition for wildcard winners was fierce as the Chinese Dota Elite Community (CDEC) Gaming and MVP Phoenix came out on top from a battle between Team Archon and Vega Squadron. Evil Geniuses was able to grab the 1st prize while CDEC Gaming came out on top.


Fortnite World Cup Finals – Solo (2019)

  • The Fortnite World Cup is a yearly esports competition based on the video game, with its final inaugural events taking place July 26-28 at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing, New York. 
  • A total US$30 million prize pool was available across all competitions – making it one of largest ever for any esport event. The solo event finals for 2019 were held on July 28th. 
  • The 16-year old American named Kyle Giersdorf, known online as Bugha, took home the US$3 million grand prize. He won it with a scoring format that provided points from eliminations and non-cumulative placements.


Fortnite World Cup Finals – Duo (2019)

  • The Fortnite World Cup is the first iteration of this tournament announced at E3. On February 22nd, 2019, Epic Games officially announced that it would take place from July 26-28 in New York and feature both solo game modes and duos gameplay with friends. 
  • The duo event finals were held on July 27th, 2019, with Emil Bergquist Pedersen (“Nyhrox”) and David Wang(“Aqua”), splitting a whopping US$3 million grand prize for their efforts. 
  • The scoring format in duos provided points based on eliminations and placement. This means that competitors could get one point per elimination or non-cumulative placing into 2nd place out of 8 qualified players from both regions.


The International (2014)

  • The International 2014 (TI4) is the fourth edition of an annual esports tournament, which took place at KeyArena in Seattle. It was hosted by Valve Corporation. It featured professional gamers worldwide who competed for a grand prize worth over $5 million. It was no wonder that this year’s event was selected as one of the best-attended games with 16 teams participating. 
  • Eleven teams were directly invited, while four other qualifiers had to go through regional qualifications. The runners-up from both groups will compete for one final spot at the big tournament. In a double-elimination tournament, the championship uses brackets to determine who advances. 
  • The previous format puts teams against each other on a best of three bases, with winners moving onto a higher tier for knockout matches. In contrast, losers move into lower brackets, competing again in an additional round or two.
  • Finally, there’s one final game decided by whichever side wins five games. 
  • The International 2014 kicked off with a bang, as the Grand Final pitted an Upper Bracket winner (NewBee) against a Lower bracket player, ViCi Gaming. ViCi Gaming had already defeated Evil Geniuses in their respective Finals series and was looking forward to another encounter between these two powerhouse teams for over 5 million dollars at stake. The tournament was broadcast on streaming platform Twitch as well as ESPN3. 
  • The Grand Final between Chinese teams ViCi Gaming and NewBee had a preview shown by ESPN2.  The latter won 3-1 to become only their second international title after winning Invictus Gaming.


PUBG Global Invitational.S

  • The PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) Global Invitational.S is the first event of the 2021 season organized by PUBG Corporation and invites 32 teams from across the globe for one battle royale extravaganza. 
  • The initial prize pool for this tournament is $3,500,000. $2,442,000 is awarded throughout the tournament, $60,000 is awarded at the Survival Tournament. At the same time, the remaining $922,500 is provided as a minimum guarantee: The minimum guarantee will provide additional cash until the earnings reach $50,000 for every team under $50,000 (exclude Crowdfunding) in final earnings. 30% of PGI.S 2021 items revenue will go directly into the prize pool. Crowdfunding will not affect the tournament standings. 
  • Teams earn a crowdfunded bonus based on the percentage of the initial prize pool that they won during the event. There’s a lot of money up for grabs in the final prize pool, including Crowdfunding and Minimum Guarantee. It is a whopping $7,056,789.


LoL World Championship (2018)

  • The 2018 League of Legends World Championship was a major esports tournament for the multiplayer online battle arena video game, Riot Games’ popular title: League Of Legends. 
  • It happened from October 1st to November 3rd, 2018, in cities across South Korea. Not only did Invictus Gaming claim the world championship, but they also became China’s first-ever League of Legends superpower. 
  • It was a historic moment for both their region and themselves as well. The team won a prize of $2,418,750.


LoL World Championship (2016)

  •  For this tournament, SK Telecom T1 defeated Samsung Galaxy 3–2 to become the first three-time League of Legends World Champion. With his signature moves and an MVP performance from Lee “Faker” Sang Hyeok in Game 5, Faker brought the team to victory. 
  • The final prize for this tournament was $6.7 million. The 2016 LoL World Championship final was attended by 43 million unique viewers, with a peak concurrent viewership of 14.7 million.


LoL World Championship (2017)

  • The 2017 League of Legends World Championships was held from September 23rd– November 4th, with twenty-four teams in North America, Europe, South Korea, and China competing for the top prize. Samsung Galaxy defeated three-time champion SK Telecom T1 through a 3–0 in the best five final series. 
  • Against the Current and Jay Chou have collaborated with Riot Games to produce two exclusive songs for this year’s International Champions Cup. The first, “Legends Never Die” and “Heroes,” were made by Against the current and Jay Chou. At the same time, Alan Walker also contributed his own remix of “Legends Never Die.” 
  • The final prize pool for this event was $4,946,970, with Samsung Galaxy taking home $4,946,970.


Honor of Kings World Champion Cup (2020)

  • The 2020 Honor of Kings World Champion Cup is a tournament that Tencent and VSPN have organized. The event will take place in China across both Shanghai, as well as Beijing. 
  • Due to the lockdown, however, only players who had stayed before were allowed entry into this international competition. Therefore, there are many changes in King Pro League Global Tour (KPLGT) teams, including foreign players during the KPLGT tournament.  
  • Ghost Owl Gaming has loaned  XiaoHui from  Hero JiuJing because  Mts was still in the United States of America and couldn’t travel abroad.  ROX Gaming has loaned  Anya and ww from LGD Goose, as  Fey and  PenGuin couldn’t travel abroad from South Korea. The initial prize pool of the tournament was ¥16,000,000, with Turnso Gaming taking home ¥13,440,000.


Call of Duty League Championship (2020)

  • The Call of Duty League Championship 2020 is part of the Playoffs of a global professional franchised offline league operated by Activision. 
  • The tournament will decide who becomes World Champions for this season’s Modern Warfare game. This tournament follows on from last year’s success to the Call of Duty Championship. 
  • The COD Championship decided the World Champions in the previous seven seasons. The prize pool of $ 4,600,000 was spread among the teams, with DAL Empire winning $ 1,500,000 as the first prize.


PUBG Global Championship (2019)

  • The PUBG Global Championship is the end-of-season event and final championship for this year’s competitive season organized by PUBG Corporation. Invited are 32 top teams throughout three phases. They will compete against each other to be crowned as “the best of all time.”
  • The total prize pool, including the PGC sales, reached $4,000,000 and the $2,000,000 in the PGC Pick’Em Challenge event. Gen.G Esports team was able to win the 1st prize of $2,000,000.


Fortnite Fall Skirmish Series (2018)

  • The Fall Skirmish Series is a competitive Fornite Tournament organized by Epic Games. All the Club members can participate in the Trial events but only selected club members can compete for $10 million as the winning prize. 
  • Winning either one of these competitions will earn points with the respective clubs. In the end, Bush Bandits was able to bring home the grand prize.


Overwatch League – Season 2 Playoffs (2019)

  • This postseason tournament of the 2019 Overwatch League regular season began September 5th. It concluded with the 2019 Grand Finals, the second championship match of the Overwatch League, on September 29th. 
  • The previous OWL champions were the London Spitfire. They claimed the title against the Philadelphia Fusion in the 2018 OWL Grand Finals. Still, they fell in the first round of the lower bracket. 
  • The San Francisco Shock defeated the Vancouver Titans in the finals to claim their first OWL Championship. 
  • Teams in the Season Playoffs competed for a total prize pool of US$3.5 million, with San Francisco Shock winning $1,100,000.


Fortnite World Cup Finals – Creative (2019)

The Fortnite World Cup Finals – Creative consists of 8 teams. Each team was led by a well-known Fortnite icon. Team leaders participated in qualifiers where the top 2 performers on each challenge were urged to participate in their respective leader’s team.


Dota 2 Asia Championships (2015)

  • This tournament, also known as DAC 2015 and The Oriental, is organized by Perfect World and MarsTV. 
  • Evil Geniuses won the tournament with $1,284,158 as their total prize. Sixteen teams battled in this tournament. MVP Phoenix, LGD Gaming, Team Secret, Invictus Gaming, Newbee, Evil Geniuses, Vici Gaming, and Rave received direct invitations.
  • The qualified teams through wildcard were TongFu.WanZhou, CDEC Gaming, EHOME, Big God, Cloud9, HellRaisers, Natus Vincere, and HyperGloryTeam.


Overwatch League – Playoffs – Grand Finals (2020)

  • This tournament was the third championship match of the Overwatch League (OWL). It was held on October 10th, 2020. 
  • The series was the finals of the 2020 Overwatch League playoffs and was played between the San Francisco Shock and Seoul Dynasty. San Francisco has qualified for season playoffs as one of North America’s top seeds for the second year in a row. 
  • They faced off against Seoul and won by taking down both their opponents. They then made it all the way up onto the stage at any given moment. This time around, though, they met Philadelphia Fusion. The latter took them more than easily with only three losses on record before even reaching Friday night when SF went undefeated themselves. 
  • Shock won over the Dynasty with a 4-2 to own their second OWL Grand Finals championship. They won $2.25 million as the grand prize.


The Biggest Prize Money Winners

Johan “N0tail” Sundstein 

  • A well-known eSports player born in Denmark on October 8th, 1993. Johan Sundstein, alias N0tail, is a professional Dota 2 player from Denmark and the captain of OG.
  • He has competed in four editions of The International, winning in 2018 and 2019, and won four Major championships. N0tail accomplished everything an esportsman can do throughout his lengthy career. 
  • Johan “N0tail” Sundstein is the world’s highest-paid esports player, having earned more than $7.4 million (£5.4 million) in prize money to date. He is also the first gamer in history to become a two-time champion of The International.


Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf

  • Better known by his gaming alias Bugha, is a professional esports gamer and competitor from the United States of America.
  • He began playing Fortnite in 2017 and has since developed into one of the best solo players in the world. 
  • At 16, he became the first-ever Fortnite World Champion in July 2019, earning $3.2 million in prize money.


Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen (born March 26th, 1993)

  • A professional Counter-Strike: Global Offensive player from Denmark who most recently played as an entry fragger for Astralis. 
  • Danish frag master Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen earned $1.9 million in 2019. He accomplished this after winning his fourth Valve Major with one of the most excellent CS: GO teams of all time. He became the first player (along with three of his teammates) to win four majors in CS: GO and the first player to win three majors in a row.


Ian “C6” Porter

  • Better known as C6 (formerly Crimsix), is an American professional Call of Duty player for the New York Subliners. He is a three-time world champion of Call of Duty.
  • An XGames Call of Duty Gold Medalist, Crimsix is best known as the “Winningest Call of Duty Player Ever” with 37 Championships. He has held this title since May of 2015. 
  • He was the first person in the world to earn the title of “Major League Gaming Pro Player” in both Halo and Call of Duty. C6 has collected more than $1 million in winnings.


Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok

  • Better known as Faker, is a South Korean professional League of Legends player for T1.
  • Formerly known as GoJeonPa on the Korean server, Faker was chosen by LCK team SK Telecom T1 in 2013 and has participated as the team’s mid laner since. The most celebrated pro player of all time, Faker is consistent on the rosters of T1’s three world titles.
  • Faker took the world championship in his debut season. He is still widely regarded as the most outstanding League of Legends player of all time, earning nearly $1.26 million in US dollars.



  • A professional gamer of Shadowverse and a team member of the professional gaming team, Yoshimoto Libalent, funded by Yoshimoto Kogyo Co., Ltd. 
  • Feg, a Japanese representative, made his second appearance at the Shadowverse World Grand Prix in 2018, proving himself on the big stage and earning the right to call himself a champion.
  • Feg won a cash prize in two tournaments, the largest of which was $1,000,000.00 at the Shadowverse World Grand Prix 2018 on December 16th, 2018. He won first place, accounting for 99.70 percent of his total prize money.


Joona “Serral” Sotala 

  • Better known by his gaming handle Serral, is a Finnish professional Starcraft II player using the race Zerg. 
  • Serral bolstered his earnings in 2018 by becoming the first non-Korean player to win the $280,000 StarCraft II World Championship Series. 
  • He won every major non-Korean tournament in 2018, including the 2018 Global Starcraft II League (GSL) vs. the World and, eventually, the 2018 World Championship Series (WCS) Global Finals.


Park “Loki” Jeong Yeong 

  • A 21-year-old South Korean competitive ‘PlayerUnknown’s Battle Ground’ (PUBG) player for Gen.G. He is the highest-earning player in its history. He accomplished this by having consistently delivered excellent performances over the last few years.
  • He has multiple top-three finishes. These include victories at the PUBG Global Invitational 2018 and the PUBG Global Championship 2019, where Gen.G was awarded a total of $2 million for first place.


Peng “Fly” Yunfei

  • A Chinese professional mobile esports player who has won over five championship MVP awards since he began his career in 2016. 
  • Fly began his esports career at the age of 17 and has worked his way up the ranks to become one of the most recognizable names in Honor of Kings.
  • In August 2021, Wolves captured the lion’s share of a $7.7 million prize pool by winning the Honor of Kings World Champion Cup in China.


Bradley “Frosty” Bergstrom 

  • A Halo esports player who is currently a Sentinels player.
  • The North American Halo player has consistently performed well across four of the franchise’s titles, with most of his success coming in Halo 5: Guardians. 
  • This includes his victory at the 2016 Halo World Championship, which earned Frosty and CLG a $1 million payday. Frosty is undoubtedly the most successful player to make his professional debut in Halo 2: Anniversary. He won back-to-back Halo World Championships with Counter Logic Gaming and OpTic Gaming, in addition to numerous other significant events. From 2018 to 2020, he competed professionally in Call of Duty.


Frequently asked questions

What is the biggest prize money in esports history?

The largest prize money in esports history is $34.33 million, which was won by OG at The International 2019.

What are the most popular games in esports?

The most popular games in esports include League of Legends, Starcraft II, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Dota 2, and Fortnite.

Who is the richest esports player?

The richest esports player is Johan “N0tail” Sundstein, who has won over $7.2 million in prize money. 

What is the highest-paying esports tournament?

The highest paying esports tournament is The International 2019, which had a total prize pool of over $34.33 million 

Who is the most famous esports player in the world?

The most famous esports player is Imane Anys, who has over 5.9 million Instagram followers. She is known for her Twitch streams of “Fornite” and “League of Legends.

Big Piggyy

"Show me the MONEY!!!" – Jerry Maguire

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