2019 was a big year for esports. Fom official leagues moving towards a franchise model, to shocking upsets, the industry got an unprecedented amount of attention. So much has happened, and it’s easy to let details slip by. So, let us rewind it all for you. This is esports in 2019.
Esports goes mainstream
One of the biggest signs of how big esports has become is the amount of mainstream attention it received in 2019. Fox News brought in esports consultant Rob “Slasher” Bresleau to discuss issues in gaming multiple times, and Jimmy Fallon featured Ninja and Overwatch League champions Super and Sinatra on his show. Esports tournaments filled stadiums like Arthur Ash in New York City and the Mercedes-Benz arena in Shanghai.
Esports by numbers
According to market research firm NewZoo, the global audience for esports surpassed 454 million viewers. This year also marks the first year esports revenue will surpass $1 billion. A big chunk of that number comes from endemic and non-endemic brand investments. Apart from the usual brands associated with gaming, brands like Coca-Cola and Kia Motors came roaring in.
This year, esports captured the attention of even more musicians and traditional athletes. Artists like The Weeknd and Tory Lanez, as well as actor Will Smith and tennis-star Taylor Fritz, joined the ever-growing list of investors in esports.
This year, Riot Games earned full bragging rights. League of Legends garnered a lot of views, frequently topping Twitch as the most-watched title on the site. Its World Championship set the record for most-watched esport tournament of all time. The semi-final match between SK-TelecomT1 and G2-esports peaked at 3.98-million views.
The year was good to G2, but even better for the LPL’s Fun+Phoenix. They took down MSI champs G2 to lift the Summoner’s Cup.
Call of Duty League
Taking a page out of Riot’s playbook, the Call of Duty League announced that it would be moving towards a franchise model. Closing out an era of Call of Duty, the World’s Finals took place in Los Angeles between 100 Thieves and EUnited. With that, the CDWL came to an end.
This year, DOTA 2’s International came back, bigger than ever. The crowdfunded prize-pool was an insane $34 million and currently holds the record for the largest prize for an esports tournament. OG not only took home the record-setting prize, but their back to back victory at the TI cemented them as the best team in DOTA 2 in 2019.
If not for The International, the Fortnite World Cup would have taken the record for the largest prize pool, with $30 million. Fortnite has a lot to prove in the world of esports, and at the World Cup this year, it did, all thanks to Bugha.
A lot of eyes were on OWL to see if it could maintain the hype from Season 1, and what better way to do that than with a shocking upset. According to Blizzard, San Francisco’s victory in the Grand Finals reached an audience of 1.1 million average viewers, a 16% increase from the first season. The question now is whether the League will see a similar or increased viewership once it switches to a homestand model.
Despite a slow start, 2019 has wrapped up with Astralis sitting pretty at the top of competitive CS:GO, winning the Global Final in Bahrain.
In a game heavily dominated by Japan, an outsider rose among the greats. Arslan Ash won both EVO and EVO Japan to cement himself among the best Tekken players in the world. Ash put Pakistan on the map as a region of contention and opened up the doors for fellow players Honey and Bilal.
Street Fighter V
It’s hard to argue against Punk being the game’s most skilled player, however, Capcom Cup 2019 champ Idom might have something to say about that. It should be noted that Idom is currently sponsor-less, but that will likely change in the new year.
Super Smash Bros.
In Melee, we see players like Hungrybox, Wizrobe and Lefin remain consistently above the rest, but in 2019, the name of the game was Ultimate. That’s why the name everyone was talking about is MKLeo, who took this year’s scene by storm.
The Rocket League Season 8 Grand Finals ended with another NA vs. EU showdown, crowning NRG as champions over Renault Vitality. This championship makes Turbopolsa a 4x world champion.
Women in esports
This year, one woman made sure everyone put some respect on that name. On November 2, VK Lyon became the first woman to win not only the Hearthstone Global Grandmaster’s Global Finals, but any Blizzcon esports tournament ever.
Sadly, 2019 also saw tragedy for women in esports, with the untimely death of Remilia, the first female League of Legends player, who passed away at only 24.
Tsports is esports
The NBA2K League made headlines this year when Chiquitae12b became the league’s first woman drafted this year. The league also plans to expand even further in 2020 with an expansion league in Shanghai and the addition of international talent to the upcoming draft.
NHL esports took a step forward this year as well, with the creation of the Washington Capitals. The Capitals’ first move? Signing Chel player John Wayne.
Esports on the go
Mobile esports is still in its infancy, but this year saw the genre grow and begin to establish itself. PUBG Mobile hit the $1.5 billion mark in revenue and the game is hugely popular in China, with the US and Japan closely following in market share. Call of Duty also released its mobile version this year and Riot Games has announced itthey are working on a mobile version of Teamfight Tactics, among multiple other mobile titles.
Taking the L in 2019
2019 was full of a ton of incredibly victories and milestones, but we can’t review the year in esports without taking a look at some of the losses. Denial Esports got called out for not paying players, and after the CEO made it even worse with a couple of PR nightmare statements, the organization folded like a cheap lawn chair. Echo-Fox also called it quits after founder Rick Fox called out an investor for allegedly using racist language. The ensuing series of legal suits and counter-suits brought the organization down.
Game publishers weren’t immune to controversy either. Activision Blizzard faced its share of backlash when it punished Hearthstone player Blitzchung for voicing support for the Hong Kong protesters during a competitive events. This brought continuous scrutiny against them for the following months, and other companies -- like Riot Games -- fell the pressure as well.