Which are the most successful first-person shooter esports?

FPS stands for “first-person shooter” and it is among the most popular genre of video games and the genre’s esports scenes follow this trend. Though FPS esports are currently dwarfed by popular Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) games like League of Legends and Dota 2, they are still firmly the second biggest genre of esports games. The four largest FPS esports scenes are Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), Overwatch, Rainbow Six: Siege and Call of Duty. This excludes Fortnite which is a third-person shooter and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds where the perspective can be switched between third-person and first-person.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is clearly the largest game in this category as it is one of the biggest esports games in general as well as having the largest scene among FPS games. The two metrics “success” are usually measured in, in esports, are total combined prize pool and viewership. CS:GO leads in total combined prize pool as over 22 million in prize money was given away to the victors of CS:GO tournaments in 2018. The next highest FPS game was Overwatch which distributed nearly 7 million in prize money throughout 2018.

A big reason for this disparity is that Overwatch has a very centralized esports scene with all the elite players playing in one league, the Overwatch League, while CS:GO is an open circuit which means there are a lot of tournaments. More tournaments often mean more total prize money up for grabs. Call of Duty is more erratic as a new installment in the franchise is released every year, Call of Duty: WWII gave out just over 4 million before the release of its successor, Call of Duty Black Ops 4. Our final game, Rainbow Six: Siege had under 2 million total combined prize pool in 2018 but its esports scene is only starting to ramp up and the first major tournament of 2019, “Six Invitational 2019”, had a prize pool of 2 million.

So CS:GO leads the pack in total prize pool but what about viewership? The Overwatch League has been a revelation in terms of popularity, as over 150,000 concurrent viewers tune into the event every week. CS:GO doesn’t have an elite weekly league but it’s international “majors” pull in very good numbers, the “ELEAGUE Major 2018” had almost 400,000 average concurrent viewers. Rainbow Six: Siege and Call of Duty have similar viewership, with their biggest tournaments of last year, the Call of Duty World Championship and the Six Invitational 2018 both having approximately 115,000 average concurrent viewers.

CS:GO is currently the most popular FPS esport but Overwatch is projected to overtake it in the coming years because of its high level of investment and rapidly growing viewership. Rainbow Six: Siege is also quickly growing in popularity but not on the massive scale that Overwatch is and finally the veteran Call of Duty will always maintain a respectable level of popularity but is unlikely to regain its old highs in this regard.

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