League of Legends and Defence of the Ancients 2 (Dota 2) are by far the two biggest Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) games in the esports scene. They are constantly compared and contrasted and fans of each game are often at each other’s throats over whose game is superior. This rivalry has carried over into esports where fans of each esport are constantly comparing the size and success of their respective games in the scene.
The answer is that they’re both very large in terms of success. Dota 2 famously gives out larger prize pools for their tournaments, having given out 41 million in prize money in 2018 compared to League of Legends’ 14 million. The reason for this large disparity is that League of Legends has a centralized esports scene which relies much more on sponsorship money and it’s prize pools aren’t that large, Dota 2 is an open circuit which means it has more tournaments leading to more prize money. Dota 2 also accepts crowd-funding for it’s largest event, the International, through the use of in-game items which has boosted the prize pot for the tournament by over $10 million in the past. League of Legends doesn’t do this and Riot Games offers their prize pools out of pocket.
In terms of viewership and fan engagement, League of Legends comes out ahead. Since League of Legends has weekly leagues all across the world, with the major leagues being in North America, China, Korea and Europe it appeals to a wide demographic which tunes in to watch their leagues every week. The League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) in North America and the League of Legends European Championships (LEC) boast 120,000 and 95,000 average viewers weekly respectively. The Chinese and Korean leagues reportedly have even larger weekly viewership but detailed statistics haven’t been released. Dota 2 doesn’t have weekly leagues and instead has large tournaments every few months. Majors and other tournaments pull in very respectable numbers but this is a trade-off as it sacrifices the consistent viewership that League of Legends weekly leagues pull in.
League of Legends’ largest tournament of the year, the League of Legends World Championships, tends to outperform Dota 2’s equivalent, The International, in terms of viewership. The finals of the 2018 World Championships peaked at 99 million viewers worldwide while the finals of the International 2018 had significantly fewer viewers at peak, with just 15 million.
The most valuable esports teams also seem to value League of Legends higher as all five of the most valuable esports organisations in the world: Cloud9, Team Solomid, Team Liquid, Echo Fox and OpTic Gaming all have valuable League of Legends teams that compete in the LCS. Only one of these teams, Team Liquid, has a Dota 2 team. So overall, League of Legends is a more successful esport game but the Dota 2 scene is also very large and it is likely the second biggest esport scene after League of Legends.