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The Biggest Gaming Tournament Pay-outs of the 21st Century

The first tournaments in the world of video gaming took place in the early 80s and were focused on classic arcade titles such as Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and Space Invaders. At the time these events were little more than curiosities in the eyes of the mainstream, and offered modest prize pools for competitors in line with this profile. Naturally people have been playing competitive games since the dawn of history, but fast forwarding to the 2020s one finds this landscape is irrevocably changed. Since at least 2015, competitive gaming, otherwise known as Esports, has witnessed unparalleled growth that has catapulted it into an extremely influential position. As this growth has led to greater investment and sponsorship for events, teams and individual players, prize sums and pools have grown rapidly and now rival those witnessed in major sporting events and casino tournaments. Below we take a look at the biggest gaming tournament pay-outs of the 21st century and cast our eye to the future of this phenomenon to explore just how much bigger these prize pools may get.


#5 PGI.S 2021 Main Event


The largest event in the PUBG calendar, PGI.Sí main event has posted impressive prize pots in recent years cementing PlayerUnknown's BattleGrounds as one of the most lucrative Esports being played today. The 2021 main event, the largest ever, offered a stunning $7 million dollar prize pool to be shared among the winners.


#4 Honor of Kings World Champion Cup


Lesser known in the west, Honor of Kings is a mobile only MOBA title by Chinese developers Tencent. This title has an ardent following among arena gaming aficionados and was able to present the princely sum of $7.7 million during its 2021 event, up from $4.4 million the year previous.


#3 Fortnite World Cup Finals


Fortnite is the undisputed proof of concept for the free-to-play battle royale medium. This title has earned over 9 billion in revenue through microtransactions since it saw the light of day in 2017. Unsurprisingly, the game has experienced enormous popularity as an Esport, with many of the top global Esports athletes specializing in its unique blend of FPS and crafting mechanics. The Fortnite World Cup is the major global tournament for this game. This annual competition posted an impressive prize pool of $30 million during its 2019 iteration.


#2 The International


Without a doubt, the single biggest event in the global Esports calendar is The International. Hosted by legendary developers Valve each year, The International is the world championship tournament for their Multiplayer Online Battle Arena game, DOTA 2. This event has a reputation for enormous and ever growing prize pools, which it achieves by crowdfunding the prize money. This participatory strategy means that as the event grows in popularity, so does its prize money in proportion. The 2021 event saw the largest sum to date, with a pool of $40 million dollars on offer. In truth, the top 6 highest true Esports prize pools in history all belong to The International, cementing itself firmly as the highest paying event in competitive video gaming.


#1 WSOP Main Event


Now we turn to one game to rule them all. Since the online poker boom of the early 00s, poker has risen to become the premier casino tournament game worldwide with competitions and competitors in evidence from all over the globe. More recently, this has led poker to become an Esport in its own right, with a strong presence on major platforms such as Twitch. While there have been many such events over the past few years with an impressive prize pool, the biggest single pay-out in the history of the game was the 2006 World Series of Poker Main Event.

This competition posted an extraordinary prize pool of $82 million, with the winner, Jamie Gold, walking away with a $12 million share. While many Esports are posting increasingly large sums at their annual events, none have yet come close to the kind of payouts witnessed in major poker competitions.






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