While Dota 2 sets records for prize pools that put many major traditional sports to shame, another Valve game is growing into something nearly as popular.
Competitive shooter Counter-Strike: Global Offensive had a massive weekend thanks to millions of viewers and the ESL esports organization. The ESL One tournament, which took place Saturday and Sunday in Cologne, set a new online audience record for Counter-Strike while simultaneously attracting thousands of in-person attendees each day. This is more evidence that esports has grown to gargantuan proportions even beyond the realm of multiplayer online arena battlers like League of Legends and Dota 2, which already have pro gaming on pace to generate $465 million by 2017.
ESL confirmed that more than 11,000 people showed up to the ESL One event in person on each day of the tournament. The company also revealed that more than 27 million unique people tuned in on livestreaming site Twitch to catch matches during the competition. And, on average, each unique online audience member watched for more than an hour.
While those are all telling stats, the biggest sign of growth for this esports game is the peak concurrent viewer numbers. At its busiest, more than 1.3 million people were all watching ESL One at once. That represents a 30 percent increase over the previous ESL One Counter-Strike competition from April. And this uprising for Counter-Strike comes as it has to take back market share from the Chinese free-to-play shooter Cross Fire, which is essentially a Counter-Strike clone that is megapopular and lucrative in China, Brazil, and a few other major regions.
But with ESL and Valve establishing Counter-Strike as a viable competitive game, the esports scene is starting to see some diversity of content. The aforementioned MOBA games are still the most popular, but Counter-Strike isn’t that far behind. Behind that, Capcom has established a strong fighting-game scene that is growing year after year and should get even larger as Street Fighter V hits the market in 2016.
The Evo 2015 fighting game tournament, which happened earlier this month, saw 248,000 peak concurrent viewers. That is quite a bit smaller than Counter-Strike, but it represents a 75 percent year-over-year increase.
With growth like that across all the various esports genres, it feels like we are still well away from reaching the peak of competitive gaming’s popularity. And it’s games like Street Fighter and Counter-Strike that will ensure the health of this space for the next few years.