What Esports Games do the Professionals Play?

Last Updated On June 23, 2024


what esports games do the professionals play,league of legends,dota 2,counter-strike: global offensive,overwatch

There is a huge assortment of video games you can choose to play as a professional gamer. While not every game is considered as prestigious as the other, you’re bound to find at least one game that interests you. I certainly did, and I’ve even discovered a few games I would like to try.

What esports games do the professionals play? The most popular and well-known esports games used in tournaments include League of Legends, Defense of the Ancients 2 (Dota 2), Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Overwatch.

Most of these games have a fan base that spans the globe. Fans are very passionate and defensive when it comes to their game. I find it very interesting to see which games have become popular and how they have maintained that popularity for all these years. Hopefully, after reading through this blog, you’ll have an idea of which game you want to play professionally.

League of Legends

We start off our list with the incredibly popular League of Legends (LoL).

Official website: https://na.leagueoflegends.com/en/

LoL Background

I personally have never played League of Legends, but after doing so much research, I’ve come to the conclusion that I will definitely be creating an account soon.

The League of Legends Championship Series is continually breaking records for the number of people who watch it. This past year over 200 million people tuned in to watch the championship match.

I’ve watched the Super Bowl every year since I was a kid and always considered it the largest sporting event in the world. Even though it continually brings in huge crowds, I’m not sure it can compete with the 200 million people who watched the League of Legends Championships.

To give you a little perspective, that’s twice as many people than this past year’s Super Bowl. Only 98.2 million tuned in to watch the 2019 Super Bowl between the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots. This number just continues to show how popular esports is and where it’s future is going.

LoL was developed by Riot Games and launched in October of 2009. Riot Games is based in California and they work very hard to make their game accessible to both new and old fans.

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League of Legends is a PC-only game and is entirely team-based. Meaning you need strong communication skills and an excellent team to really beat the top competition.

There are over 100 “champions” (characters) to choose from that have varying skills and abilities.

The top esports athletes typically have their favorite champion but are skilled at using any of them. The champions are one of the main reasons why League of Legends continues to be so popular.

People love how different the champions are and that they’re customizable. Just about every champion has an alternate costume so players can make their characters look how they want.

A typical LoL game pits two even teams of 3v3 or 5v5. The Championship Series uses the 5v5 setup.

LoL Technical Aspects

You’re going to have to hang with me just a bit here. To discuss these various games, we need to use more technical terminology. But I will try and make it as clear as possible.

Once both teams are set they start on opposite ends of a map in an area called the “Spawning Pool” which is next to what is called the “Nexus.”

To win the match, one of the teams has to destroy their opponents Nexus.

To destroy the opponent’s Nexus teams work together to travel across the map while defeating different “turrets” along the way. While they are moving, they’ll have to fight other champions, minions, and the occasional monster.

It’s helpful for teams to take their time to defeat these common enemies to earn experience and collect gold. You’ll need both of these items to improve your champion’s skills and stats. This will help your whole team.

The matches are won when one of the Nexus has been destroyed!

Phew…OK, I hope that made sense and you have a much better idea of the general concept of League of Legends.

LoL Challenger Series

It’s a somewhat complicated game that takes a lot of skill and practice to be one of the best. I see why people are so addicted to it and enjoy watching matches.

It’s definitely one of the more entertaining esports matches to watch or stream. There’s always a lot going on, and it’s entertaining to watch teams work together to destroy an opponent’s Nexus.

Amateur League of Legends players are always working to join an eSports team in the League of Legends Championship Series. This is the equivalent of the NFL or MLB for professional players.

There is a total of 20 teams that all compete within the Championship Series. There are 10 teams from North America and 10 teams from Europe.

Aspiring League of Legends players best chances to be signed to one of the dominant teams competing in the Championship Series is to win amateur tournaments, have a huge Twitch following, or compete in the League of Legends Challenger Series.

Just about everywhere in the world, there are amateur tournaments for the general public to enter. Esports teams will often send scouts to these tournaments with hopes of finding the next big star.

While competing in these amateur tournaments, it’s always helpful to have a Twitch following. The larger teams pay attention to Twitch feeds and who is bringing in the most massive crowds.

The League of Legends Challenger Series is their minor league. This is where players will compete for a while with the hopes of being signed to a team competing in the Championship Series.

There’s nothing wrong with being in the Challenger Series! It gives young gamers good practice and an opportunity to really compete.

LoL Championship Series

At the end of the season, there is the League of Legends World Championship.

It changes venue every year and always brings in a very substantial crowd. As we’ve already seen around 200 million people tune in every year to watch the championship match.

In 2018, the total prize money for the winning team was over $6 million dollars!

For me, a casual sports fan, it continues to astound me the amount of money given away at these championship tournaments.

You’ll notice as we go through all the different games that League of Legends does not award the most total prize winnings at their tournaments.

This really surprised me. I always thought that because it’s the most popular game, it would obviously have the biggest prize money.

The reason League of Legends never offers more substantial prize winnings is because Riot pays their athletes a salary when they compete on their esports teams.

They’re one of the few esports leagues in the world that gives their athletes a regular salary. It’s because of the salary that the total prize money is slightly smaller compared to other esports games.

League of Legends has over 100 million active users, and that number is only growing.

One of the reasons they continually bring in more and more users is the fact that League of Legends is actually free to play.

Riot has made it so anyone can download the game and immediately create an account to compete.

Riot’s Revenue Stream

You probably have the same question that I did… if it’s free how is Riot making any money?

The simple answer is through what’s called a microtransaction or in-app purchase. You’ll hear both phrases used by fans as they talk about League of Legends.

For gamers to access the characters (champions) they want, different costumes, and better weapons and power-ups (runs) they’ll have to spend money within the game.

League of Legends is such an addictive product people want to spend money to get all of the latest items.

Technically, you never have to spend a dime. Riot has also developed a system where you’ll earn points for the more matches you compete in. You can then use these points to buy whatever you’d like in the game.

The problem is to get enough points to make any substantial purchases you would have to play a lot of matches. For most casual fans that’s really not an option.

To really succeed at League of Legends you’ll need quick reflexes, in-depth knowledge of its rules and strategies, and excellent communication.

And you’ll need to be a good team player if you ever want to compete in a League of Legends championship.

Dota 2

Defense of the Ancients 2 is a multiplayer online only game that is incredibly popular around the world.

Official website: http://dota2.com/

I, unfortunately, have never played Dota 2 but I will create an account shortly so I can see why it’s so incredibly popular.

It was released back in 2013 by Valve. Valve has a fantastic reputation amongst gamers as a company that cares and creates truly engaging products.

The game itself is actually similar to League of Legends. Both of them have the same overall playing style.

Dota 2 matches two teams of 5 heroes against each other to destroy the enemies “ancient.”

The various heroes within Dota 2 all come with unique abilities and weapons. You’ll be able to find a character that fits your strengths and weaknesses very well thanks to all the options.

It’s free to download making it accessible to anyone who has an interest in esports.

what esports games do the professionals play,league of legends,dota 2,counter-strike: global offensive,overwatch
Courtesy of Statista

Of course, if you would like different items within the game, you can always spend money to purchase them which improves your “hero.”

What truly sets Dota 2 apart from all esports competition is the absolutely insane amount of money given away to the winning team at the World Championship.

Valve annually hosts a tournament called The International. It’s where the best gamers in the world gather together to compete for the championship title and prize money.

The winning team from the Dota 2 International in 2018 won an insane $25 million dollars!

Dota 2 The International has had the largest prize pool of any esports tournament since 2014.
Esports Earnings

Of course, the prize money is split between all the different gamers, coaches, and owners, but that’s still a life-changing amount of money.

No other esports league in the world can compete with that amount of money.

Part of the reason they can offer such substantial price money is their esports teams don’t have a salary system like League of Legends.

Thanks to the money Dota 2 pros can win from their tournaments almost all of the top-earning esports athletes in the world play Dota 2.

If you are drawn to more hyper-fantasy and mythical settings then Dota 2 is the game for you.

I’m a big fan of the genre having loved the Lord of the Ring series my entire life.

It’s a PC-only game that requires you to have a quick response time and a sharp mind for strategy.


Now it’s time to talk about one of the newest games currently dominating the esports scene…Overwatch.

Official website: http://playoverwatch.com/

Personally, I was most excited to learn about this game. It’s more my style of video games being a first-person shooter.

Overwatch was developed by the insanely popular game developer Blizzard Entertainment. If you’re even just a casual gamer, you have probably heard of their company and some of their products.

Outside of Overwatch, they are most well-known for the video game World of Warcraft.

There are over 40 million Overwatch players.

Overwatch was released to the general public in 2016 and was an overnight success. It still has a ways to go before competing with League of Legends and Dota 2, but it’ll get there soon.

As I said before, what makes Overwatch unique compared to the other games on the esports scene, is its combination of first-person shooter and real-time strategy.

In a typical Overwatch match, two teams of six players will complete a unique objective. It’s the map chosen for the match that determines what goal the teams must accomplish to win the match.

There are two main types of objectives to complete in an Overwatch match:

  1. Assault: Teams work together to conquer and defend “control points” on a map.
  2. Escort: One team will act as an escort protecting a shipment as it makes it’s delivery while the opposing team tries to destroy it.

Beyond these two objectives, there are a variety of other goals! Including capture the flag and what’s called a deathmatch.

There aren’t as many different characters to chose from in Overwatch, but they are still unique.

Just like League of Legends and Dota 2, the characters in Overwatch are very customizable, and people take great pride in the style they use.

Each character comes with their own style of play, weapon, and unique ability.

There are four types of characters available to choose from. Your choices are offensive, defensive, support, or tank.

Different esports teams will use different kinds of characters depending on the strategy they’d like to use.

As a new player, it’s best to experiment with the different types and discover which one suits your strengths. The good news is during a match you can switch your character at any point.

Overwatch League professional players earn a minimum salary of $50,000 per year.

Unlike League of Legends and Dota 2, you’ll have to pay to purchase Overwatch. There’s a legendary edition for $40 or Standard Edition for only $20.

There is also the option to purchase items, characters, and weapons within the game.

What really sets Overwatch apart from other esports leagues is the way they organized their league and tournaments.

Blizzard launched the inaugural season for the Overwatch League in 2018.

The Overwatch League is composed of 12 teams all within the United States. They’re set up throughout the country in various cities.

The league functions similarly to the NFL and NBA.

The teams within the Overwatch League travel for away games and host other teams for home games. Blizzard is trying to create a sense of fandom within each city that supports the local team.

I absolutely love the way Blizzard has set this up! As a sports fan, it makes more sense for me to cheer for a team that’s in my hometown or close to where I live.

Their inaugural season was a huge success! I’m sure the Overwatch League will continue to add more teams as it becomes more popular.

Between Overwatch’s unique art style, ability to be played on PC or gaming console, and it’s innovative league it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a contender as the largest esports league.

Call of Duty

This is the game I have the most experience with. I’ve been playing Call of Duty for a long time, and I’ve always enjoyed it.

Official website: http://callofduty.com/

While it’s not as dominant on the esports scene compared to the other games, it’s still one of the more popular console games.

There are not many console games that give away large prize winnings at tournaments. But Call of Duty is the exception to the rule.

Call of Duty is traditionally played on Xbox One or PlayStation 4. There is a fee to purchase the game and a few microtransactions within the game. But this component isn’t as steep as games like League of Legends.

I’m sure many of you are familiar with Call of Duty. It’s one of the most popular and best-selling video game series in history. Every time a new game is released, it breaks records around the world.

what esports games do the professionals play,league of legends,dota 2,counter-strike: global offensive,overwatch
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If by some chance you don’t know Call of Duty, it’s a first-person shooter that is usually set in either the past, present, or future. Different games in the series have taken advantage of alternate periods of time.

Call of Duty is both a single player and multiplayer game. It’s playing style is very simple. The goal in every match is to have the most kills on the battlefield.

Unlike other games we’ve discussed, Call of Duty actually has a few different companies that design its games. Activision is the overarching company that owns the rights to Call of Duty. But different developers are used in creating new versions of the game.

With a new Call of Duty released annually, it would be impossible for one company to handle all of that development.

While there are several versions in the Call of Duty franchise, the word championships uses Call of Duty: Black Ops 4.

Aspiring esports athletes will want to register and compete in the Call of Duty World League monthly tournaments. These tournaments are where you can show your skills and rise through the ranks to be signed to an esports team.

At the end of the season, they host the Call of Duty World League Championships in August. The 32 best teams will compete using the latest entry from the Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 franchise.

In 2017 more than 20 million people streamed the Call of Duty World League Championships.

The teams competing in these tournaments receive nowhere near the amount of money as the other esports tournaments. It typically ends up around $1 million.

I have a lot of very fond memories playing Call of Duty back in college. My roommates and I would spend many Saturday nights playing and competing against each other.

I’m happy to see the series is still active in the esports industry.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Staying within the hyper-realized military simulation games, let’s talk about Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO).

Official website: https://blog.counter-strike.net/

Its developers are again Valve with support from Hidden Path Entertainment.

Counter-Strike itself is a series of games that have been around since the late 1990s.

A lot of people had written off the Conter-Strike series until Global Offensive was released and became a huge success.

It’s a first person shooter that relies on teamwork to defeat the opponent. Matches are won when the assigned mission objective is accomplished, or the opposing forces are entirely eliminated.

CS:GO matches have 2-teams of 5 players each. They will compete against each other in a variety of different maps. One side takes on the role of counter-terrorism agents while the other team is terrorists.

It’s a PC-only game that has a massive fanbase around the world. The CS:GO tournaments and Twitch feeds routinely break records and is only beaten by League of Legends and Dota 2.

what esports games do the professionals play,league of legends,dota 2,counter-strike: global offensive,overwatch
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Many people prefer CS:GO compared to some of the other esports games because of its simplicity.

It’s easier for new gamers to jump in and learn the rules and how to play. Games like League of Legends and Dota 2 require more in-depth knowledge.

There is, of course, a lot of strategy being used during matches but as long as teams have excellent communication, they can dominate tournaments.

There are a variety of tournaments for CS:GO gamers to enter. Most notably are the Intel Extreme Masters, ESL One, and DreamHack.

Even though the game is one of the more popular esports attractions, its overall prize money awarded in tournaments is relatively small compared to other leagues.

With game developer Valve having to support both Dota 2 and CS:GO it can be tricky to keep the prize money consistent between both leagues.

CS:GO can still boast in having one of the largest and most watched Twitch and tournament feeds.

These are just a few of the games used within esports competitions.

Please do your research when trying to decide which game to pursue and find one that you really love. Have fun!

Are there more PC or console games used in esports? There are more PC games currently being played in esports. While console gaming does still have its place (ie Call of Duty). More money and notoriety can be found within PC style tournaments.

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Our team is passionate about all things Esports, and love sharing what's happening in the sport!

We hope you enjoy Ready Esports!

About Ready Esports

We write about all things Esports helping you navigate common questions, where to watch, famous players, popular games, and latest trends.