This year we saw a number of eSports tournament take place at fan conventions like BlizzCon, which hosted tournaments for StarCraft II, Hearthstone, World of Warcraft, and Heroes of the Storm. Sony hosted a Street Fighter Tournament for The Capcom Cup at the PlayStation Experience event held earlier this month.

There are few better opportunities to engage directly with eSports fans than at these large scale conventions. Estimates indicate that eSports viewership will grow to 300 million by 2017, and will one billion in revenue by 2018. Activision Blizzard’s Mike Sepso stated that, “Data shows that eSports spectators are more engaged, and will spend twice as much on peripherals, and 30 percent more on hardware and software than players that don’t watch.” Without further ado, here are the Top 5 eSports events of the year.

Dota 2 – The International

When it comes to eSports, Dota 2 is practically legendary. With 16 teams competing over a prize pool worth over $18 million at the Keyarena at Seattle Center last August, The International tournament reportedly brought in 4.6 million viewers at its peak this year.

League of Legends World Tournament

16 teams went head-to-head for a prize pool worth over $2 million in October at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin. In total, the tournament got 360 million hours of viewership, with a cumulative 4.2 million concurrent viewers were seen over 73 games. During the finals, the peak number of concurrent viewers reportedly reached 14 million, while the total unique viewer count hit 36 million – the highest in eSports history.

[embed width=”480″ height=”270″ class=”center” thumbnail=” r”] v=K-povWSucfo[/embed]

Smite World Championship

Released in 2014, and coming to the Xbox One for the first time this year, Smite is a relative newcomer to the eSports space. However, that hasn’t stopped it from hosting a tournament with over $2.6 million in prizes. Over one million viewers watched the final day of the tournament via Twitch. In additional to the number of people who watched the tournament live from Atlanta’s Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, Smite reported got 2.9 million cumulative daily unique online viewers throughout the tournament. The Smite World Championship 2016 will take place January 7-10, 2016. 

smite championships

Counter-Strike Global Offensive – ESL One Cologne

Unlike DOTA 2, there is no single grand CS:GO tournament. Instead, organizations like Dreamhack and ESL host their own annual competitions with prize pools of up to $250,000. This year, 27 million people reportedly watched the ESL One Cologne 2015 tournament on Twitch, with 1.3 million concurrent viewers at its peak.

Call of Duty Championships

Last September, Activision announced the Call of Duty World League, which promises new opportunities for winners to earn a spot in the Call of Duty Championship, along increasing the potential winnings to $3 million, awarded throughout the year. This kind of support is likely to grow the COD Championship viewership, which averaged 60,000-80,000 concurrent viewers this year as teams vied for a piece of a $1 million prize pool.

Marketers will need to keep a few things in mind to properly engage with eSports audiences as they continue to grow and evolve. Like in traditional sports, every eSports fan base has its own unique energy and jargon. Marketers need to learn how to best cater to that energy. Secondly, marketers need to understand why fans attend or tune in to eSports tournaments. According to an July 2015 EEDAR report, eSports viewers are largely young males who are very enthusiastic about their favorite games. An earlier Eventbrite report further indicates that the majority of viewers live in the US and Europe.

However, when asked why they watched eSporting events, the most common answer was to watch skilled players at work, followed by how they wanted to learn strategies and techniques to improve their own skills. Supporting a specific team or player ended up being the least popular reasons, according to the EEDAR report.