Esports

Q2 2020’s Most Impactful PC Games: Riot Games Seizes Esports World Domination, Continuing COVID-19 Impact


For the fifth quarter in a row, Riot Games’ League of Legends was the most impactful PC game. Being the landmark for the most impactful esports-related PC games, League of Legends was joined by Valve’s Counter-Strike: Global Offensive as the only Tier 1 titles in the period. Aside from League of Legends, Riot Games owns three more titles that are featured in the Impact Index’s Top 15, the most of any developer.

The effects of COVID-19 policies on esports competitions carried over from the first quarter of 2020, resulting in several games that had a significant impact on the esports ecosystem throughout the previous quarters improving or downgrading on the Impact Index.

This seasonality of esports competition is reflected in The Esports Observer’s PC Games Impact Index for the second quarter of 2020. For a detailed breakdown of the key performance indicators that determine a game’s Index score, click here to review 2018’s initial Impact Index report.

League of Legends Reigns Dominant Esports Force

A major part of League of Legends’ dominance over the Impact Index stems from its player base, which was more than double the size compared to the game with the second-highest player base, VALORANT. Furthermore, LoL was second in hours watched on live streaming platform Twitch in the period, only outdone by VALORANT.

While Q2 2020 marks the first time since Q3 2019 that League of Legends isn’t on top of Twitch hours watched, it topped last quarter’s top esports hours watched game Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. According to Riot Games, the League of Legends European Championship experienced an 81% increase in average-minute-audience for the first half of its 2020 Summer Split for the first four weeks compared to Summer 2019.

Going Online While Remaining Consistent

While Counter-Strike: Global Offensive was overtaken in esports hours watched on Twitch by League of Legends, the game’s ecosystem hosted the most tournaments during the quarter and paid out the most prize money at roughly $4.9M USD. The biggest tournament in terms of prize pool size was the $1M Flashpoint Season 1 league, which was won by Overactive Media’s team MAD Lions.

Further important events during the period were the regionalized online formats ESL Pro League for the European and North American divisions, which were won by Fnatic and Team Liquid, respectively; the DreamHack Masters Europe won by BIG; and the BLAST Premier: Spring 2020 EU and NA finals won by Evil Geniuses and Complexity, respectively. Overall, the game drew in 239M hours watched on Twitch during Q2 2020.

Rookie of the Year

Riot Games’ latest title, VALORANT, jumped to No. 3 on the TEO PC Games Impact Index in the quarter of its release. Its immediate high relevancy is bearing witness to an interest arousing launch strategy: The game was first launched in closed beta and access was granted through Twitch drops, which inflated its hours watched as it achieved multiple weeks of exceeding 100M hours watched. By the time the game was officially released in June, Twitch hours watched dropped to 16.5M. In total, VALORANT finished the quarter as the most-watched game on Twitch with 544M hours watched.

Aside from its beta key drop strategy, Riot Games announced that it wouldn’t create a league/tournament structure for VALORANT similar to its League of Legends infrastructure right away but gave third-party organizers a chance to grow the scene and develop talent. In Q2 2020, 123 tournaments were organized for VALORANT, second only to its competitor in the FPS genre, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

More Than a Game

Fortnite was the most streamed game on Twitch while being third in Twitch hours watched and distributed prize money. In total, Fortnite collected 330M hours watched on Twitch during the period.

Contributing to this number was a live in-game concert performed by Travis Scott, which 12.3M players participated in. In addition to the millions attending the concert in-game, many players also streamed their experience, adding significantly to the total viewership. Furthermore, the game’s developer Epic Games announced that more than 27.7M unique players participated in-game across five concert events in the “tour,” which kicked off with a Travis Scott concert.

The most significant tournaments in the period were the $2M prize pool Fortnite Championship Series (FNCS) Invitationals and the FNCS Chapter 2 Finals with more than $1.36M distributed. All FNCS events were held online and separated into regional sub-events.

Less Competition, Less Relevance

Valve’s Dota 2 was the only game in the top five to decrease its ranking compared to last quarter. Not only did it lose two ranks, but also slid down into Tier 2 for the period. Out of the top seven games, Dota 2 has the smallest player base, but usually good viewership (146M hours watched on Twitch during Q2 2020) and its tournaments kept the game around the top four games. As with many other games’ esports efforts, Dota 2’s esports scene was affected by the COVID-19 situation. For example, EPICENTER Major 2020 in Moscow was canceled. In its place, organizer Epic Esports Events partnered with RuHub and Beyond The Summit to put together the Beyond EPIC event. In a similar fashion, the ESL One Birmingham event was transitioned into an online format.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare ranked No. 6 in the current Impact Index driven by strong Twitch viewership and broadcasts numbers; the game collected 258M hours watched on Twitch during Q2 2020. Additionally, Modern Warfare, which features the popular battle royale mode Warzone, has a strong player base, the fifth largest of all games in the Index. The game’s main esports event during the period was the Call of Duty League, which resumed play after a temporary COVID-19 suspension.

Last quarter’s high-flyer Rainbow Six Siege fell back down to Tier 2 as no significant esports events took place during the quarter with only just under $600K prize money distributed. Its Twitch viewership also slowed down to 34.9M hours watched for Q2 2020, but the fourth largest player base of all games in the Index helped Rainbow Six Siege secure rank seven in the current ranking.

Hearthstone had two important esports tournaments take place under COVID-19 policy conditions during the period, the Grand Masters 2020 Season 3 and the $500K Masters Tour Jönköping. Hearthstone ranked No. 8 in the Q2 2020 Impact Index.

Krafton Game Union’s PLAYERUNKOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS downgraded in the second consecutive quarter, now ranking No. 9 most important PC game during Q2 2020. The game’s major esports competition during the period was the PUBG Continental Series, which is an online regional tournament structure organized by PUBG Corporation. The 2020 Continental Series replaced the canceled Global Series.

Overwatch, Rocket League, StarCraft II, and FIFA 20 – The Midfield

Overwatch was one of the few games that improved its ranking on the Impact Index compared to last quarter driven by its premier esports competition, the franchised Overwatch League. 

The viewership and prize money contribution from the Rocket League Spring Series helped Rocket League retain some relevance, ranking No. 11 on the Impact Index, down three compared to last quarter.

Most current StarCraft II tournaments are held in a one-vs.-one format, which helped organizers transition into an online format with few challenges and resulted in the game having the third-most tournaments organized during Q2 2020, including DreamHack SC2 Masters 2020 Summer.

Electronic Arts’ FIFA 20 claimed rank No. 14 on the Impact Index primarily driven by its Twitch numbers, while its player base on PC is rather small and not comparable to its popularity on consoles. The game’s impact on the esports ecosystem is underlined by its viewership and success of its esports initiatives, including the FIFA Global Series, which took place during the period.

Riot Games’ Remaining Contestants

Aside from fielding two of the top three entries in this quarter’s Impact Index, Tencent-owned studio Riot Games remaining two PC games made it into the ranking as well. The trading card game Legends of Runeterra reached No. 13, while the auto battlerTeamfight Tactics re-entered the top 15 at 15th.

Even though Legends of Runeterra barely has a competitive esports scene and only little Twitch viewership (it was the 43rd most-watched category on Twitch in Q2 2020 with 10.1M hours watched), the game is highly relevant due to its surprisingly high player base, which even surpassed Activision Blizzard’s competing collectible card game Hearthstone.

The esports initiatives of most games mentioned in this article have been severely affected by COVID-19 policies. Check out our COVID-19 coverage on all things esports business to learn about the latest developments in the ecosystem.



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