The esports industry has undergone many transformations throughout its history, in which RTS games like Starcraft II used to dominate the market, along with some FPS franchises like Counter-Strike and Halo.
With the arrival of streaming platforms like Twitch, as well as the rise of YouTube, and more recently, the great explosion of mobile gaming, titles like League of Legends, Fortnite, PUBG, Free Fire, and CS:GO have managed to dominate the competitive scene both in player base and in its impressive numbers of spectators in each of its international competitions.
This time, we will take a look at the esports tournaments with the most historical viewers worldwide, taking into account their audience peaks achieved, and excluding numbers of broadcasts based on Chinese platforms. Viewership will be mostly based on Twitch, YouTube, Facebook, Booyah, TikTok, and VK broadcasts.
10. Free Fire World Series 2019 Rio - 2,016,157 viewers
Opening this list we will find one of the biggest games at the moment, as millions of players from around the world were part of a historical moment on the opening day of the Free Fire World Series 2019 Rio, the first-ever global event dedicated to Garena's battle royale.
As such, Garena has learned how to bring a massive audience into every one of their major events and tournaments, as it can be seen around many of Free Fire's competitive leagues and Continental Series that always brought up big numbers, from players eager to see the best teams in the world while earning some juicy exclusive rewards.
Nonetheless, this event held live from the Barra Olympic Park in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, break the paradigms of many around the esports industry as this became the first-ever event dedicated to a mobile game to surpass the two million mark, where Corinthians would be later crowned after a whole day of insane plays as the first Free Fire world champions.
9. 2021 League of Legends World Championship - 2,232,979 viewers
The latest edition of the long-running League of Legends World Championship has already managed to put itself among the top of the most-watched events ever, as this year has brought many memorable moments and upsets that will remain as part of its legacy.
Besides, one moment managed to bring an entire wave of viewers, as the Unkillable Demon King aka Faker set his return to the biggest stage of League's competitive with the comeback of T1 to the tournament for the first time since 2019.
And as if that weren't enough, their first match for Worlds 2021 was against none other than DetonatioN FocusMe, squad that made their debut in the group stage after an impressive first-place run at the Play-Ins, bringing over 2.2 million viewers through many platforms to watch this historical clash.
8. Fortnite World Cup 2019 - 2,334,826 viewers
The Fortnite World Cup 2019 marked what is so far the only international tournament organized for the Epic Games’ battle royale, held on 26th to 28th June 2019 at the Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing, New York, handing out a prize pool of $ 30 million USD.
The finals of this event brought together more than 2 million viewers, who were able to see the coronation of the then 16-year-old player, Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf, as the first-ever Fortnite World Champion in Solos mode.
The event also featured a Duos modality, where Emil "Nyhrox" Pedersen and David "Aqua" Wang achieved victory, as well as the Creative Cup and the Pro-Am, where 50 popular Fortnite streamers with various celebrities teamed up to raise money for the charities of their choice.
7. Free Fire Continental Series 2020 Asia - 2,566,046 viewers
The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a major change in plans for Garena's competitive battle royale, Free Fire, who after cancelling the Free Fire World Series 2020 in Brazil, announced a new series of tournaments that served to crown the best teams in the world, the Free Fire Continental Series.
With dedicated tournaments for the Americas, EMEA and Asia regions, the tournament managed to attract more than 4.5 million viewers collectively, with those from the Asian continent contributing the most to this with nearly 2.6 million.
Respectively, Team Liquid, Sbornaya ChR and EXP Esports were the teams that managed to be crowned as the best of 2020, after a great series of confrontations carried out at the end of November 2020, distributing a prize pool of $ 900,000 USD between all participating teams in the three tournaments.
6. The International 10 - 2,741,514 viewers
Dota 2's competitive has always remained at the top lists of record-breaking events, as its flagship tournament organized by Valve has kept its spot as the event with the highest prize pools in esports history.
This time was no exception, as the 2021 edition of The International managed to bring the top squads from all around the world to compete at the Arena Nationala from Bucharest, Romania, for a chance to be the number one in the world and had their names engraved on the glorious Aegis of Champions.
Getting over $40 million USD and with over 2.7 million people watching the final clash between PSG.LGD and Team Spirit, The International 10 not only made history by its numbers, but also by the crowning of the first world champions from the CIS region for the first time since Natus Vincere victory, back in 2011.
5. MBLL M2 World Championship - 3,083,245 viewers
The MBLL M2 World Championship was the most prestigious tournament in the Mobile Legends esports scene, which brought together the 12 best teams worldwide in the city of Singapore from 18th to 24th January 2021, after being postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
After an incredible seven-game series between the Burmese Ghouls of Myanmar and BREN Esports of the Philippines, it was the latter who managed to put their name in history by becoming the new Mobile Legends World Champions.
Also, the champions managed to return home with a grand prize of $ 140,000 USD, out of a cumulative purse of $ 300,000 USD.
4. PUBG Mobile Global Championship Season 0 - 3,801,998 viewers
After its beginnings through the Club Open tournaments, the competitive scene of PUBG Mobile made its great transition towards the model of the main title with the creation of the Pro Leagues, and with this, the first summit between the best squads in the world from Krafton’s battle royale: the PUBG Mobile Global Championship.
During two months of arduous competition, 24 teams faced each other for a cumulative purse of $ 2 million USD, in addition to a ticket to the finals in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, which took place from 21st to 26th January 2021.
Although this had to be ultimately played with the teams isolated due to health and safety measures, this didn’t at all stop the hopes and emotions of all the participating teams, and especially for Nova Esports, the legendary squad with a presence in other mobile esports, who managed to take the glory of the championship and $ 700,000 USD.
3. 2020 League of Legends World Championship - 3,882,252 viewers
The 2020 edition of one of the most prestigious tournaments in esports went through several difficulties due to the current worldwide situation, after the host country chosen for it was none other than China.
However, Riot Games was able to achieve the unthinkable by being able to transport almost all participating teams (with the exception of the Vietnamese ones), in order to fight for glory at the Summoner's Rift, in an unprecedented event carried out successfully from Shanghai, China.
The Worlds 2020 finals brought together almost 4 million international spectators, who were able to witness the fall of the LPL on their own field, and the rebirth of the Koreans when DAMWON Gaming was able to lift the Summoner's Cup, at the recently opened Pudong Football Stadium.
2. 2019 League of Legends World Championship - 3,985,787 viewers
The 2019 edition of Worlds took place across Europe, where emerging regions gave some fight in the Play-Ins from the LEC Studio, as well as we were able to witness the fall of North America and the LMS (in its last appearance before its merger with SEA) from the Verti Music Hall in Berlin, Germany.
Worlds 2019 brought us many clashes that are still being talked about even after some time, such as the classic between G2 vs SKT (now known as T1), as well as the clash between FPX against the then-reigning champions, Invictus Gaming.
With almost 4 million viewers watching the world finals through their screens, the most-watched matchup in League of Legends history so far allowed us to witness the rise of FunPlus Phoenix to glory, after defeating G2 Esports by a resounding 3-0 and extending China's domain in Riot Games’ competitive MOBA.
1. Free Fire World Series 2021 Singapore - 5,414,953 viewers
If something has become clear in recent years, it’s that the competition within mobile games is here to stay and shock the world. We have seen it with games like Clash Royale, PUBG Mobile, Mobile Legends, and currently being number one, Free Fire.
With more than 5.4 million viewers around the world, the finals of the most recent edition of the Free Fire World Series managed to break all records and expectations, reaching numbers never thought of for any title available on any platform.
Held live from the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, the first of two World Series scheduled for 2021 managed to bring together the best 18 Free Fire teams in person, who faced each other in the largest competition of this title to date, and in the end, Phoenix Force would rise to the top with four out of six victories, thus taking home $ 500,000 USD and the title of world champions.
That said, it’s more than a mystery what awaits us for the next few months, now that many tournaments are being held in person again, however, the pandemic and the exponential growth of the industry thanks to new technologies and trends, has allowed the impact and reach of esports to be greater than ever.
Therefore, we would not be surprised if some of the aforementioned tournaments are overcome during the course of 2021 and 2022.
Looking for more information about your favourite teams? What about news and updates around the latest esports tournaments? Then check out our dedicated esports section right here.
All data and statistics collected via Esports Charts. Featured image courtesy of Riot Games.