The effects of COVID-19 policies on esports competitions carried over from the first two quarters of 2020, resulting in several games such as Rainbow Six Siege, 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 third 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.
An Undisputed Esports and Gaming Powerhouse
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 also the most-watched game on the live streaming platform Twitch during the period. Except for the previous quarter when the then released Valorant topped League of Legends’ Twitch viewership, the game has continuously been the most-watched game on the platform since Q3 2019.
During Q3, all major regions of Riot Games’ competitive League of Legends circuit wrapped up their summer splits with the League of Legends European Championship (LEC) increasing its finals viewership by 70% year-over-year. Furthermore, the Play-In stage of the annual League of Legends World Championship contributed to the strong viewership for the game’s competitive scene.
A Rise to the Top Amidst a Global Pandemic
The conclusion of the inaugural Call of Duty League (CDL) season crucially helped Call of Duty: Modern Warfare to become a Tier 1 game for the first time. During Q3 no other game’s competitive scene was able to match the total prize pools of just over $5M USD paid out, the majority contributed from the CDL’s playoffs prize pool of $4.6M. The league’s grand finals between runner up Atlanta FaZe and Dallas Empire, which claimed the winner’s stake of $1.5M, became the most-watched Call of Duty esports event so far with a peak concurrent viewership of 330K.
Additionally, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was the most-streamed game on Twitch during the third quarter of 2020. Despite a significant share of users playing on consoles, the game’s PC player base was the fourth largest of all games in this ranking resulting in the title’s jump from rank No. 6 to rank No. 2.
In It for the Long Run
While dropping from a Tier 1 spot primarily due to the absence of large in-person tournaments that are usually coining the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive competitive landscape, the game secured rank No. 3 based on the highest amount of tournaments and average viewership.
The game’s main events during the third quarter were the online edition of ESL One: Cologne 2020, which featured a decreased prize pool of $325K and was won by Heroic and the European and North American renderings of the ESL Pro League Season 12. Danish organization Astralis came out on top of the $450K European event, while FURIA Esports won the winner’s stake of the $225K North American prize pool.
A New Force That is Here to Stay
Riot Games’ first-person shooter VALORANT once again had a strong quarter based on the second-largest player base as well as an increasingly active competitive scene. During Q3 the majority of Riot Games’ initial stage of the game’s competitive scene, the IGNITION Series, took place with tournament prize pools capped at $50K. The early phase of the game’s tournaments in the North American region saw Team SoloMid and Sentinels coming out on top most of the time, while G2 Esports’ team dominated the European scene winning every official tournament it participated in.
Lack of Esports Resulting in Relevancy Dropping
Valve’s Dota 2 is one of the titles significantly affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Usually, the game’s most important tournament, The International, takes place in the third quarter of each year, but this year’s edition had to be postponed to 2021. The event traditionally features esports’ biggest prize pool and causes Dota 2’s Impact Index to spike. Instead of a $35M+ tournament, the largest event during the quarter was the $500K OMEGA League: Europe Immortal Division $500K which was won by Team Secret.
While Fortnite’s competitive scene is missing a World Championship this year, it still is the second-most streamed and watched game on the live-streaming platform Twitch. In combination with several smaller esports events including the regional grand finals of Epic Games’ Fortnite Championship Series Chapter 2 Season 3, which featured a prize pool of roughly $1.1M across all regions, its solid numbers granted Fortnite rank No. 6 in this Impact Index.
While Electronic Arts’ Apex Legends is one of the most-streamed games on Twitch, it accounted for the smallest amount of hours watched in this rankings Top 7. Consequently, the game claimed rank No. 7 based on solid viewership, player base, and esports competition stats. The main contributor to Apex Legends’ esports scene was the Apex Legend Global Series Autumn Circuit, a series of smaller regional events that will culminate in the series’ playoffs in December.
Overwatch, PUBG, and Hearthstone – The Midfield
Just like in the previous quarter, Overwatch was one of the few titles improving its ranking slightly compared to the last ranking driven by the culmination of its premier esports event, the Overwatch League. The league’s playoffs and grand finals featured a $4M prize pool, the winner’s stake of which was claimed by the San Francisco Shock franchise.
Strong Twitch viewership numbers and a series of regional esports competitions helped PLAYERUNKOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS to secure rank No. 9 of the Q3 Impact Index. The game’s current primary esports series is the regionalized PUBG Continental Series of which the first editions finals and the full second edition were held during the period featuring a combined prize pool of $1.85M.
Hearthstone had two important esports tournaments take place under COVID-19 policy conditions during the period, the $500K Masters Tour 2020 Montreal and the Grandmasters 2020 Season 2. Hearthstone ranked No. 10 in the Q3 2020 Impact Index.
Significant Weaknesses in at Least One Category
The viewership and prize money contribution from the regionalized Rocket League Championship Series Season X helped Rocket League retain some relevance, ranking No. 11 on the Impact Index. The NA Fall Major and the EU Fall Major each paid out a $100K prize pool.
One of the games that has an esports scene rather unfazed by the ongoing pandemic is StarCraft II. Primarily thanks to its competitive circuit, including the DreamHack SC2 Masters 2020 Fall, more prize money was contributed to StarCraft II competitors than to participants in VALORANT and Apex Legends events during Q3. A very small player base holds the game back from a higher impact on the esports ecosystem.
Probably the biggest loser of the current circumstances is Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six Siege, which plummeted from a Tier 1 rank in Q1 2020 to rank No. 13 in Q3 2020. The main contributor to the game’s recent downfall is the lack of major competitions as the Six August Major, which was supposed to be taking place in the U.S., was canceled.
Aside from fielding two of the top four entries in this quarter’s Impact Index, Tencent-owned studio Riot Games auto battler Teamfight Tactics once again qualified for the ranking coming in on rank No. 14. The title’s biggest esports event in the period was the $200K Teamfight Tactics Galaxies Championship.
The last spot on the Q3 2020 ranking was secured by Activision Blizzard’s World of Warcraft, which made its comeback on Top 15 of this ranking due to the game’s viewership on Twitch.
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.