The year 2020 wasn’t kind to esports competition as many events were canceled or postponed due to health concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Simply put, the loss of potential prize pool money, especially in Dota 2 with its $40M USD that would have come from the canceled The International, saw some teams struggle and others exiting the scene, as was the case with Ninjas in Pyjamas. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, too, would feel the crunch as large prize pool events such as the ESL One Rio Major and its $2M were lost to the pandemic.
The effect these cancellations had on the total amount of money available to winning teams was tremendous as the team that won the most money this year would have come in at No. 22 when compared to last year’s list.
Last year there was approximately $240M up for grabs in esports prize pool winnings. This year? A mere $92M.
Riot Games and its League of Legends World Championship along with Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch and Call of Duty League Championships were the big money drivers in 2020 and did esports a great service by finding ways to keep the esports competitive scene moving.
Here are the top 10 teams in terms of prize money won for 2020.
No. 10 – Fnatic: $994.2K
For the first time since 2014, Fnatic comes in under the $1M mark, through no real fault of its own, riding its CS:GO team and the $321K it made in 2020 to the No. 10 spot. This team was able to still compete in various online events, even taking a third place finish in Flashpoint Season 2.
Fnatic’s Dota 2 team was able to secure $168K in winnings playing in a very limited amount of events, having played in no events since Sept. 27. This is in stark contrast to the $753K the organization took home in 2019, and the $524K in 2018.
League of Legends also made up a large portion of the organization’s 2020 winnings, with Fnatic taking home $214K, with $101K of that coming from its 5th-8th finish at the World Championships.
No. 9 – Team Secret: $1.11M
This year, Team Secret made about 33% of the prize pool money the organization won in 2019. Last year, Team Secret was fifth on this list with $3.36M.
However, Team Secret’s prize winnings are tied to its Dota 2 squad. With Valve postponing the 2020 Dota 2 International, there just wasn’t a chance at taking home the same kind of money as last year when the organization took home $2.06M by virtue of a fourth place finish at the aforementioned International.
Team Secret, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, was able to put together a great year as far as Dota 2 was concerned taking home $1.017M playing in 12 events that survived the pandemic.
This organization’s prize pool money is directly tied to the Dota 2 scene and hopes to see, along with many other organizations, Valve revive the scene in 2021.
No. 8 – TSM: $1.18M
TSM was playing chess while some were playing other esports titles. TSM’s forward thinking brought in $125K in chess winnings to go along with monies won from playing in many different titles that don’t require a ton of expenses.
With a diversified team fielding structure, TSM participated and won money in 11 different games including League of Legends, Fortnite, and Valorant.
TSM was able to win $158K in prize money in League of Legends as well as $179K in Fortnite. The organization will look to its multi-game approach once again in 2021 with the hopes that more events become available as more tournament organizers become comfortable running live events with the permission of local governments.
No. 7 – Atlanta FaZe: $1.19M
The Atlanta FaZe of the Call of Duty League did everything they could to be successful in 2020. FaZe finished the regular season as the No. 1 seed for playoffs, having accumulated the most points during regular season competition.
This would give the team a bye all the way into Winners Round 3 where it would face off against the Chicago Huntsmen, which it eventually defeated 3-2. FaZe would go on to lose to eventual champion Dallas Empire in the Winners Finals.
In the Losers Final, FaZe would beat the Huntsmen once again, before losing, again, to the Dallas Empire in the championship.
As the runner-up for the Call of Duty League the team took home a cool $900K to go along with its winnings from the various tournaments during league play.
No. 6 – G2 Esports: $1.23M
Carlos “ocelote” Rodríguez’ ability to develop competitive teams in multiple titles helped propel G2 Esports to No. 6 this year. G2 has teams competing in League of Legends, CS:GO, RainbowSix: Siege, Valorant, Rocket League, Fortnite, and Sim Racing.
G2 earned $383K in League of Legends, more than $330K in CS:GO, $163K in R6, $159K in Rocket League, more than $100K in Valorant, and more in other titles. Rodriguez has been able to weather the pandemic and dwindling esports prize pools by fielding multiple teams, with some not requiring a lot of overhead expenses.
G2 could be positioned for a big payday in 2021 with any sort of return to esports normalcy.
No. 5 – Spacestation Gaming: $1.36M
Coming in at No. 4, Spacestation Gaming more than tripled its esports prize money earnings from last year where they earned $436K. For Spacestation, it was its R6 team that carried the day, winning two out of the four events they played in, taking home $1.1M in prize money.
Spacestation, much like G2, has teams in multiple esports titles winning $5K here, $10K there, that helped to bolster its numbers for 2020.
R6 is an esport that is looking to scale, having added four teams for a total of 20 that will now be competing in the Six Invitational 2021, which Spacestation will obviously be a part of.
No. 4 – Virtus.pro: $1.37M
Virtus.pro competes in two of the top esports with teams in CS:GO and Dota 2 which brought in the bulk of its prize money in 2020. However, the Russia-based esports organization also competes in titles such as Fortnite and Apex Legends.
Before the halt of Dota events, Virtus.pro was able to take home more than $472K in winnings by playing in various tournaments including EPIC League and winning ESL One Los Angeles.
It was Virtus.pro’s CS:GO team that brought in the bulk of this year’s prize money; bringing in $641K including a $500K payday by winning Flashpoint Season 2.
The organization also brought home more than $25K from Fortnite and $4.6K in Electronic Arts’ Apex Legends.
No. 3 – Team Liquid: $1.46M
Much like Virtus.pro, Team Liquid brought home the bulk of its 2020 prize money from CS:GO and Dota 2. However, much like G2, Liquid has diversified its team portfolio and brings in money from multiple titles.
Take a look at the diversified winnings with Team Liquid’s Dota 2 squad taking home $414K, CS:GO $292K, Starcraft II $95K, Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds $83K, League of Legends $81K, Hearthstone $75K, Fortnite $64K, and Arena FPS coming in at $49K.
The multiple titles approach has allowed Liquid to maintain its elite presence in esports having been the No. 2 earner last year by receiving more than $9M in prize money.
Team Liquid will look to capitalize on its CS:GO, Dota 2, League of Legends, and possibly Valorant teams heading into 2021.
No. 2 – San Francisco Shock: $1.56M
Activision Blizzard’s ability to maintain its Overwatch League and Call of Duty League operations during the pandemic was instrumental in making sure the North American esports scene remained relevant. By creating a plan and pivoting to online events, NRG’s umbrella teams were able to take home a significant amount of money.
The San Francisco Shock, champions of Season 3 of the Overwatch League, took home $1.55M in prize money out of a total prize pool of $3.05M over the course of the regular season and playoffs.
The Shock ultimately defeated the Seoul Dynasty in the finals 4-2 to take home the lion’s share of the prize money.
No. 1 – Dallas Empire: $1.80M
The Dallas Empire are the winners of the inaugural season of Activision Blizzard’s Call of Duty League. With that championship, the team took home $1.79M in prize money after defeating the Atlanta FaZe in the finals three maps to two.
While it is typical in esports that one event, such as the Dota 2 International, is usually the cause of a team’s No. 1 ranking on this list, this is the first time that a single Call of Duty match was the catalyst behind the No. 1 ranking.
* Data compiled using information from EsportsEarnings.com