For the fourth 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 and Dota 2, and Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six Siege as tier 1 games. For Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege, it was the first time the game reached the highest tier.
Several games that had a significant impact on the esports ecosystem throughout the previous quarters improved or downgraded on the Impact Index due to a lack of esports competitions as novel coronavirus (COVID-19) policies caused suspensions, postponements, and cancelations of several major esports events globally.
This seasonality of esports competition is reflected in The Esports Observer’s PC Games Impact Index for the first 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.
A major part of League of Legends’ dominance over the Impact Index stems from the game’s enormous player base as it continues to dwarf other games’ player bases. During Q1 2020, League of Legends had a player base almost three times as large as the Impact index’s second place: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Furthermore, the game was the most-watched game on live streaming platform Twitch in the first three months of the year.
Most professional League of Legends regional leagues started in mid-January and generated stable viewership throughout the quarter. The four major professional leagues of the Riot Games-run global competition structure (North America, Europe, China, and South Korea), all were able to shift to an online format and return to official competitive play quickly in response to COVID-19 measurements.
An Early Start
An early start into its 2020 competitive year helped Counter-Strike: Global Offensive secure the Impact Index rank 2 for the second quarter in a row. On Dec. 31, the BLAST Premier Spring Series was kicked off in London, which saw FaZe Clan, Natus Vincere, and G2 Esports winning their respective groups, qualifying for the Spring Finals in Moscow, which have been since canceled due to COVID-19 and replaced with regional offline formats.
Probably one of the most bizarre esports tournaments ever, the $500K USD Intel Extreme Masters XXIV – World Championships in Katowice hosted the last major international in-person Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament for the time being. In an empty arena, which is usually filled by tens of thousands cheering their favorite teams on, Natus Vincere claimed the title over G2 Esports in a lopsided series. During that series, the three biggest broadcasts of IEM Katowice 2020’s Counter-Strike competition combined for a max concurrent viewership (CCV) of 745.6K.
One Major Down
Rounding out the Impact Index’s top three is Valve’s Dota 2 for the second issue of the ranking in a row. One of the game’s biggest events of the year took place in January, as Team Secret came out atop the $1M prize pool DreamLeague Season 13: The Leipzig Major.
The tournament, which was one of initially five planned Majors for 2020 – two of which have been canceled since (ESL One Los Angeles and EPICENTER Major 2020 in Moscow), generated 4.88M hours watched on its English Twitch broadcast, while it’s Russian-language broadcast surpassed that amount with 5.48M hours watched on the platform.
Out of all four tier 1 games of Q1 2020, Dota 2 has the smallest player base, but the combination of viewership and esports prize pools pushed the game to rank 3.
A Rising Star
While Rainbow Six Siege’s Impact Index score certainly profited from COVID-19 policies as the game hosted the highest prize pool competition of the quarter with the $3M prize pool Six Invitational 2020 in Montreal, which acts as the game’s informal World Cup, the game has proven its impact on the esports ecosystem over the last couple of years considering it is steadily rising in popularity. The game’s player base recently surpassed 55M.
The 2019 Six Invitational had seen a 300% increase in esports viewership. This year the event grew once again, generating 5.37M hours watched on Twitch over the full tournament compared to 3.01M in 2019.
Tier 2 Shooter
Epic Games’ Fortnite once more occupied the fifth rank on the Impact Index. While there were no major esports tournaments during the quarter, a solid player base and Twitch viewership kept the game relevant.
The Impact Index’s sixth rank, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, saw it’s newly created franchised Call of Duty League kick off on Jan. 24 in Minneapolis. In addition, the game is rather popular with players as it boasted the fourth largest player base of all ranked game titles. Compared to the Q4 2019 Impact Index, the game improved by seven spots.
Krafton Game Union’s PLAYERUNKOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS downgraded three ranks being the seventh most important PC game during Q1 2020. In the first three months of the year, the game saw several smaller regional tournaments but no major global competition.
Rocket League, Hearthstone, StarCraft II, and Magic: The Gathering Arena – The Midfield
The viewership and prize money contribution from the Rocket League Championship Series Season 9 and the Rocket League Spring Series helped Rocket League secure rank eight on the Impact Index.
Hearthstone, which is one of the game ecosystems that traditionally sees very little competition of the first quarter of a year, only had one major esports event during the period, the Masters Tour in Arlington. The $500K tournament was won by French Helios Gaming player Zakarya “xBlyzes” Hail.
Judging by viewership and player base, the two most niche games StarCraft II and Magic: The Gathering Arena ranked tenth and eleventh, respectively, in the Impact Index. Both titles were carried by the scale of their esports ecosystems.
While the StarCraft series has faded somewhat from its former glory, the Intel Extreme Masters – World Championships in Katowice has remained one of its consistent bright spots each year. This year’s $250K prize pool tournament generated 1.14M hours watched on ESL’s official channel.
Meanwhile, Magic: The Gathering Arena’s most important annual event, the $1M prize pool Magic World Championship, generated 1.49M hours watched.
FIFA 20 and More Activision Blizzard Titles
Electronic Arts’ FIFA 20 claimed rank 12 on the Impact Index for the second time after making its debut on the ranking in Q4 2019. The game’s impact on the esports ecosystem is underlined by its viewership and success of its esports initiatives, including the FIFA eClub World Cup 2020 and FUT 20 Champions Cup Stage, which took place during the period.
As the Overwatch League was in its offseason during Q1, the game’s viewership stats plummeted. Because the same was true for Overwatch’s whole esports ecosystem, with only one relevant tournament held during Q1, the NetEase Esports X Tournament, the game lost three ranks on the Impact Index compared to TEO’s previous Index.
The last two spots on Q1 2020’s ranking were occupied by Activision Blizzard’s titles Warcraft III and World of Warcraft. Warcraft III saw a few smaller esports tournaments over the period, while World of Warcraft’s main event of the quarter was another World’s First race.
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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