Global Offensive: A Ten Million Dollar Game

The following blog post was written by Eric “Xenon” Yu and was originally published on the UNIKRN blog.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and its prize pools have always been a topic to discuss within the community – it’s natural for people to be curious about the economics of a game that has grown into one of the world’s biggest eSports titles.

Valve-sponsored majors are the largest tournaments in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive at the moment, but will they always be the largest? That can’t be said for sure. So far every single Major tournament has provided a prize pool of $250,000 and support from Valve. Virtual team stickers weren’t introduced until the 2nd Major event, EMS Katowice 2014, which would become a large source of income for the teams lucky enough to get their own stickers; however, the exact amount made by these teams are unknown right now.

Counter-Strike has grown, and as a result, so has its prize pools. We now have a plethora of tournaments with hundred thousand dollar prize pools, accompanied by an ELEAGUE organised by Turner eSports with 1.2 million dollars.

With all of this, one may wonder:  how much money has been handed out by tournaments in the history of Global Offensive?

From March 13th, 2012 to February 8th, 2016, approximately $10,535,808 has been distributed by tournaments in 4 years. A prize pool larger than $250,000 has yet to be won, but we’ve seen 11 $250,000 tournaments, 25 tournaments with over $100,000, and 108 tournaments with prize pools of $20,000 or more.

Fnatic has been the most profitable team – from tournament winnings – in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive so far, collecting 12.11% of all the prize money distributed. They’ve won a total of $1,275,846 in Global Offensive, with their biggest winnings coming from Major events, FaceIt, and ESL ESEA Pro League. They’ve won $100,000 at multiple tournaments, including: DreamHack Winter 2013, the first Major event, ESL One: Katowice 2015, ESL One: Cologne 2015, FaceIt 2015 Stage 3 Finals, and ESL ESEA Pro League Season 2.

Ninjas in Pyjamas are the second most profitable team in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. They’ve earned$873,857 from 96 tournaments and are famous for their 87 game win streak record back in 2013. Their biggest win was at ESL One: Cologne 2014 where they won 1st place at the Major for $100,000. Other big wins are comprised of: Dreamhack Winter 2013, EMS Katowice 2014, Dreamhack Winter 2014, and ESL One: Katowice 2015, which all had $50,000 for 1st place.

So those are the two top teams when it comes to prize money won, but how about the players themselves? Flusha has earned the most from prize money as a player at $261,430. Right behind him are his teammates, JW ($252,969), Olofmeister ($236,464), and KRiMZ ($230,784). The North American region is absent from the list of top earners, but n0thing, Skadoodle, and seangares find themselves as the most rewarded players from the region. The North American players sit around rank 35 with approximately $67,000 earned each.

There’s no doubt that Global Offensive has been favorable to Europe. Sweden is by far the most winning region as they’ve won $2,505,192 from 343 players, while France comes in second at $1,406,609 with 292 players, and Denmark settles at third with $1,045,899from 189 players. The United States is just shy of the top 3, placing 4th with $1,024,356 from 490 players. It’s interesting to note that the United States have 301 more listed players than Denmark, but rank one spot below them.

So far we’ve learned that there’s definitely money to be earned in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, but how does this look in perspective?

Well, for starters, Global Offensive still hasn’t distributed as much as the original Counter-Strike game released in 1999. It’s interesting because the number $10,535,808 is derived from 1295 tournaments and 4065 players, but the original Counter-Strike game had $10,764,492 with less tournaments and players. Despite Global Offensive not distributing as much prize money from tournament organizers, this absolutely doesn’t mean that Counter-Strike is financially more successfully than it’s sequel. Global Offensive introduced stickers, bigger player contracts, more sponsors, and most importantly, more jobs revolving around the game. We’ve never seen more jobs being created around Counter-Strike in the history of the game. Full-time journalists are able to spend their days reporting on the game, photographers are able to travel the world and capture the game’s best moments, coaches and analysts are being included in teams, and now we even have ESPN and Turner taking interest in Counter-Strike. It’s not just Counter-Strike that’s growing – eSports as a whole is developing alongside it. With Counter-Strike, and eSports growing as whole, how does our game match up against the rest of the eSports world?

StarCraft II, one of the most traditional eSports titles released in 2010, has distributed $18,253,646 in prizes from 3405 tournaments – approximately $8,000,000 more than Global Offensive, which was released in 2012. StarCraft II is currently the 3rd most awarding game in terms of prize money throughout eSports.

League of Legends has distributed $26,730,542 as prize money from 1656 tournaments, which is approximately $16,000,000 more than Global Offensive. The prize money is recorded from 2010, so they’ve been counting for 2 more years than Global Offensive.

The game that has distributed the most prize money by far from tournaments has been Dota 2. From only 560 tournaments, Dota 2 has had $56,522,077 distributed from tournaments. As many know, Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive are both developed by Valve Corporation; however, despite being similarly popular and profitable games, there is a huge gap between the prize money in Dota 2 and Global Offensive. Global Offensive has had double the amount of tournaments as Dota 2, yet faces a $45,948,995 gap between prize distributions.

These numbers have been debated throughout both communities for a while now, but that’s a discussion for another date. These are the exact numbers, and it’s up to you to interpret them and consider the factors that contribute to them; however, you shouldn’t be disappointed at the state Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is in right now. The game is only growing bigger and bigger, and with the introduction of a lot of new leagues (Turner ELEAGUE as an example), there’s nothing to worry about.