The global esports industry has been going from strength to strength since enjoying a surge in popularity at the outset of 2020 that catapulted it into mainstream awareness. What was once a minor concern among the wider games market is now a $1 billion industry on track to hit $3 billion by the end of 2028.

It’s easy to understand just why competitive gaming, once it got the chance it needed, would become so popular. The games industry itself has been the largest media sector globally for over 15 years, and while it is only now beginning to receive the kind of cultural recognition that flows from this preeminence, no one contests that games are more widely played than ever.

Add to this the evergreen appeal of sports entertainment, itself a $150 billion market, and the confluence of these two interests was always, eventually, going to take off. Now, comparison platforms such as OddsChecker are increasingly finding their free bet offers being used on headline esports events in the same way as conventional sporting fixtures. Sales of gaming-optimized laptops and PCs are also sky-rocketing.

What’s more, where there’s interest, sponsorship and investment soon follows. This has led to esports event budgets ballooning and nowhere is this more apparent than with respect to their prize pools. Below we’re going to take a look at which esports posted the largest cumulative prize pool winnings over the course of 2022.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive – $15.5M

CS:GO has enjoyed a position of preeminence in the tactical-FPS esports space since its launch back in 2012. The game carries forward the series’ well balanced maps, frenetic gunplay and iconic game modes, and has come to represent the pinnacle of esports FPS action. Last year saw its various events garner some $15.5 million, ensuring that it remains not only one of the most popular competitive games out there today, but also one of the most lucrative.

PUBG: Battlegrounds – $16.3M

PUBG: Battlegrounds is credited with kicking off the battle royale craze. A mod of a mod, PUBG (short for Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds) started life as a branch of the zombie survival sim DayZ, which is built on the engine of ARMA 3. This gives the PUBG a solid foundation with realistic physics, terrain mapping and weapons, something that distinguishes it from other popular battle royales such as the cartoonish Fortnite.

The game remains one of the most widely played in the world today, with some 30 million active daily players getting in on the action. A cumulative prize pool of $16.3 further underlines the commercial and competitive interest that underpins it, but as we shall see, PUBG: Battlegrounds has been gradually displaced by its mobile varient.

Arena of Valor – $18.6M

Arena of Valor is the international version of Honor of Kings – domestic China’s most popular mobile game. Nowadays there is much excitement around a new wave of mobile MOBAs, from Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, to League of Legends’ very own mobile spin-off, Wild Rift. As such it can be easy to forget that it was Arena of Valor that first made the case for this seemingly mouse and keyboard-dependent genre’s inclusion on touch screen smartphones. 

Arena of Valor posted $18.6 million in cumulative prize funds last year, and its 2022 World Cup even holds the record for the highest single prize pool for a mobile esport, coming in at $10 million.

PUBG Mobile – $24.7M

PUBG Mobile displaced its PC/Console sibling as the most popular version for competition back in 2019 and has never looked back. The greater accessibility afforded by mobile has made it far more popular around the world – particularly in emerging markets. PUBG Mobile’s cumulative prize pool of $24.7 is truly impressive when one considers that it’s a mobile title.

Dota 2 – $32.5M

For a number of years, it has been a given that Dota 2 is the highest earning esport that teams can compete in. Much of this is due to the game’s headline event, The International which, through its unique battle-pass crowdfunding model, has resulted in a sum in excess of $30 million in the past. That’s not to suggest that 2022’s contest, which offered finalists a share of $18 million, is to be baulked at, however.