Blog February 25, 2021

Most Iconic Esports Tournaments of 2021

Last year was very challenging and gone a little bit off the rails. But it was a great one for the esports industry. No dancing on bones, just simple calculations. Esports came to the fore while all global sporting events (including the Olympic Games) were canceled one by one.

However, despite the explosive growth of revenue and streaming audiences, the 2020 pandemic has made its adjustments in the form of lockdowns and cancellations or postponements of tournaments. While the organizers and tournament managers, having gone grey overnight, decided what to do and who was to blame, fans mourned LAN and waited for a miracle. 

Last year most of the leagues and tournaments were held online, but in the end, such a dramatic change of scenery and a world turned upside down, showed that the moment if not a complete merger, then a very close interaction between the traditional sports industry and esport — is already here and walks around the planet, simultaneously involving in its virtual abodes fans, adepts, and supporters. 

Sports organizations have spent the entire year of 2020 trying to increase and strengthen their presence in the esports space, and they have succeeded and the fact is that the process has started and it does not intend to stop.

Even with the abolition of all lockdowns and the opening of borders, traditional sports will increasingly be oriented towards esports. For example, like last year, F1 pilots are once again winding virtual loops in the Virtual Grand Prix Series 2021

The world situation is still volatile in 2021. And as travel restrictions continue to hamper hosting international tournaments, the year will pass under the auspices of increased interest and attention to both league formats and regional games.

Newzoo predicts that league-based formats will foster ecosystems traditionally focused on international tournaments. And even after the pandemic restrictions are lifted, the possibility cannot be ruled out that these once internationally oriented ecosystems will permanently shift to the regional league format.

In any case, we want 2021 to be a good year for the esports industry and hope that LAN tournaments will rise from the ashes like the phoenix, and Riot will finally defeat all the toxics in its community and finally have a decent season for VALORANT. 

We won't recall the past. Let bygones be bygones! Let's look into the future. And in the meantime, everything is still somehow ridiculous, we have selected the most anticipated events of 2021 just for you. 

February

IEM Season XV World Championships 

16 February - 28 February

Location: Katowice, Poland.

Prize pool: $1 million

It seems just like yesterday NAVI had an epic victory at IEM Katowice 2020. As far as you remember, in the final of the tournament, they pitched a shutout G2 Esports with a score of 3:0 and received $ 250,000. 

And here is the mighty and awesome 2021 with one of the largest and most anticipated esports events Counter-Strike: Global Offensive bursts into the scene. 

The first tournament in Katowice was already held in 2014 and it was the second major in the history of Poland — a huge event for CS:GO at that time. And if we talk about one of the most important events for the entire CS:GO community, this is it, with a bigger pool prize — $1 million and great expectations of NAVI «oops, they did it again» thing — being the undisputed champions.

This Friday 26 February IEM Katowice 2021 playoffs begin, in which the CIS will be represented by four of the six participants: Team Spirit, Natus Vincere, Virtus.pro, and Gambit Esports. This is a record result for regional teams in Tiers 1 tournament.

At the group stage, all four CIS teams showed decent results. Team Spirit prevailed in the upper bracket of Group A, beating Astralis in the third round with a score of 2:1. In the lower bracket of the group, Gambit Esports beat G2 Esports with a score of 2:0.

In Group B, Natus Vincere players lost 1:2 to Team Liquid in the third round. In the lower bracket, Virtus.pro defeated FURIA Esports with a score of 2:0.

The playoffs will begin with the quarterfinals of NAVI – Gambit and Virtus.pro – Astralis.

The winners will meet on February 27 in the semifinals with Team Spirit and Team Liquid.

PUBG Global Invitational.S 2021

2 February - 28 March

Location: Seoul, Korea

Prize pool: $3.5 million

Despite its rather solid age, active competition in the battle royale genre, and the release of new disciplines in recent years, PUBG Corp is not going to give up its position and continues to hold major tournaments with large prize pools.

The peak of PUBG's popularity came in 2017-2018 and it became the first to come out in the Battle Royale genre, at that time not fully realizing its success. And when Fortnite burst into the market, it managed to overshadow PUBG. But PUBG has one important undeniable advantage — it is one of the most persistent and principled tournaments, who cares, unlike Fortnite, which nowadays does not support enough the esports direction and community, mostly focused on commercial integrations.

PUBG Global Invitational.S 2021 is one of the largest in the history of the competitive PUBG scene — it will host 32 of the world's best teams for two months in Seoul. A seven-figure cash prize of $3.5 million will be added to the title of world champions. CIS will be represented at the tournament by NAVI and Virtus.pro. 

PUBG is a tough fighter and we wonder if it can regain interest in the discipline itself, against the backdrop of a slightly lost Fortnite?

April

Overwatch League Grand Finals

Date: 16 April - September 2021

Location: YouTube, accessible on the website, and in the OWL app

Prize pool: $4.25 million

According to the official website, the new Overwatch League season will start in April and may take teams to Hawaii. Most likely everything will be an online format, but the organizers promised that if the situation with the pandemic and lockdown becomes less severe, there is a possibility of LAN format. 

«To take full advantage of what was learned last season, we've made several changes that will improve the quality of competition and the fan experience for this coming season», — Blizzard says.

First of all, there will be a structural change: the 20 team league will be split into two divisions — one made of teams from China and Korea, the other North America and Europe — and they’ll play against other teams in their region during the regular season. The top teams from each division will then qualify for four major tournaments that will happen throughout the season. 

And the second one, Blizzard noted that the «minimum ping» system will be used during the event, so all the athletes will be able to comfortably train and play on equal footing.

Blizzard cares a lot about its community, so this year the league has plans to improve fan rewards. In 2020, the Overwatch League switched from Twitch to YouTube, which made it impossible for viewers to earn OWL tokens while watching matches. Later that year, Blizzard corrected this by offering tokens to those who watched live streams through the OWL website or app.

«As we prepare for the 2021 season, we have also been working hard to deliver improved fan experiences. Entering the second year of our partnership with YouTube, we have been working very closely on several initiatives that I am really excited about. We can’t reveal too many specifics yet, but we plan to level up the quality of our match streams, add even more value to watching live matches through our viewership rewards program, and improve the discoverability of live Overwatch content», — John Spector, the Overwatch League team.

The Call of Duty League Championship 

Date: TBA

Location: TBA

Prize pool: $2.5 million

After an enchanting first season, the Call of Duty League returns with new teams, faces and formats.

There are many reasons to be mildly euphoric about Season 2. A lot has changed in COD esports as players moved from Modern Warfare to the new Black Ops Cold War. Moreover, the competitive format switches from «5v5» to «4v4» mode and players will be using PCs rather than consoles.

As stated before, COD officially will be transitioning to PC and controller gameplay from the start of the 2021 season. The top-level professional Call of Duty scene will no longer be a «console esport» and controllers will remain the required peripheral for the global competition.

The official start of the Call of Duty League 2021 season is scheduled for February 11-14. 

There will be a new team among the 12 clubs in the CDL: Los Angeles Thieves will replace Optic Gaming Los Angeles. Like last year, all games will be streamed exclusively on YouTube.

August

FIFA eWorld Cup 2021

Date: 6 August - 8 August 2021

Location: Online

Prize pool: $4.5 million

Perhaps, FIFA is the main winner in the nomination «The most poorly thought out and unpromising tournament» in the global esports arena.

The FIFA eWorld Cup is an annual tournament held by FIFA in partnership with EA SPORTS. At the FIFAe World Cup Grand Finals, the best players who have qualified through the EA SPORTS FIFA Global Series compete for the biggest prize — the FIFA eWorld Cup title and a major cash prize.

For many years now, FIFA and UEFA have been attempting to organize a more or less adequate tournament, but the football bureaucracy continues to stall the process and throw sand in the wheels.

The main problem is that a lot of stakeholders are involved here: from FIFA, which controls all rights, to leagues, clubs, and organizations, — and all of them have their plans, goals, and requirements. Take, for example, the constant attempts to adapt the rules for the number of participants and the format of the event — sheer confusion.

It is not entirely clear whether FIFA should pave its already thorny path through the cybersport jungle, but so far the position is the most pessimistic regarding the FIFA tournament.

This year, EA SPORTS will be providing $3 million to competitors across multiple regions, with the biggest winners taking home the lion share of the cash at FIFA majors and, of course, the eWorld Cup.

Currently, no exact date has been announced for the eWorld Cup, but it usually takes place in August. 32 players are competing for the title of FIFA World Champion: 16 on Xbox and 16 on PS4.

DOTA 2 The International 2021

Date: 5 August - 15 August

Location: TBA

Prize pool: $40,018,195 million

Long live the king of the tournaments! 

The International — is one of a kind for the DOTA community: with the largest prize pools and crowds of fans. 

Each tournament is always like the second coming of Christ, repeated annually. But last year, since the main event was canceled, DOTA dropped in view ratings, allowing CS:GO to take the lead. The championship of 2021 will be held in Stockholm, but everything will depend on the situation with the coronavirus. In a recent interview, Valve CEO Gabe Newell talked about the «real possibility» of The International 2021 in New Zealand. 

This year DOTAs community is waiting for some changes, and if The International 2021 happens somehow wrong or does not happen at all, then most likely the entire segment will require major changes and modifications.

Let’s face it, The International is the major tournament among all the others, and without it, there will be no DOTA. But the fact that Valve is unevenly spreading the focus on other tournaments is holding back other organizers from their full potential. And this can be a serious problem for the development of the DOTA market segment.

It is more important than ever to hold its ground and do something incredible to get the full attention of the DOTA audience and everyone else to the discipline again.

Our expectations from the tournament? Will The International be able to maintain its leading position in the esports market and regain public interest, or will it still need innovations in the DOTA tournament ecosystem to revive public interest in it?

October

League of Legends World Championship 2021

Date: September 2021 - October 2021

Location: Shenzhen, China.

Prize pool: $2,225 million

LOL World Championship — is one of the most spectacular and entertaining esports tournaments ever created. It is the undisputed winner and has no equal in the number of views in the world. Each new championship is always an intrigue: location, teams, sponsors, innovations... When it comes to LOL, the prize poll fades into the background, and Entertainment always comes first.

For the second season in a row, the Lol World Championships will be held in China, this time in Shenzhen. Supposedly, it will begin in late September and end in late October, just like last year. The final stage of the Worlds will be held at the stadium with the top eight teams in the group stage. The championship title will be determined by a single-elimination system.

PGL Major Stockholm 2021

Date: 23 October - 7 November

Location: Ericsson Globe Arena, Stockholm, Sweden

Prize pool: $2 million

We were on a break! For two years, and now finally this year Counter-Strike: Global Offensive returns «home», where it all began in November 2013, when Sweden hosted its first-ever CS:GO Major tournament. 

We have timeless memories with our past Counter-Strike shows, and, honestly, we owe a lot to this game, as players, and as a company. We believe that this community deserves the best product this franchise has ever seen. Our goal is to celebrate the game in the best way possible, and we will work hard for this. Silviu Stroie, PGL’s CEO.

The PGL Major Stockholm 2021 will be the third Major tournament in Sweden and the first in Stockholm. The $2 million prize pool is the largest in CS:GO history. Besides the huge prize pool, there is another premiere: the first CS:GO Major to be broadcast in a 4K 60 fps quality. PGL is also preparing many new surprises like innovative Augmented Reality elements, brand new custom HUD and other brand new features. 

Valve also announced the return of the RMR events to determine the participants for the Stockholm Major. The RMR will start online and have at least one offline tournament per region before the major.

We remember there was a time when CS:GO was crowned as a Major champion. So, who will rise to the top and claim the title in 2021?

November

VALORANT Champions Tour 2021

Date: 29 November

Location: TBA

Prize pool: TBA 

The «Great Expectations» category is won by the youngest, hottest, and most desperate discipline that Riot has been building up to for a very long time. The VALORANT Champions Tour is longly awaited, after numerous rumors and uncertainty, so many expectations will become a full-scale esports discipline supported by the publisher and third-party orgs, consisting of three tournament levels: Challengers, Masters, and Champions. The first rounds of the Challengers series began on January 26 in Latin America, and on January 30 in Brazil and Korea.

The Challengers Series schedule for other countries is:

  • 3-7 February in North America;
  • 5 February in Southeast Asia;
  • 11 February in Europe, CIS, and Turkey. 

Qualification dates in Japan, the Middle East, and North Africa are still unknown. Due to the unstable situation in the world, the dates of the other tournaments remain approximate.

Why The VALORANT Champions Tour 2021 is so important for the world of esports, and specifically for Riot Games? 

There is Valve, a major player with DOTA 2 and CS:GO disciplines, which are considered the leading and decisive stakeholders in the esports market. And then there is Riot Games with LOL, who have long wanted to release a shooter to compete with CS:GO.

Valorant went with a bang and an excellent proof of this the fact that CS:GO players are starting to actively migrate to this newly released title. However, despite the relative success of the game at the beginning, Riot Games only now announced the first Valorant tournament. And there were reasons for that.

Riot Games was and still is a monopoly on LOL tournaments. And as true monopolists — completely all events are made and carried out by themselves. And if Valve can give tournaments to third-party organizers, then Riot does everything on their own, completely closing the ecosystem for interested representatives.

Although Riot mentioned that they will allow third-party organizers to become part of their ecosystem, give licenses and provide any support, everything turned out differently and Riot spent a whole year trying to figure out how to build a tournament system, connect people, while the community did not understand what was going on.

Therefore, Riot is expected to find some kind of universal model that will balance the market and that is why so many expectations are assigned to the newly-minted Valorant tournament. Not even on the discipline itself as such, but on good integration, interaction, and balance between the community, third-party organizers, and the publisher.

Riot is well-positioned to set the bar and make Valorant the new benchmark for esports tournaments.

On the one hand, there is DOTA, one main and some major events, and on the other, CS:GO, which, although more or less optimized, still has difficulties with the discipline's accessibility. And amidst this chaos, Valorant — the miracle of which Riot fans hope. After all, if Valorant succeeds in introducing a new structure of leagues, tournaments, and other things, then there are chances that all this may affect LOL, which means that there will be more different organizers and players there.

The prize pool and venue have not yet been announced. All participants will be determined by the regional Master's Tournament rankings. In general, 16 teams will play in the final tournament.