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Q3 2021’s most impactful PC games: summer lull produces a predictable ranking

By Tobias Seck

TEO PC Games Impact Index Q3 2021

 

The esports ecosystem continues to be characterized by the gradual return of offline tournaments and leagues during the third quarter of 2021. While the presence of several in-person events made some impact on the Q3 2021 TEO PC Games Impact Index, the ongoing COVID-19 situation dominated the execution of esports competitions with most events still being held online or at least without spectators.

In general, the current Impact Index features results representing a sort of status quo. Riot Games’ League of Legends remains on top of the ranking, closely followed by Valve’s Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and its own take on a first-person shooter game, Valorant. The return to a status quo of the ranking also normalized the distribution of tier rankings with three titles qualified for Tier 1 (score higher than 40), a strong Tier 2 midfield of eight titles, and four games falling into Tier 3 (score lower than 10).

TEO PC Games Impact Index Q3 2021 Ranking

League of Legends remains top esports title

Riot Games’ League of Legends remains on top of the PC Games Impact Index in TEO’s Q3 2021 edition of its benchmark scoring system, slightly increasing its lead over Valve’s Counter-Strike: Global Offensive again after topping the Q2 ranking with the thinnest lead in years. The popular esports title’s successful defense of the Index’s top rank is once more based on its enormous player base and global competitive scene.

League of Legends continues the most played game ranked in the Impact Index, with its player base being roughly 20.7% larger than the second most played game Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. The game’s popularity not only shows in its player base but also the consumption of League of Legends game play on live streaming platform Twitch, on which it was the most streamed game at approximately 380M hours watched in Q3. Additionally, it logged the most esports hours watched on the platform and the only title to get close to 100M esports hours watched.

During the quarter all major regional leagues in Riot Games’ global League of Legends competitive circuit wrapped up their summer splits deciding regional champions and participants of the League of Legends World Championship in Q4 drawing significant viewership and contributing to a total prize pool of $2.07M that was paid out during the quarter.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive continues hot streak

Driven by one of the most enduring esports scenes, the first-person shooter title Counter-Strike: Global Offensive defended its second place on the Impact Index effortlessly. The scene has been featuring one of the most active competitive circuits for years. While a couple of franchised leagues and tournaments were recently introduced to the scene, it continues to maintain a large amount of open entry competitions that see Counter-Strike: Global Offensive usually topping the sheets in tournaments hosted. Unsurprisingly, the title topped that factor of the Impact Index once again with 110 organized competitions during the quarter.

An additional reason for the game’s strong performance in the Index was its constantly strong player base, which was only outscored by League of Legends, and the amount of prize money distributed during the period, which topped all games at approximately $6.08M. The pivotal factor holding Counter-Strike: Global Offensive back from edging League of Legends out in the Impact Index was its viewership on Twitch, which came in at only 45% of League of Legends hours watched or 170M hours watched.

Valorant gets a boost from the growth of its esports circuit

Riot Games’ take on a first-person shooter, Valorant, is harvesting the fruits of its maturing esports circuit as it claims rank No. 3 on the Q3 TEO PC Games Impact Index. Driven by several competitions part of Riot Games’ VALORANT Champions Tour 2021, the game came in second in tournaments organized, esports viewership on Twitch, and general Twitch viewership (250M hours watched).

Furthermore, Valorant continues to establish itself as one of the most important esports games and a serious competitor to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive thanks to its popularity among gamers. The game was the third most played game during Q3.

Continued Battle Royale popularity

Activision Blizzard’s top entry in the Q3 2021 Impact Index comes from its Call of Duty franchise as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and its integrated battle royale mode Warzone claimed fourth on the ranking, matching its Q2 result. While the game lost more than 1M active users and north of 100M hours watched on Twitch compared to the previous quarter, its stable esports scene and the general drop in active gamers and Twitch viewership were pivotal in securing the game a top result once again.

Driven by the regionalized Fortnite Champion Series: Chapter 2 Season 3 Grand Finals and its consistent player base Epic Games’ battle royale Fortnite regained a few places compared to the Q2 Impact Index. Fortnite’s strong result was additionally supported by its Top 5 Twitch viewership numbers (approximately 207M hours watched during Q3 2021).

Despite the Apex Legends Global Series offseason, Electronic Arts’ battle royale-hero shooter game Apex Legends gained a couple of spots in the Impact Index as its Twitch viewership improved compared to last quarter reaching more than 200M hours watched on Twitch. Additionally, the game is supported by its user base, which like the game’s total Impact Score ranked No. 6 in Q3.

The Midfield

Valve’s League of Legends competitor Dota 2 is already taking the title as the most volatile game of 2021 in the Impact Index due to the structure of its esports circuit. Dota 2 claimed rank No. 8 in Q1 with no significant esports tournaments to its name, rose to rank No. 3 in Q2 driven by the WePlay AniMajor in Kyiv and the ESL One Summer 2021, before dropping back down to rank No. 7 in Q3. However, Dota 2 is expected to regain several spots in the ranking for Q4 as The International, the game’s biggest esports competition took place during the last quarter of the year and distributed the largest-ever prize pool in esports at more than $40M.

For the second quarter in a row, Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch was able to secure a Tier 2 ranking based on its solid player base and esports earnings associated with the game. Weak viewership, the third worst of all games in the Top 15, despite the franchised Overwatch League completing its regular season at the end of August denied the game a better impact score.

Dropping from just above 30 points on the Q2 2021 Impact Index to just under 20 is Rocket League as viewership and esports activity dropped in a quarter without any significant tournaments held. The primary reason for the game’s continued relevance is its strong user base, which was the seventh largest of all games in the ranking.

The second title from Activision Blizzard’s Call of Duty franchise making an appearance on the Impact Index’s Top 15 is Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. The game is the current title of choice for the franchised Call of Duty League, which held its 2021 season playoffs in the Galen Center in Los Angeles in August. Atlanta FaZe took hoe the $1.2M winner’s share of the tournament’s total $2.5M prize pool after defeating the Toronto Ultra in the finals.

Rank No. 11 was claimed by Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege. The game took a tumble from rank No. 7 in last quarters ranking, which was boosted by the $3M Six Invitational held in Paris, France. During Q3 the biggest Six Siege esports tournament was the $0.5M Six Mexico Major 2021 won by Brazilian outfit Team oNe eSports.

Off the pace

While its mobile game adaption has long overshadowed the PC version, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds remains one of the most impactful PC games in the esports ecosystem at rank No. 12. While it dropped long ways from its rank No. 5 spot in the Q1 2021 Impact Index boosted by the $7.1M PUBG Global Invitational 2021, the game remains in the Index despite a lack of significant esports tournaments due to its solid all-around numbers.

Digital collectible card game Hearthstone improved its ranking by a couple of spots compared to the previous quarter thanks to increased Twitch viewership, which exceeded 66M hours watched in Q3 2021. Simultaneously, a larger improvement was prevented by a small number of tournaments with the $0.25M Masters Tour 2021 Silvermoon marking the only major tournament of the quarter.

Activision Blizzard’s timeless real-time strategy game StarCraft II made a comeback to the Impact Index’s Top 15 at rank No. 14. While the game has the smallest active user base of the Top 15, its still highly active esports scene and solid esports hours watched on Twitch brought the title back into contention.

The last spot on the Q3 2021 ranking was secured by Electronic Arts’ FIFA 21, which kept a sport on the Impact Index’s Top 15 due to its solid player base and Twitch viewership numbers. However, aside from the $0.5M FIFAe World Cup 2021 and the $0.4M FIFAe Nations Cup 2021 in August the title saw little esports competitions during the period.

Methodology

The TEO PC Games Impact Index is a metric that quantifies six weighted key performance indicators – powered by Newzoo - such as player base, viewership and competition prize pools to determine which game titles have the most impact on the esports industry each quarter. The ranking was first introduced by The Esports Observer in 2018 to help readers understand which game titles currently coin the esports ecosystem and could be of interest for investments, sponsorship activations, etc.

In an effort to focus on the esports ecosystem, the ranking excludes games that don’t have a relevant esports scene such as Minecraft and Grand Theft Auto V. Furthermore, the metric does not account for the Chinese market as Twitch was blocked in the country in September 2018. Consequently, the Chinese PC player base is filtered out before calculating the Impact Index.

  • The six KPIs (and their respective weights) are:
  • Monthly active users on PC: 30%
  • Distributed prize pools: 25%
  • Twitch esports hours watched: 20%
  • Total Twitch hours watched: 15%
  • Number of tournaments: 5%
  • Concurrent twitch streams: 5%

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