COVID-19 , Games

How COVID-19 affected esports in League of Legends, CS:GO and Dota 2

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How COVID-19 affected esports in League of Legends, CS:GO and Dota 2

Last spring the majority of countries began to take measures to counter COVID-19. The global entertainment industry was put under threat due to the cancellation of public events. This also affected esports, where the era of online competition has returned in many disciplines: and it’s not good for teams.

A lot of esports players claim that the tournament's significance is vague as online matches turn into a routine. How has the viewers' approach to esports changed? Esports Charts analyzed the dynamics of League of LegendsCS:GO and Dota 2 esports on streaming services during the past year. And as it turns out, games survive the pandemic differently. Now let's break down each discipline one by one.

League of Legends was the leader by Hours Watched throughout the year. Q2 was the most successful for Dota 2 and CS:GO esports, yet they declined by the end of Q3. At the end of the year Valve disciplines started grow again by HW, but still could not compete with LoL even after Worlds 2020.

Stability of League of Legends

LoL was the only among three games that was less affected by COVID-19. Despite the fact that many regional leagues (including LEC and LCS) went online, the number of viewers on the broadcasts did not decrease. As expected, Peak Viewers was reached in the fall during Worlds, which was held offline. LoL esports also bypassed CS:GO and Dota 2by 1.6 and 2.2 times respectively by total Hours Watched on all platforms.

To compare League of Legends tournaments, we took the spring and summer LCK and LEC splits of the last two years, as well as the last two world championships. As you can see, the average number of viewers on broadcasts has increased during the coronavirus pandemic.

League of Legends esports scene also grew the most by Hours Watched, from 477M in 2019 to 579M in 2020. CS:GO tournametns were also watched more, but not Dota 2 that has lost about 15M Hours Watched in a year.

League of Legends viewers didn’t lose interest in esports scene after lockdown as its average number of viewers kept growing until Worlds. Fun fact though: Tyler1 remains the main streamer of League of Legends on Twitch, and his Hours Watched number in 2020 was two times bigger than the LEC and LCS leagues combined.

No The International in Dota 2 — No Party

Dota 2 suffers the most during COVID-19. Last year, only one out of four majors took place in Dota Pro Circuit. DPC events were replaced by online regional tournaments, which did not interest the viewers so much. Summer was the worst period for Dota 2 in 2020, but tournaments returned in fall so game started to grow by HW: mostly thanks to CIS community.

Dota 2 heavy relies on esports and TI in the first place. International tournaments in League of Legends are extremely important, but they are not the only ones as regional leagues taking up the majority of the season. CS:GO is also primarily aimed at international competitions, and now some offline activities are expected as all top teams moved to Europe.

Dota 2 esports scene is the only that has fallen by average number of viewers in 2020. CS:GO and League of Legends grew by a little, but Dota 2 fans were not that interested in non-DPC tournaments.

Interestingly, esports in Dota 2 accounts for almost 50% of total Hours Watched of the game throughout the year, while in CS:GO it's about 37% and 31% in League of Legends.

Lack of majors is not a problem for CS:GO

The entire competitive season in Dota 2 is strongly tied to Valve, who determines the priority tournament operators for the Majors and organizes The International itself, involving contractors. The situation is quite different in CS:GO, where tournament operators are given much more freedom of action, and the majors are important but are not the only big tournaments.

Competitive season 2020 in CS:GO has been divided into two large stages. First half of the year teams were locked up at home (which led to many regional online tournaments), and then the transformation of the scene began. Top American organizations started transferring their teams to Europe (more money, stronger competition), and other ceased operations in CS:GO.

Average number of viewers of the top CS:GO championships has also increased. If two years ago viewers often ignored the online stages of the competitions (ESL Pro League is an example), in 2020 they began to follow the championships much more actively. However, viewers are still mostly attracted by the majors or the biggest LANs (ESL One Cologne as an example), and in their absence the discipline is not ready to set new viewer records.

The best period for CS:GO was spring. In March, more than a million Peak Viewers watched IEM Katowice 2020 final between NAVI and G2 (a record of the year in the discipline).

CS:GO had been declining in summer due to the extension of quarantine, reshuffles and a player break. Since about October, the overall performance of the game has been growing, which is not least due to the huge popularity of Natus Vincere and Brazilian teams, as well as the relocation of some American teams to Europe.


Valve's games are more contingent than League of Legends. Both Dota 2 and CS:GO are closely tied to esports which was damaged by COVID-19 in 2020. The biggest interest in both games came in the spring, when the pandemic was just beginning.

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