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ESPORTS: LoL draws massive viewership, Warzone trails far behind at Esports World Cup

The Esports World Cup in Saudi Arabia concluded its first two tournaments over the weekend, crowning champions in League... Paolo | 8. July 2024

The Esports World Cup in Saudi Arabia concluded its first two tournaments over the weekend, crowning champions in League of Legends and Call of Duty: Warzone.

The tournaments have seen a different level of viewership, with one esport proving to be a guaranteed viewership draw.

Record Viewership for League of Legends

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(Photo courtesy: Esports Charts)

Data from esports statistics provider Esports Charts show that the League of Legends tournament drew over a million peak viewers, with 1.11 million tuning in at its peak, making it the third most-watched League of Legends event of 2024. The tournament featured eight teams, including major names like T1, Bilibili Gaming, Gen.G, and Team Liquid. On average, 565,000 viewers followed the action over just 22 hours of air time. Korea’s T1 emerged victorious, defeating China’s Top Esports in the grand finals. T1 was also the most-watched team, generating around 8.8 million hours watched.

Warzone Tournament Performance

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(Photo by Jianhua Chen/Esports World Cup)

The Warzone tournament saw significantly lower viewership, peaking at just over 135,000 viewers, making it the second most-watched Warzone event of the year. With 19.5 hours of air time, the tournament averaged 76,180 viewers. The event was won by the home team, Team Falcons, after eight matches. Despite its success, the Warzone event fell short compared to previous years and did not make it into the top 50 tournaments by peak viewership.

In addition to League of Legends and Warzone, the first week of the Esports World Cup also saw the start of tournaments in Mobile Legends: Bang Bang and Dota 2.

Criticisms

Despite the viewership records, many have criticized the Esports World Cup for being promoting “esportswashing,” or trying to shield the country’s controversial human rights record through esports. 

However, the program has also sponsored 30 teams for the Esports World Cup Club Support Program. This gives teams a one-time six-figure stipend if an organization is willing to enter new esports as well as additional funding each year if they drive viewership and fan engagement to the Esports World Cup. 

Saudi Arabia’s increasing investments in esports has sparked intense online criticism over the country’s stance on women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and censorship. Some industry voices have described Saudi Arabia’s involvement in competitive gaming as “esportswashing,” suggesting it is an effort to divert attention from its human rights record, as well as its brutal treatment of journalists following the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

However, the multitude of esports viewership and revenue is expected to make a mark, with the outcome of the event potentially influencing the esports calendar and visibility of brands in the esports scene.