Esports enthusiasts have been treated to a magnificent year as records were smashed, viewing figures reached an all-time high and legends were born. The calendar has been absolutely packed full of excitement, drama and intrigue as some of the greatest talents in the world have battled it out for fame and fortune. Here are the 10 defining moments that shaped 2018 in the wonderful world of esports:
Fortnite steals PUBG’s crown
This year saw Fortnite become the most popular game in the world after attracting more than 200 million players. It left rival battle royale game PUBG in its shade, raking in more than $1 billion. It is being blamed for divorce, kids have been caught playing it in class and its popularity shows no signs of slowing down. The most significant announcement from an esports perspective came in May, when developer Epic Games announced it will provide $100 million to fund prize pools for Fortnite tournaments during the first year of competition. That will see it become the biggest global esport by a comfortable distance in terms of prize money, and soon the highest earning stars of all time are likely to be Fortnite players.
Records are shattered at the Worlds
A record-breaking 205 million people tuned in to watch Invictus beat Fnatic in the League of Legends World Championship Grand Final. That saw it eclipse the Super Bowl in viewing figures and become one of the most popular sporting events in history. It is by far and away the most watched esports showdown of all time and fans are already looking ahead to next year’s Worlds in Paris. Most of those Grand Final viewers were in China, but many people in Europe and North America watched the Worlds, as the esports viewership record was consistently broken throughout the tournament.
Astralis bolsters trophy cabinet in style
Astralis utterly dominated the CS:GO scene in 2018 and the Danes earned their seventh trophy of the year with a flawless victory over Team Liquid at IEM Chicago last month. The 3-0 win cemented their status as the world’s best team, following on from a 2-0 sweep of Natus Vincere at the FACEIT Major 2018. Parent company RFRSH Entertainment has just closed a €10.5 million funding round to fuel further success, and Astralis are likely to be a popular choice when it comes to esports betting at Unikrn due to their supremacy.
Ninja becomes a cover star
Fortnite streamer Ninja became the first esports player to grace the cover of ESPN magazine. The 27-year-old has already racked up more than 20 million followers on YouTube and he broke records on Twitch after playing with the rapper Drake in an outrageously popular stream. “Ninja has achieved what no other gamer has before: mainstream fame,” wrote the ESPN article’s author. “With 11 million Twitch followers and climbing, he commands an audience few can dream of. In April, he logged the most social media interactions in the entire sports world, beating the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Shaquille O’Neal and Neymar.”
OG lives up to its name
European team OG went into the main event at The International 2018 with relatively low expectations after finishing fourth in the group stage. Defending champions Team Liquid finished top of the pile with a 13-3 record and KuroKy and co were expected to clinch victory once more. But OG made short work of VGJ.Storm in the quarters and pulled off a sensational 2-1 victory over Evil Geniuses in the semi-final. Team Liquid crashed out in a shock 2-0 defeat at the hands of PSG.LGD in their semi, and OG held their nerve to beat PSG.LGD 2-1. That made star player JerAx and captain N0tail the highest earning esports stars of 2018, and N0tail is now second only to KuroKy as the second highest earning esports player of all time.
Dignitas downs NRG in overtime
The Copper Box Arena in London was absolutely rocking as Team Dignitas and NRG played out one of the most intriguing esports clashes ever seen. Dignitas lost to NRG in the upper bracket, but went on to dominate the lower competition, force a bracket reset and surge into the Grand Final. They had the perfect opportunity to gain revenge and they raced into a 3-1 lead. But NRG battled back to make it 3-3 and force a winner-takes all final match. Dignitas led the decider 3-2, but a last gasp goal from NRG’s jstn sent the contest into overtime. However, NRG’s heroics proved futile as Dignitas claimed the golden goal in overtime and brought an end to a pulsating spectacle.
Uzi finally clinches silverware
Uzi has long been considered one of the greatest ADC stars in LoL history, but until this year his trophy cabinet was utterly barren. That all changed in May as he carried RNG to LPL and Mid-Season International glory, cementing his status as a legend of the game. He was exceptional throughout the MSI and many are now questioning whether he has overtaken Faker as LoL’s greatest star.
Pine earns Big Boss moniker
Superstar Overwatch collective New York Excelsior made a blistering start to the year and Pine truly earned his Big Boss nickname with some supremely dominant performances in short bursts of mayhem. Pine’s demolition of his rivals in a ranked game on Lijang Tower in March was a thing of beauty, as he crept up on the team and picked them all off with consistent headshots until they were all lying dead. His play has become an on-going highlight reel, particularly with McCree, and fans will hope to see more of him in 2019.
Drake jumps aboard the bandwagon
The Canadian hit maker gave esports a timely boost in the credibility stakes via his stream with Ninja, but he went one better in October by investing in 100 Thieves. He has teamed up with such luminaries as former Call of Duty pro Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag, Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and entertainment mogul Scooter Braun to back the team and the future looks extremely bright for 100T.
London Spitfire guns down the opposition
The Spitfire emerged as the champions in the inaugural season of Overwatch by swatting aside Philadelphia Fusion in a sold-out Barclays Center in Brooklyn. That 3-0 win handed the British team a $1 million grand prize and a shiny new trophy to take back to London. Jun-Young “Profit” Park walked off with the MVP award and the Spitfire look like the team to beat in 2019.