eSports Betting Revolution: FIFA and NBA2k vs. Traditional Favorites

Josip Brajkovic
Josip Brajkovic
Published: 8.11.2023.

Just before the pandemic, eSports became a crucial component of any reputable sportsbook. It wasn't as prominent as it is today, but due to the pandemic and the COVID-19 situation, eSports emerged as an essential alternative for all sportsbooks when major live sports events were canceled or put on hold. eSports proved resilient to the challenges posed by the pandemic and experienced even greater growth during this period. In hindsight, the pandemic may have propelled eSports to new heights, but this trajectory seemed inevitable. Today, eSports is not merely a backup option during emergencies; it is actively striving to claim the top spot in the world of sports betting.

Real life sports simulations vs Traditional eSports games

While traditional eSports games like CS:GO, LoL, Dota, and others had already cultivated their audiences, the bookmaker's objective was to engage and retain traditional bettors' interest in eSports during the pandemic. This brings us to the evolution of betting on FIFA matches and NBA2k. According to the 2020 report from one of the largest betting providers, EveryMatrix, we can observe that within a matter of weeks, betting on eSports skyrocketed by a factor of 40. The significant surge was largely attributed to FIFA and NBA2k, which collectively accounted for 80% of all eSports bets. This report is based just on 10 bookmakers using EveryMatrixes feed, but we can assume that the market behaved similarly everywhere.

Biggest eSports games

The major eSports titles are CS:GO and LoL. While there is no globally available data to definitively establish which one generates the highest betting revenue, according to various sources, Counter-Strike claims the top spot, with few sources claiming it to be LoL. For instance, according to Esportsinsider, the eSports-focused bookmaker disclosed their 2020 data, revealing that Counter-Strike accounted for 53% of the revenue, with DOTA 2 and LoL following behind.


Counter-Strike, unlike other eGames, hosts high-caliber tournaments throughout the year. It features one or two majors annually, accompanied by numerous high-tier tournaments spread across the year. This provides viewers with the opportunity to witness top teams consistently competing throughout the year, while LoL viewers can see their favorite big teams just a couple of times per year.

CS:GO rules

The game format depends on the significance of the tournament and can be a best-of-one map, best-of-three maps, or best-of-five maps. To secure a win on a map, a team needs to achieve 16 rounds, and in the event of a tie at 15:15, overtime may be played. Rules may vary for certain special events.

Most popular betting markets for CS:GO are Moneyline, Rounds Totals and Handicap Rounds.


In 2023, the CS:GO Major in Paris, which featured a prize money pool of $15,759,498, was the third-most-watched eSports event of the year so far, garnering 1.5 million viewers. The second-place spot was secured by the LoL World Championship with 3 million viewers, while Mobile Legends: Boom Boom claimed the first place with 4.2 million viewers during their World Championship.

CS:GO also holds the lead in active teams playing the game which is more than 6k.

Dota 2

Dota 2 is among the games with the highest revenue, alongside CS:GO and LoL. The primary source at present is LOOT.Bet stats, underscoring the popularity of Dota 2. However, it's worth noting that despite predictions from sources like Business Research that anticipate LoL and Dota 2 dominating the betting revenue share in the future, there is a challenge with this assertion. Both Dota 2 and LoL are restricting gambling-related advertisements, while CS:GO permits such promotions. This difference is currently considered one of the reasons for CS:GO's prevailing dominance.

Game overview

Dota 2 is a multiplayer online battle arena played in two teams of 5 players, with each team defending their base on the map. Each player has his character known as “hero” which has unique abilities and style of play.

Players have to collect items and experience points in order to defeat the opposing team's heroes in a player versus player combat. First team who destroys the opponent’s “Ancient”, the large structure inside their base, wins the match.

Popular betting markets for DOTA 2: Moneyline, Game Handicap, Game Winner and Game Total Kills.

League of Legends

Played by millions in the world is one of the most popular eGames worldwide. Similar to DOTA 2 it will be played 5v5 and the goal is to destroy the opponents “Nexus” which lies in the opposition’s territory.

Popular betting markets for LoL: Moneyline, Correct score and Maps Over/Under

The League of Legends World Championship 2022 holds the second-highest viewership per event ever, boasting 5.1 million viewers. It narrowly trails behind the Free Fire World Series Singapore 2021, which secured the top spot with 5.4 million viewers.

FIFA and NBA2k

We will delve into some statistics to highlight the size difference between FIFA and NBA2k compared to the more traditional esports games.

The pandemic started the era of FIFA and NBA2k betting. Per Every Matrix report we can see that the number of eSports events skyrocketed in 2020 and surpassed even the number of sports from the same period in 2019.

In 2020, the eSports coverage increased to 54k, largely attributable to the inclusion of FIFA and NBA2K in their offerings. This is a significant difference from the 29k traditional sports games offered during the same period in the previous year.


A gameplay that simulates real events, where a player controls an entire team of 11 players. It is played in a series of leagues, including licensed top leagues such as Bundesliga 1 and 2, LaLiga 1 and 2, Serie A and B, Premier League, EFL Championship, Ligue 1 and 2, FIFA World Cup, Champions League, and many others. The game is played in two halves of 4,5 or 6 minutes, depending on the series.

Popular betting markets are : Totals, Winner and Both to score.

FIFA numbers

Given the significantly larger number of fixtures offered compared to traditional eSports games, it's challenging to anticipate viewership reaching the levels seen, for example, in a LoL World Championship. The most-watched event in 2023 was the FIFA Sports Cup with 130k viewers. The major events of 2023 feature prize pools of up to $1,000,000.


A gameplay that simulates the real game where a player controls his whole team. The game length can be adjusted from a couple of minutes until a full 12 minutes per quarter.

Popular betting markets : Spread, Totals and Moneyline.

NBA2k numbers

NBA2k has way lower numbers in prize money, which is expected considering the high number of matches played during the year.

The highest ever prize money was for the 2020 Finals tournament with 1.4 Million and the highest viewership was The Coinbase 3v3 Slam Open in 2022 with 68k viewers.

FIFA and NBA2k beating the big names?

The main driving force in esports during the pandemic wasn't necessarily the biggest titles like LoL, CS:GO, DOTA2, Valorant, or Call of Duty, but FIFA and NBA2k. The majority of online betting revenue is generated by traditional sports. The global revenue was estimated at 70 billion dollars in 2021, with eSports contributing 1.3 billion in 2021. With the onset of the pandemic, it was quite natural for traditional bettors to shift towards FIFA and NBA2K, games they were more familiar with. Therefore, it was not surprising that these specific games generated the highest revenue.

The potential of eSports

Per Escharts you will see that in the lists of the top games you will never see FIFA and NBA2k, but in the betting world they do dominate the eSports space for now.


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