The CIS is a region that differs from the rest of the world in terms of esports disciplines and preferences. Namely, Dota 2 and CS:GO have such a large following in the region that matches with teams from these countries routinely gather an incredible number of viewers.
In our article, we will tell you about the disciplines that were the most popular in the CIS in 2020, the games that have shown the most growth, how the pandemic affected the region as a whole, how large the audience of Russian-language broadcasts is, and which esports studio was the most successful in terms of statistics.
To calculate statistics, we analyzed all Russian-language esports channels on Twitch, YouTube, Facebook, VK, Steam.tv, Goodgame, Trovo and AfreecaTV. Our analysis has encompassed a total of 1.5K tournaments and more than 12K matches with the participation of CIS-based teams.
How many viewers are watching esports in the CIS?
To find out the number of unique CIS-based viewers, we reviewed all the esports events over the past year. In total, 5.8M unique viewers attended the Russian-language broadcasts in 2020. Only the viewers who spent at least one minute on a broadcast were taken into account.
YouTube, in turn, has a wide variety of disciplines that are radically different from the Twitch trends. The platform’s top primarily features mobile esports in the form of PUBG Mobile, Free Fire, and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang.
We can get more clarity from comparing the mobile disciplines with PC disciplines from Blizzard, which are now streamed only on YouTube. For example, Free Fire had five times more views than Hearthstone. For other Blizzard disciplines, this indicator is even lower.
We can conclude that the pandemic and the absence of both the major competitions (in the form of The International) and the offline events did not particularly affect the region’s final result. Organizers and teams have quickly adapted to the online format, and hours watched in the second half of 2020 (compared to the second half of 2019) grew by 277%.
The most popular disciplines in the CIS in 2020
The Russian-language esports broadcasts in 2020 amounted to a total of 200M hours watched. The indicator has grown by 10% compared to 2019.
The main preferences of the CIS-based viewers saw no changes throughout the years. Dota 2 remained the most popular game in 2020 in this region, but its result in terms of hours watched became 2.6% worse compared to 2019.
While the global interest in Dota 2 faded away due to the absence of The International, the CIS was only minimally affected by the pandemic and the cancellation of the main tournaments: the discipline was responsible for 51.4% of the total number of region’s hours watched. A comparison between the second halves of 2019 and 2020 shows a 245% worth increase in airtime.
When it comes to the Dota 2 competitions, EPIC League Season 2 Division 1 contributed the most to the total number of hours watched in the CIS: 5.7%.
CS:GO remained the second most popular discipline in the CIS. In 2020, the game’s hours watched grew by 31% compared to 2019, accounting for 33% of the total hours watched of Russian-language broadcasts. Leading among these tournaments in terms of contribution is ESL Pro League Season 11 Europe (3.5%).
The League of Legends may be the dominant discipline worldwide, but not in the CIS. LoL hours watched accounted for only 5% of the total and the game set a new record for the peak Russian-speaking viewers – more than 100K of them watched the broadcast. However, other disciplines in the CIS have shown even more growth.
Which disciplines in the CIS have grown the most?
Despite the fact that Dota 2 and CS: GO have dominated the industry for years, this does not prevent other disciplines from developing and pushing back these already “old-school” esports titles. As such, we have determined the disciplines that have shown the largest increase in hours watched in 2020 compared to 2019.
Demonstrating the largest growth was Call of Duty, namely the Warzone battle royale – its hours watched grew by 2006% compared to 2019. Last year, the CIS-based players started to participate in European tournaments, which helped to expand the discipline’s audience.
One of these participants was Dmitry “Recrent” Osintsev, a former NAVI PUBG player who returned to the organization in 2021 as a content creator and streamer. During the year, he twice gathered 30K peak viewers on his broadcasts at Warzone tournaments conducted as part of Twitch Rivals.
When it comes to the main game mode, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare hasn’t improved its performance at all. While all the action revolves around Call of Duty League, it only airs in English – so the league has no audience in other languages.
The second and third spots were taken by such mobile titles as Brawls Stars and PUBG Mobile. Nowadays, the development of mobile esports can be seen all over the world, with the broadcasts gathering millions of viewers – which is also true for the CIS.
Mobile MOBA Brawl Stars has shown 1311% growth compared to 2019. For example, at the discipline’s most important event, Brawl Stars World Finals 2019, there were 7K Russian-speaking peak viewers – and at the same event in 2020, this indicator grew to 39K.
PUBG Mobile hours watched increased by 842%. In 2020 the game’s CIS scene expanded tremendously thanks to the new local competitions that were streamed on Twitch and YouTube. This was also influenced by the Russian-speaking teams - Natus Vincere, Konina Power, and 1218. Besides, the teams themselves earned high spots in international competitions.
The most popular esports studios in the CIS
When it comes to the studios, we considered the broadcasts of Maincast, RuHub, WePlay Esports, UCC, Starladder, Moon Studio, and GamePlane. Our calculations took into account only the broadcasts that took place on the channels of the studios themselves.
Maincast, with its 6.7K hours on air, became the most popular Russian-language esports studio in 2020. The studio broadcasted Dota 2, CS:GO, StarCraft II, Quake, and FIFA competitions. The second spot was taken by RuHub, which had 30% fewer hours watched – although the channel was on air only 200 hours less.
Aside of dominating the CIS, csgomc_ru and dota2ruhub entered the top 25 most popular Twitch channels in 2020.
This year, WePlay Esports got Dota 2, CS:GO, and Valorant, therefore we saw OMEGA League, WeSave! Charity Play, and Valorant Invitational on their channels – and the very beginning of the year even featured the LAN WePlay! Dota 2 Tug of War Mad Moon in Dota 2. At the end of 2020, the organizers held a fighting game tournament, which, however, was not included in our calculations due to its absence of a Russian-language broadcast.
Moon Studio is a Ukrainian studio that covers Dota 2 and CS:GO tournaments, they also organize their own events both in the CIS and in the Asian market.
UCC Studio is an effective broadcasting studio from Kirov. In 2020, they dealt with the most disciplines from our top (seven in total). The team itself organizes tournaments from betting services and broadcasts these same tournaments on its own Twitch channels.
GamePlane studio focused on two disciplines in 2020 – Brawl Stars and Hearthstone. They covered such major tournaments as Brawl Stars World Finals and Hearthstone World Championship 2020, reaching 1M hours watched in 698 hours of airtime.
Mobile esports saves the local scene
Even though the figures shown by the CIS are in the millions, the main share of these was made up of the top CS:GO and Dota 2 competitions with the participation of the region’s favorites, NAVI and Virtus.pro. At the same time, the audience of tier-2-3 scenes is 10 times less – for example, BTS Pro Series Season 4 Europe/CIS gathered only 21K peak viewers, while the majors gather up to 200K Russian-speaking viewers.
Should we take a look at the local tournaments in the CIS countries, the situation becomes even worse, with the audience for these events being estimated at mere thousands of people. This state of things is gradually enhanced by mobile esports, which allows even the local competitions (such as the Kazakh competitions by Altel) to show good results, not to mention the world championships.
While the mobile scene is still a sort of a dubious novelty for this particular region, a look at Asian countries shows us the lasting and utter domination of mobile gaming. It is quite likely that in 2021 the competitions in mobile esports titles will become relevant for CIS-based organizations.
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