Call of Duty, Halo are also popular in many states
Esports Betting Report

Overwatch Is Most Popular Esport In 18 States, New Research Shows

Overwatch popularity
In the world of sports, football has always reigned as America’s favorite. But when it comes to esports, Overwatch appears to be king.

Using data collected over the course of a year — starting in September of 2016 — EsportsEarnings and Frontier Communications collaborated to identify the most popular esports by state. They used the relationships between highest earning titles and Google Trends of esports in the United States.

Globally, Overwatch hardly stacks up against the gargantuan communities behind prominent titles such as League of Legends or Dota 2. Variation in esport interest across individual countries is common. But, new intelligence is helping us understand the unprecedented professional gaming sphere on a more precise scale.

Here is a look at each state’s favorite esport, according to the research:

Esports by state

Overwatch in America

Overwatch is dominating American gaming enthusiasts’ time like never before. Blizzard’s recently launched Overwatch League is reframing how pro-gaming competitions operate, propelling the game to new levels.

The success of Overwatch is indisputable. Being watched more frequently than any other esport in 18 states, its popularity is vividly seen and reflected.

The current predominance of American Overwatch professionals is provided clarity by these statistics. It accesntuates the United States as being a hub for the sci-fi first-person shooter. With an inflated interest, a region is more easily able to generate talent over time. Other regions may have less motivation in understanding and playing a game competitively.

Overwatch leads supreme in most of the West Coast, earning the No. 1 spot in California, Nevada, Arizona and Oregon. The west is also home to America’s first dedicated esports stadiums. Those are the Blizzard Arena (Los Angeles) and the planned Luxor arena (Las Vegas).

Call of Duty and Halo

Call of Duty and Halo are titles whose similarities have historically clashed by their nature of both being successful first-person shooters, and they both boast intriguing statistics to probe.

In the case of Activision’s Call of Duty, the title is not as popular in the west. It’s noteworthy that there is a large cluster on the East Coast in which Call of Duty is most popular, in 14 states to be exact. Being a more global game than Halo, the hearty talent pool of American pros in the Call of Duty World League is better explained when acknowledging its substantial presence in the states.

While the overall popularity has appeared to dwindle over the years for Halo, its global audience has increased overtime. Halo’s long-standing competitive scene spawned in the United States. Now expanding through Europe, the game boasts a more global interest as well as gaining some international talent. Although fundamental changes sent the game on a bit of a decline, Halo’s most elite spartans are still produced in the US, primarily throughout the Midwest.

FIFA dominating the Northeast

One of the best-selling franchises of all time, FIFA, doesn’t sell out stadiums like other esports have shown. Sports-simulation games are by all means fun to play and can be highly competitive, It’s just not as exciting to watch when compared to actual sports themselves. EA Sports recently announced its FIFA eWorld Cup, advertised as its largest tournament ever, likely to shift some attention towards the game.

In the data provided by Frontier, FIFA is the most-watched esport in New York, Connecticut, Maryland and Washington, D.C. The small yet concentrated area in which the less trendy esport thrives is an interesting contraction. Soccer in the United States is not all that popular. Yes, it has gained a ton of momentum in the last several years. However it still lags behind much of the world in terms of engagement.

Growing up in Connecticut, I can attest to the weighty accent of soccer in these regions as well the heated FIFA competitions among friends. According to EsporstEarnings however, FIFA’s best players are still coming from outside the US.

Top tier esports in the United States

In this data-driven conversation of esports in the United States, it’s important to understand the relevance of games in professional gaming. Each game has different sizes and calibers of audiences. While Overwatch currently dominates the American gaming world, this doesn’t reflect the global popularity. Although there’s no ‘official’ ranking of esports, you can break games into tiers based off Twitch viewership and prize pools:

While games like League of Legends, Dota 2, CS:GO and Hearthstone are considerably the biggest esports in the world, their influence in the United States is limited. Americans have historically fallen short of their international competitors due to the advanced infrastructures for titles such as StarCraft in Korea, for example, hindering its local interest. Despite this, Dota 2 is identified as being Washington’s favorite.

Not only does the Northwestern state show a high interest in an unlikely subject given its geographic location, it’s also considered one of the top cities for esports in the world. Home to Microsoft, Valve and Nintendo of America, Seattle is a pinnacle for competitive gaming.

Back to the concept of Dota 2, Seattle had been home to the premier Dota 2 tournament, The International, for several years. The tournament congregates the world’s best Dota 2 teams to compete for prize pools in the tens of millions. Despite Dota 2 being an outlier in this study, it’s presence in Washington comes as little surprise.

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Cody Luongo
- ESPN eSports analyst, Master's of Science and exploring the intricacies of competitive gaming. A communication specialist driven by understanding esports as a business and helping drive it to the next level of viewership & engagement. Favorite hobbies include sniping in Halo 2 and playing paintball on Sundays.