If you were to look back at 2018's esports action, surveying the whole space from fighting games to MOBAs and everything in between, there are plenty of big moments that stand out. Every game has its own fairytale story and for every winner, there's always plenty of heartbreak handed out as narratives are written that make fans come back for more each time. And so we've collected together five of our favourite moments from across the competitive space in what's been a great year for esports.
5. Problem X gets big Evo win / Street Fighter V
The world of Street Fighter V is incredibly competitive, and the main event for every player is the Evo tournament that takes place in August. With so many big names like Victor 'Punk' Woodley and Hajime 'Tokido' Taniguchi present, one might have expected those big names to end up as champions, but what we got was something much more special.
Benjamin 'Problem X' Simon made the whole of Britain proud when he consistently got great results against some of the biggest names in the business, but maybe even he didn't believe he'd get to the winner's podium. His grand final was against Tokido, and while he lost the first match 3-2 to reset the bracket, he came back to storm the final match 3-0 and earn his place in history and our hearts.
4. Serral shocks BlizzCon / Starcraft 2
There was a lot of esports to pay attention to at BlizzCon back in November, but as time went by more eyes started turning to the StarCraft stage as Finnish player Joona 'Serral' Sotala got further in the competition. StarCraft has always been a game dominated by Korean talent, especially when it comes to BlizzCon, and the further Serral went the more people wanted him to make history by ending the losing streak for non-Koreans.
The stars aligned and in the grand final he looked strong against Kim 'Stats' Dae Yeob, taking home the trophy after a 4-2 win. The emotion showed on his face as he lifted the trophy, and you could tell the "home" crowd fully got behind him. After all, he had been doing well since early on in the competition, and if anyone was going to put a halt to Korean dominance in the field it was going to be him.
3. London Spitfire take off
Back in July Brooklyn's Barclays Center played host to the first ever Overwatch League finals, pitting London Spitfire and Philadelphia Fusion against one another in a battle for glory in this growing esports scene. These were already two surprise teams, beating favourites like New York Excelsior in the playoffs to come in as finalists, and the home crowd had Fusion to get behind as they took on the European London side (which was comprised of Korean players, it should be noted).
Not only did Spitfire put on a show by flexing their muscles and taking down Fusion in style, but the whole event showed the enthusiasm behind the league. DJ Khaled was there, big celebrities showed up, and Barclays Center was sold out. There was a taste for the Overwatch League, and with six more teams confirmed for Season 2, we can't wait to see that kick off again with Blizzard's hero-filled shooter continuing to do great things for the studio.
2. The Rise of Battle Royale
Okay, so battle royale wasn't strictly a 2018 things, as PUBG has been hosting tournaments since last year, but here it was stepped up a notch. Fortnite is the biggest name here, as Epic's Summer and Fall Skirmishes showed, and the biggest game in the world also opened up competitions to your average joe via the events tab in-game, letting anyone and everyone compete in this colourful and addictive free-for-all.
On top of that, we also had the H1Z1 Pro League earlier this year, more PUBG competitions, and the PUBG Mobile Star Challenge finals in Dubai. What's more is that Call of Duty has crossed into the field with Black Ops 4's Blackout mode, and while we've only seen a few tournaments like the Doritos Bowl, the mode's popularity means that we could see even more from this particular title in the future. All in all, if you're into esports and battle royale, this year has been a good one.
1. OG as International stars
The International is always a big moment in the esports calendar, and this year it broke records yet again with its prize pool of just over $25 million USD. This always turns heads, especially in the mainstream where people are surprised to see this much money flying around in the world of competitive gaming (with the prize money garnered with the help of Battle Pass sales in-game) but it was also the competition on show that attracted attention in Vancouver.
One might have expected Team Liquid or PSG.LGD to lift the trophy given their status, but OG came in as surprise winners, taking down the likes of Evil Geniuses to secure a final spot against PSG.LGD. This rematch of an earlier encounter that OG won was a tight affair, but OG came back from 2-1 down to make their mark on the esports world, and become a name to watch going into 2019.