The world of video games has come a long way. Where competitive gaming once meant sharing a TV screen with player two, nowadays, anyone with enough talent can make a living playing video games to sold-out crowds for multi-million dollar prize pools. Esports is the name of the game for these elite players, a global industry worth $1.3 billion that counts some 261 million fans worldwide.
But, like with any sport, you’ve got to put the hours in if you want to be the very best at a particular game. You’ve also got to keep an eye on your fiercest competition, which in gaming, could be on the other side of the world. That’s where online leaderboards like Exophase come in, enabling millions of gamers across the globe to stack achievements, track their progress and rise up the ranks.
With this in mind, Guide Strats wondered: using Exophase’s leaderboards as an insight, where in the world can you find the most elite players of some of the most popular games on the market? And from shooters to driving games, which countries boast the best players of a particular game genre?
Focusing on the most relevant titles of the industry such as FIFA 2023, Hogwarts Legacy, Fortnite, Rocket League, COD: Modern Warfare II, and other games of relevance for their large number of players at a competitive level, we went in search of answers. Read on to discover our findings.
What We Did
We first put together a seed list of popular PlayStation games overall and across five key genres: driving, shooting, sports, fighting and Soulsborne. We then searched each game on Exophase.com, a website where gamers can track their progress in a game and rank on leaderboards, to discover which countries are home to the most high-achieving players (i.e., elite gamers) per 10 million of the population.
- The UK boasts 614.4 elite gamers per 10 million people — more than any other country
- The UK’s gamers are also the best at COD: Modern Warfare II (21.3 elite gamers per 10 million people) and FIFA 2023 (40.9 elite gamers per 10 million people)
- Saudi Arabia is the best at Fortnite, counting 27.3 elite gamers per 10 million people
- Norway’s gamers are the best at Hogwarts Legacy (20 elite gamers per 10 million people)
The UK Is Home to the Most Elite Gamers per 10 Million People
The Exophase leaderboards reveal that the strong dominates the video game world, boasting more elite players (614.4) per 10 million of the population than any other country. Some of the most famous gamers from the UK include YouTube and Twitch sensations like KSI, DanTDM, LDShadowlady and Zerkaa. In esports, gamers from the UK have been awarded a combined $38.2 million over 6,744 tournaments to date.
Finland ranks next (561.6 elite gamers per 10 million people), where the Finland Promotion Board writes that “gaming is deeply ingrained in the culture,” but foreign video games are more popular than games produced at home. Meanwhile, the U.S. places 18th in our ranking with a count of 229.6 elite players per 10 million people, despite boasting more active esports competition players than any other country.
Belgium Is the Best at Driving Games, While Portugal Dominates in Fighting
Next, the leaderboards gave us an insight into where you’ll find the best players of a particular game genre. When it comes to driving games like 2022’s Gran Turismo 7, Belgium’s players come top, boasting 132.8 elite gamers per 10 million people. Perhaps gamers there are eager to try their hand at hurtling around the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, the host track of the Belgian Grand Prix that has featured in plenty of video games.
Meanwhile, Portugal is the very best at fighting games (53.7 elite players per 10 million people), and Japan counts the most elite players (125.5 per 10 million people) of Soulsborne games, the name given to a series of games (including Elden Ring) developed by Japanese company FromSoftware Inc.
The UK boasts the highest proportion (127.1) of elite players in sports games; one game, in particular, seems to be a clear favorite…
Soccer-Mad UK Gamers Are the Best at FIFA 23
To say the Brits love their football (or soccer) is an understatement; a national survey found that one in two people in the UK takes an interest in the sport. It’s no wonder then that the UK is home to more elite players (40.9) of FIFA 2023 — the latest and final installment of the soccer video game franchise — per 10 million of the population than any other country. The FIFA franchise overall is the UK’s best-selling video game franchise to date, with the real-life Premier League even holding its own FIFA tournaments.
Although soccer is hugely popular in South America and Africa, Europe dominates our ranking of the countries that boast the most elite FIFA 2023 players in relation to the population. Europe certainly has its fair share of players — the game ranks as 2022’s most-sold video game in every single country on the continent.
Gamers in Norway Lead the World in Hogwarts Legacy
From billion-dollar movies to popular theme parks, you don’t have to be a Harry Potter fan to understand the global scope of the Wizarding World franchise. Hogwarts Legacy, the franchise’s latest offering, is an action role-playing video game that — despite widespread boycotts — made a staggering $850 million in sales within the first two weeks of its release. It’s a hit the world over, but it’s Norway’s gamers that play it the best, boasting 20 elite players per 10 million of the population.
Over on Twitch, Hogwarts Legacy earned the distinction of being the most-watched title in the first four days after release. Streamers benefited from ad revenue, too; according to one study, the most-viewed Hogwarts Legacy streamer made thousands of dollars within just one day of playing.
Saudi Arabia’s Gamers Are the Best at Fortnite
Counting 350 million players, Fortnite is one of the world’s most popular video games. But it’s Saudi Arabia — where Fortnite is the most popular game with the country’s youth — that boasts the most elite players (27.3) per 10 million people. Back in the summer of 2022, the Gamers8 esports tournament in Riyadh saw Fortnite gamers compete for a massive $15 million prize pot. The tournament is set to be back in 2023 with an even bigger $45 million prize pool up for grabs.
Spain comes next, counting 13.9 elite gamers per 10 million people. Back in 2018, Spanish YouTuber elrubiusOMG broke records when he organized a battle royale Fortnite match with 100 other YouTubers, garnering 1.1 million viewers over three hours.
After Brits, Finnish Gamers Play COD: Modern Warfare II the Best
Since 2003, the Call of Duty franchise (known as COD) has released installments every year but one, keeping its fans consistently hooked on realistic shooter action. The highest proportion of elite players of COD: Modern Warfare II — the series’ latest title — can be found in the UK (21.3 players per 10 million of the population), where the franchise ranks as the second most-bought to date. Finland, however, ranks close behind with a total of 18.1 elite players per 10 million people.
It may come as a surprise to those in the States that the U.S. doesn’t rank among the top 10 countries for Modern Warfare II; not only is Call of Duty the most followed esports franchise in the U.S., but nearly all of the highest-earning COD players in esports are American.
Which Countries Have the Best Gamers?
Just how good are gamers where you live? Explore our table below to view our full dataset, based on global leaderboards for some of the most popular games and game genres on the market.
So how can you level up your gaming ability?
According to Intel, some of the most important steps include joining a game’s community, equipping yourself with the right technology (like a gaming mouse) and practicing. Pro gamers put a lot of hours into honing their skills, with the British Esports Association writing that it’s not uncommon for gamers to fit in 10 or more hours of practice a day. You can also work on skills like your reaction time, which is around 200ms for a professional gamer (compared to the average gamer’s 300 – 500ms).
How We Did It
To start, we built a seed list of the most popular PlayStation games overall and across five key genres: driving, shooting, sports, fighting and Soulsborne. Soulsborne is the name given to games developed by FromSoftware Inc., including Demon’s Souls and Elden Ring.
We then found each game’s page on Exophase. This website allows players to track their progress towards a game’s PlayStation trophy achievements (challenges that test your aptitude at each game) and see how their progress ranks among other gamers on a leaderboard. This leaderboard also reveals the country of origin of each gamer.
To find the elite gamers for each game and genre, we pulled the first 20 pages of gamers on each game’s leaderboard (e.g., Rocket League’s leaderboard) and recorded their countries of origin.
We then ranked each country by their count of elite gamers across all games relative to each country’s population. This gave us the overall “best gamers” angle.
Elite gamer counts were grouped by the genre of games to also provide a ranking of the best countries for each genre.
The data for this analysis is correct as of July 2023.