So many are still in shock over the recent massive earnings that have been reported in the esports space – aka video gaming. (Dads who predicted a hopeless future for their gamer boys back in the day. Step forward…)
Hundreds? Thousands? Not in the ballpark. Guess what? In recent times, the space has generated and handed out MILLIONS of dollars to its members, year after year!
You may well imagine where the world of esports is going to go just in the next few years when it’s already a money tree in its infancy.
But, listen, there’s also a dark side to the story. The industry being at full throttle does not mean there’s easy money in it. Not at all.
Every pro video gamer that competes for money has to give in excess of 8 hours of their time daily to practice a game, typically. Worse, there’s still no guarantee of constant long-term cashflows.
Having said that, lots of famous pros do manage to make a pretty nice living through gaming. How much do they make? Let’s talk about it (and a lot of other interesting stuff) below.
Table of Contents
How Esports Generates Money for Players
Basically, esports is not yet fully regularized so there’s no definite income figure for players.
The pattern on which gamers get paid is pretty much the same as that for regular athletes and sportsmen.
Yes, there’s a lot of difference in what they do but, you’ve got to admit, videogamers are no less celebs. They are followed and doted on by fans just like athletes.
And so, this throws in a factor of commercialism in this whole thing.
Since esports superstars have fans worldwide, top global companies like Coca Cola, Toyota, T-Mobile, rush to sponsor them.
And, where there’s sponsorship there’s money. Right?
The point is, these giant sponsors take it upon themselves to fund and pay for players, events, tournaments and everyone involved makes a killing as a result.
On top of sponsorships, there are several other complex revenue streams for players further mystifying the income scene.
So, to better grasp the scene, let’s next go through multiple sources gamers use to make money.
Sources of Income for Esports Pro Players
Well, most pro players in the space have got many irons in the fire. The money rolls in from different contract-based or occasional sources.
What are those? Let’s find out!
Cutting to the chase, an average ‘salaried’ pro gamer can earn about $4,000 to $5,000 per month or $50,000 to $60,000 in a year.
But, that’s just a raw estimate. Players can make more (or less) than that.
The amount a player receives being part of a league depends on two Ps: performance and popularity.
The better skilled and more popular a player, the higher his or her pay.
Talking of leagues, some of them even offer millions of dollars per year to their best talent.
The Overwatch League, for instance, can pony up around $50,000 to $5,000,000 to its players depending on their level of gaming.
And, that’s definitely not bad compensation for indulging in something you’re so crazy about, is it?
This is also an incredible source of income for gamers – $1,200 to $2000 per month!
They get paid to stream live on YouTube, Facebook, or Twitch while playing a game they excel at so people can watch them as they play.
Among streaming platforms Twitch is most popular with daily user traffic of 15 million.
A Twitch streamer can really make a fortune if he plugs away at improving his viewership. But the snag is that most pro players fall short of time to dedicate to streaming.
Viewers want to see their rockstars stream daily, sometimes even all day.
So, making the time for streaming and retaining their fans is a challenge for most players.
One of the highest-paid streamers Ninja (Tyler Blevins) earns about $500,000 from his subscriptions. While another pro gamer Jeremy Wangs rakes in $10,000 from pre-roll ads only.
Well, yeah… that’s lucrative. To say the least!
Prizes and Rewards
Now let’s come down to the big carrot, the jackpot that esports offers: tournament prize money.
Did you know the total prize money awarded to participants in the 10th International (Dota 2 annual championship) was a whopping $40 million dollars?
Well, you’ve got to give credit to the Dota 2 developers for that. Don’t you think so?
Because it’s pretty cool that they have broken all records for the biggest prize pools back-to-back in the last decade.
Another great thing about these tournaments is that the money is not usually for the winner to take home only. All contestants get a share (the lion’s share goes to the winner, obviously!).
So, there’s a lot of Herculean effort: intense practice, sleepless nights, burning the midnight oil, but it can all pay off for the gamer at these competitions eventually.
Famous videogame stars also make tremendous money from merchandising.
They get paid by brands and companies to promote their products while they stream, compete, do interviews or are simply out to take a walk in public.
For example, it’s very common for gamers to be seen wearing branded T-shirts, using logoed tech stuff, etc.
According to esports revenues for 2021, merchandising and tickets injected $66.6 million into the esports industry. Colossal, right?
Many believe that esports merchandising is going to go through the roof as the space becomes hotter in the coming years.
So, the prospect is bright and, you never know, you may even see esports merchandise on a par with, say, WWE or NBA in a few years’ time.
Newzoo claimed that media rights contributed about 192.6 million dollars to the esports space in 2021. And, of course, the money was split between players, managers, organizers and distributors.
So, that’s also one of the many ways esports players earn big time.
Again, players with a strong social media following and high gaming video content (GVC) viewership rate will take the lead and attract the highest bidders.
They deserve it. Told you, they are no less celebs!
Can Anyone Make a Fortune in Esports?
Unfortunately, no! Not every Tom, Dick or Harry is going to earn millions of dollars in esports.
Esports does offer silly money but those who deserve it get it.
That means, a part-timer playing a round or two of PUBG or Counter-Strike after work, just for fun, shouldn’t dream of getting anything out of this space.
The space offers you fun – for free. Get it, enjoy yourself and move on…
However, those who looked beyond the fun part and turned their gaming passion into a full-time job did get what’s beyond plain sensual fun: briefcases.
Or, briefcases stuffed with dollar bills, to be precise.
Now, let’s take a look at the top 3 esports players so far and how much they’ve raked in.
Top 3 Players – And Their Humongous Earnings
NOtail, actual name: John Sundstein, has topped all charts of esports earnings by becoming the highest-paid gamer in esports history.
He is the captain of a Dota 2 team called ‘OG’, and had pulled in about $7 million by the end of 2021.
NOtail started playing Dota 2 at the age of 15 and, today, he’s not just the top earner but a legend player in Dota 2.
Jesse Vainikka or, as he’s known by fans, JerAx, is the second-highest esports earner in history.
He made around $6.4 million.
He was on the same team as NOtail and played Dota 2 in a supporting role.
With incredible gaming skills composed of whip-smart strategy and swift response, JerAx proved himself an authority in the Dota 2 space.
He retired in 2020 after 12 years of competitive gaming, with a pretty nice figure in his bank to rest on.
Anatham “Ana” Pham dropped out of school to follow his dreams.
He got into Dota 2 when he was quite young and then moved to Shanghai to play with Invictus Gaming. After that, he switched to the team OG.
He is, no doubt, one of the most competitive players the space has ever seen.
He’s a true gaming pro, in every sense of the word. For him, the game is more important than the money.
Hitherto, he’s bagged about $6 million from winning major tournaments.
In the long haul, he’s likely going to make his way up, to the top of the ladder.
Tips for Esports Beginners to Make a Living
Alright, looking at the top gamers (and their earnings) you may now be itching to drop out of school, make a mid-30’s career change, or quit your job to dedicate your life to gaming too.
Don’t do that. Don’t burn your bridges to enter the gaming space. That could be the ultimate step though.
First, to make a start, begin with what you already have and what you can do easily.
Here’s a list of things you can consider doing to set the wheels rolling and up your chances of making a buck as an esports beginner.
- Spend more time practicing
- Specialize in ONE game
- Acquire the best possible gaming set-up
- Start streaming live
- Attend tournaments
- Build a social media profile
- Volunteer at Esports events
- Create a strong team
- Network with pros
Following those tips you could kick-start your career in esports. If you work intensely, you may well make a name for yourself quickly.
And, when you do feel the money rolling into your bank account you may then think about diving into the space full-time!
The Bottom Line
And, now let’s sum it all up for you.
The esports space has tremendous potential. It’s full of possibilities. The top-notch players make millions. The average are able to make a decent living.
But, even to land in the average category, a great deal of effort is required on your part. Just to push through the competition.
Those who have made it big in esports are the type that has become institutionalized. The game is their story, the screen is their world. It’s their life.
That’s the reason they say, don’t take the plunge into esports unless it’s your burning passion! (In simple words, say, if you can’t put up with excessive screen time, esports is NOT your calling.)
Lastly, if you consider yourself an esports fanatic, the above shared tips for beginners can be a great start for you too. Get started with them and they’ll take you somewhere definitely.
Alright, let’s interact below. Mention the videogame YOU are passionate about. Also, have you been able to monetize your passion?