Whoever says you are wasting your life playing video games has no idea that some gamers make a very comfortable living as esports players. With 43 million unique viewers tuning in to watch The 2016 League of Legends Finals, the unconventional sport has reached startling heights. So we know that eSports players make money, but where does that money come from?
It goes without saying that salaries vary by player, team, and other factors such as reputation, skill and social following. Unfortunately, the industry lacks the transparency when it comes to this matter, which makes it tough for players to find out what a fair compensation is.
In 2015, Ember, a North American League of Legends team was the first organisation to disclosed player salaries. In its statement, the organisation encouraged absolute transparency when it comes to the player salaries, since most of the “esports players may be putting their education on hold for an uncertain future.”
Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer topped the list with $65,000 in salary with a further $27,000 in performance and signing bonuses. Followed by Colin “Solo” Earnest who also cleared $65,000 in salary with $21,000 in added bonuses. Benjamin DeMunck made $75,000, Nicolar “GleebGlarbu” Haddad earned $72,500 and $70,000 for Jaun “Contractz” Garcia.
Another obvious source of income would be winning or placing in competitions. For a five-person team, this could be anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 per player in the playoffs alone. This year, Dota 2 International hosted a whopping $24,673,604 prize pool, where the winners banked $10m.
71% of the current industry valuation comes from sponsorship dollars. The sponsorship cash comes from game publishers, other gaming companies and, increasingly, non-gaming ones. Marketers from various industries see esports as a way to reach a younger, digitally-oriented audience. For instance, SteelSeries, a leading manufacturer of gaming peripherals and accessories, sponsors a number of professional teams to promote their gear for a pretty penny.
When they are not playing in front of millions of people, a large number of eSports players stream online to nurture the virtual community as well as boost their income. A monthly subscription to a Twitch stream costs $4.99, half of which goes to the streamer. If the streamer has 2000 subscribers (at $2.50 in revenue per subscriber), he gets an additional $5,000 a month on top of his other sources of income. It’s claimed that League of Legends streamer, Imaqtpie made about $9,000 in one month.
According to eSports Earnings, the top player of this year, Kuro “KuroKy” Takhasomi made a total of $3,367,188. KuroKy is the captain of Team Liquid that triumphed in The International 7, a Dota 2 tournament with over $24 million in prize pool, and pocketed $10,806,301.
The number of pro gamers in the industry is, of course, modest. However, if esports carries on growing at the rate it has been for the last decade, there will be dozens of gamers that are making more than $1 million every year.