2020 has hit a lot of industries very hard – but not esports.
The lockdown has brought huge growth in viewers to professional gaming as millions flock to watch the world’s best players in action.
This new level of interest will only help the industry grow, along with the pay packets of the gamers themselves.
But, how much do they earn?
New research by esports bookmakers Unikrn shows just how much the top 25 players have been winning in tournament prize money so far this year.
In 2019, there was a total prize pool of $227m shared between over 25,000 players playing in 5,000 tournaments.
Six months into 2020 and there’s still been $32.5m in prize money – despite the cancellation and postponement of many events.
Of that pot, the highest earning player has taken home $300,000 so far.
Brazilian Paulo Damo Da Rosa, known as PVDDR, won Magic: The Gathering Arena’s, Magic World Championship XXVI in February – pocketing the huge fee in one lump sum.
The five members of Spacestation Gaming’s Rainbow Six Siege team – Bosco, Rampy, Thinkingnade, Fultz and Canadian – also feature in the top 10.
Their victories in this year’s Six Invitational 2020 and Pro League Season 11 have earned them $210,000 each.
With a combined age of 47, teenagers Wolfiez, Furious and JannisZ are in the top 16 for their big Fortnite wins.
The UK’s Wolfiez, 16, has taken home $130,000 so far this year from two tournaments coming second in both FNCS Invitationals: Europe last month.
JannisZ, 15, from Germany, won one of those tournaments, while American 16-year-old Furious secured victory in the FNCS Grand Finals in North America – both earning $120,000+.
Among the top 25, Chess24 stars Hikaru Nakamura and grandmaster Magnus Carlsen have also taken home over $100,000 each in prize money.
The average age of the top 25 earning players so far in 2020 is 24 years old.
So far this year, the top country for earning prize money is the United States with players making over $6million between 1,870 of them.
However, the best average prize winner per country belongs to Jordan.
Six players earned an average of $33,000 each – made up mostly by Doha 2 players Yapzor and Miracle-, who claimed $175,000 of the total $200,000.
Bear in mind all of these earnings do not include their sponsorships, bonuses or salaries – some of which are rumoured to be around the $500,000 mark.
So there will be players easily taking home close to $1,000,000 a year.
The highest earning esports player of all-time is Danish Dota 2 player Johan Sundstein.
Going by player ID N0tail, the 26-year-old has amassed $6.9m in prize money from 117 tournaments and been a winner at the International 2018 and 2019.
Ryan Jurado, esports analyst with the industry juggernaut Unikrn, said: “As impressive as the prize earnings are in esports, they’re just the tip of the iceberg.
“In reality, thousands of players around the world make additional income by building their brand and fan bases with non-competition activities such as gaming streams, earn income with sponsorship deals and receive a salary to play as part of an organized team.
“Amazon’s Twitch alone has 22,000 partnered streamers, most of whom are playing games and earning cash outside of tournaments. When you add in Microsoft’s Mixr, Google’s YouTube, Facebook, plus non-American platforms like Huya, plus thousands of yearly video game tournaments, the number of players making some form of income by gaming is likely well over 100,000 worldwide. For most, this is a paying hobby rather than a career, but some players do reach multi-millionaire status before they even graduate high school.”
Paid Esports Players in 2020 (By Prize Money)
Top 10 Highest Earning Countries in 2020 (By Prize Money)
|Country||Prize Money||Players||Average per|
|Korea, Republic of||$2,067,293.52||455||$4,543.50|
Highest Earning Players of All Time (By Prize Money)
|Real name||Player name||Game||Nationality||Age||Prize Money Overall||Tournaments|
|Johan Sundstein||N0tail||Dota 2||Denmark||26||$6,895,040.18||117|
|Jesse Vainikka||JerAx||Dota 2||Finland||28||$6,470,000.02||65|
|Anathan Pham||ana||Dota 2||Australia||20||$6,000,411.96||24|
|Sébastien Debs||Ceb||Dota 2||France||28||$5,501,233.01||54|
|Topias Taavitsainen||Topson||Dota 2||Finland||22||$5,415,046.17||21|
|Kuro Takhasomi||KuroKy||Dota 2||Germany||27||$5,177,764.81||110|
|Amer Al-Barkawi||Miracle-||Dota 2||Jordan||22||$4,743,118.88||57|
|Ivan Ivanov||MinD_ContRoL||Dota 2||Bulgaria||25||$4,534,193.36||67|
|Maroun Merhej||GH||Dota 2||Lebanon||24||$4,137,126.44||44|
|Lasse Urpalainen||Matumbaman||Dota 2||Finland||25||$3,674,181.04||69|
**Stats taken from www.esportsearnings.com and do not include salaries, bonuses or sponsorships
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