Esports

Top 20 highest earning esports pro players and organizations

by Andy Williams

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Collectively over $741 million has been dished out to professionals across all titles, but just how much have the top esports pros earned to-date?

Esports is more lucrative than ever, with players earning more in a single tournament than some of the most successful sports athletes earn in the most profitable sporting events.

Tournament prize money is directly reflecting the exponential growth and big-name investment that esports has received of late, with the most recent Dota 2 tournament (The International 2019) offering a prize pool in excess of $34 million to its competitors.

Valve
Valve
OG took home the lion’s share ($15 million) after their TI9 triumph.

Due to the impact of big money investment from global brands, esports athletes can now lift a single championship and immediately propel themselves into the list of highest earners. Most notably, Kyle ‘Bugha’ Giersdorf prevailed in the solos tournament at the first Fortnite World Cup, and walked away with $3 million in his back pocket.

However, the take-home from esports events has not always been so fruitful, with smaller-scale events taking precedence during the developmental stages; meaning most esports organizations would have to make ‘high risk, high reward’ moves to put their players in a position to compete at these events.

apeX (previously OpTic) were among the first to fly across the pond, in a bid to make CoD esports international.

Fast-forward to the current state-of-play and esports is no longer solely reliant on third party events, with developers such as Riot Games and Activision Blizzard Entertainment actively becoming involved in the competitive side of their titles.

Developer participation in esports (such as the inclusion of franchised leagues) not only integrates esports directly into the title (which naturally drums up interest), but it also provides stability for organizations and investors alike, which in turn issues a sense of security for sponsorships — ultimately transforming esports into an attractive model that could yield long-term growth for its investors.

The last decade of prize money won per year directly reflects the growth in esports.

Big money investment has resulted in the ‘esports boom’ (elevated interest in the esports ecosystem, leading to both transient and long-term growth); causing a linear increase in the prize money being dished out.

The net effect of offering huge sums of money is that it captivates interest, which eventually snowballs into more money plowed into the esports model and so on… the expression “money talks” most definitely comes to mind.

Eric Ananmal/ESPAT Media
Eric Ananmal/ESPAT Media
The Fortnite World Cup smashed viewership records, by attracting over 2 million concurrent viewers.

Now that esports is more stable and profitable than ever, the amount of prize money offered by events is at an all-time high, with this calendar year set to surpass previous years by a considerable amount. Here are the top 20 highest paying esports events, filtered by prize pool offered.

Top 20 highest paying esports events

Title Event Prize pool Year
1 Dota 2 The International $34,330,069.00 2019
2 Dota 2 The International $25,532,177.00 2018
3 Dota 2 The International $24,687,919.00 2017
4 Dota 2 The International $20,770,460.00 2016
5 Dota 2 The International $18,429,613.05 2015
6 Fortnite World Cup: Solos $15,287,500.00 2019
7 Fortnite World Cup: Duos $15,100,000.00 2019
8 Dota 2 The International $10,931,103.00 2014
9 League of Legends Worlds 2018 $6,450,000.00 2018
10 League of Legends Worlds 2016 $5,070,000.00 2016
11 League of Legends Worlds 2017 $4,946,969.00 2017
12 Fortnite Fortnite Fall Skirmish Series $4,000,000.00 2018
13 Fortnite World Cup: Creative $3,250,000.00 2019
14 Dota 2 Asia Championships $3,057,521.00 2015
15 Dota 2 Boston Major $3,000,000.00 2016
16 Dota 2 Frankfurt Major $3,000,000.00 2015
17 Dota 2 Kiev Major $3,000,000.00 2017
18 Dota 2 Manila Major $3,000,000.00 2016
19 Dota 2 Shanghai Major $3,000,000.00 2016
20 Dota 2 The International $2,874,381.00 2013

The ongoing developer support from Valve has been integral in the evolution of Dota 2 as an esport. But just how does Valve consistently offer such an enticing prize pool? The Compendium.

Valve offers players a purchasable battle pass filled with content, which allows players to make predictions on the outcome of The International in exchange for cosmetic items; 25% of the funds generated by this system go directly towards The International prize pool.

Valve
Valve
Valve put on an annual spectacle as millions watch around the world.

As the esports ecosystem goes from strength to strength, organizations are reaping the rewards that come with a long-term commitment to the model. Founded at the beginning of the millennium, Team Liquid are the quintessential esports giant; fielding world-class teams across multiple titles, they represent esports at its core values.

As a by-product of their deep-rooted involvement in esports, they sit as the most winningest organization in the game. Naturally, with success comes exposure, which manifests into an enhanced stipend — as the global esports market is set to break the $1 billion mark for revenue generated (27% up on the previous year).

Top 20 highest earning esports organizations

Organization Earnings Number of tournaments
1 Team Liquid $33,761,635.16 1606
2 OG $33,410,175.00 68
3 Evil Geniuses $22,845,565.11 793
4 Fnatic $14,156,872.37 850
5 Newbee $13,967,192.62 177
6 Virtus.pro $13,722,022.59 468
7 Vici Gaming $12,185,473.01 266
8 Team Secret $10,938,648.13 197
9 LGD Gaming $10,752,003.42 131
10 Invictus Gaming $10,674,800.62 430
11 Natus Vincere $9,759,224.90 429
12 Wings Gaming $9,745,472.22 27
13 SK Telecom T1 $9,211,595.9 254
14 Cloud9 $9,169,211.56 664
15 Paris Saint-German Esports $8,994,818.59 56
16 OpTic Gaming $7,810,017.71 290
17 FaZe Clan $7,612,759.51 283
18 Astralis $7,223,418.81 73
19 Team EnVyUs $6,470,943.47 320
20 SK Gaming $6,292,020.16 649

Of course, none of the aforementioned success would be possible without the athletes who represent their respective teams. As a player, winning some of the largest prize pools makes you immediately more marketable to an organization. A prime example of this is the Dota 2 quintet from OG Esports (namely: N0tail, JerAx, ana, Ceb and Topson).

Now back-to-back champions of The International, the five have bumped themselves to the top of the list through their consecutive wins. Not only has this brought great financial success to the players, but the organization has soared to second on the list of highest-earning organizations, having only competed in just over 4% of the tournaments relative to Team Liquid.

Given the sizable prize pools offered by Valve for their flagship tournament, it’ll come as no surprise to see the list of top esports earners dominated by Dota players.

Top 20 highest earning esports pros

Name Title Nationality Earnings
1 Johan 'N0tail' Sundstein Dota 2 Danish $6,890,591.79
2 Jesse 'JerAx' Vainikka Dota 2 Finnish $6,470,000.02
3 Anathan 'ana' Pham Dota 2 Australian $6,000,411.96
4 Sébastien 'Ceb' Debs Dota 2 French $5,489,233.01
5 Topias 'Topson' Taavitsainen Dota 2 Finnish $5,414,446.17
6 Kuro 'KuroKy' Takhasomi Dota 2 German $5,128,788.15
7 Amer 'Miracle-' Al-Barkawi Dota 2 Jordanian $4,692,418.88
8 Ivan 'MinD_ContRoL' Ivanov Dota 2 Bulgarian $4,483,493.36
9 Maroun 'GH' Merhej Dota 2 Lebanese $4,086,426.44
10 Sumail 'SumaiL' Hassan Dota 2 Pakistani $3,591,225.34
11 Lasse 'Matumbaman' Urpalainen Dota 2 Finnish $3,557,781.04
12 Kyle 'Bugha' Giersdorf Fortnite American $3,062,966.67
13 Saahil 'UNiVeRsE' Arora Dota 2 American $3,053,237.67
14 Peter 'ppd' Dager Dota 2 American $3,015,831.36
15 Lu 'Somnus丶M' Yao Dota 2 Chinese $2,916,865.42
16 Xu 'fy' Linsen Dota 2 Chinese $2,825,674.64
17 Clement 'Puppey' Ivanov Dota 2 Estonian $2,657,486.23
18 Clinton 'Fear' Loomis Dota 2 American $2,539,740.19
19 Gustav 's4' Magnusson Dota 2 Swedish $2,505,454.11
20 Ludwig 'Zai' Wåhlberg Dota 2 Swedish $2,315,218.85

 

Interestingly, Kyle ‘Bugha’ Giersdorf is the only non-Dota player to make the top 20, off the back of his solos win at the Fortnite World Cup. Although, given the global scope of esports in this modern era, the list is comprised of athletes from all over the world, with no single nation taking precedence.

Other notable mentions include: David 'Aquav2' W and Emil 'Nyhrox' Bergquist Pedersen, whom sit just inside the top 50 following their duos win at the Fortnite World Cup. The Astralis core: Andreas ‘Xyp9x’ Højsleth, Peter ‘dupreeh’ Rasmussen, Nicolai ‘dev1ce’ Reedtz sit within the top 50, following their dominant run in CS:GO (dubbed the Astralis era), while Lukas ‘gla1ve’ Rossander narrowly misses the top 50, taking the 53rd spot.

League of Legends phenom and three-time world champion, Lee ‘Faker’ Sang-hyeok makes the list at 64th, being the only LoL player to earn over $1 million. The highest placing console player is three time Call of Duty world champion Damon ‘Karma’ Barlow, who sits just outside the top 100 at 106th — highlighting the considerable distance between both PC and console prize pools.

For access to the full list (and more), visit esportsearnings.com.

Last updated: 5:47 PM (EST) on 11/12/2019.