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Esports • Sep 01, 2019

Top 20 highest earning esports pro players and organizations

Top 20 highest earning esports pro players and organizations

Collectively over $727 million has been dished out to professionals across all titles, but just how much have the top esports pros earned to-date?

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

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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.

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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.

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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
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

TitleEventPrize poolYear
1Dota 2The International$34,330,069.002019
2Dota 2The International$25,532,177.002018
3Dota 2The International
$24,687,919.002017
4Dota 2The International$20,770,460.002016
5Dota 2The International$18,429,613.052015
6FortniteWorld Cup: Solos$15,287,500.002019
7FortniteWorld Cup: Duos$15,100,000.002019
8Dota 2The International$10,931,103.002014
9League of LegendsWorlds 2018$6,450,000.002018
10League of LegendsWorlds 2016$5,070,000.002016
11League of LegendsWorlds 2017$4,946,969.002017
12FortniteFortnite Fall Skirmish Series$4,000,000.002018
13FortniteWorld Cup: Creative$3,250,000.002019
14Dota 2Asia Championships$3,057,521.002015
15Dota 2Boston Major$3,000,000.002016
16Dota 2Frankfurt Major$3,000,000.002015
17Dota 2Kiev Major$3,000,000.002017
18Dota 2Manila Major$3,000,000.002016
19Dota 2Shanghai Major$3,000,000.002016
20Dota 2The International $2,874,381.002013

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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 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

OrganizationEarningsNumber of tournaments
1Team Liquid$33,708,806.211601
2OG$33,410,175.0068
3Evil Geniuses$22,858,319.11790
4Fnatic$14,089,971.20845
5Newbee$13,960,187.82174
6Virtus.pro$13,642,183.37468
7Vici Gaming$12,185,473.01266
8Team Secret$10,938,648.13194
9LGD Gaming$10,752,003.42131
10Invictus Gaming$10,674,800.62428
11Natus Vincere$9,759,224.90424
12Wings Gaming$9,745,472.2227
13Cloud9$9,155,539.46662
14SK Telecom T1$9,093,858.98247
15Paris Saint-German Esports$8,994,818.5956
16OpTic Gaming$7,810,017.71290
17FaZe Clan$7,559,934.51274
18Astralis$6,722,418.8171
19Team EnVyUs$6,478,343.47317
20SK Gaming$6,292,140.16650

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

NameTitleNationalityEarnings
1Johan 'N0tail' SundsteinDota 2Danish$6,889,591.79
2Jesse 'JerAx' VainikkaDota 2Finnish$6,469,000.02
3Anathan 'ana' PhamDota 2Australian$5,999,411.96
4Sébastien 'Ceb' DebsDota 2French$5,488,233.01
5Topias 'Topson' TaavitsainenDota 2Finnish$5,413,446.17
6Kuro 'KuroKy' TakhasomiDota 2German$5,128,788.15
7Amer 'Miracle-' Al-BarkawiDota 2Jordanian$4,692,418.88
8Ivan 'MinD_ContRoL' IvanovDota 2Bulgarian$4,483,493.36
9Maroun 'GH' MerhejDota 2Lebanese$4,086,426.44
10Sumail 'SumaiL' HassanDota 2Pakistani $3,590,225.34
11Lasse 'Matumbaman' UrpalainenDota 2Finnish$3,557,781.04
12Saahil 'UNiVeRsE' AroraDota 2American$3,038,937.67
13Kyle 'Bugha' GiersdorfFortniteAmerican$3,034,400.00
14Peter 'ppd' DagerDota 2American$3,001,531.36
15Lu 'Somnus丶M' YaoDota 2Chinese$2,916,865.42
16Xu 'fy' LinsenDota 2Chinese$2,825,674.64
17Clement 'Puppey' IvanovDota 2Estonian$2,655,686.23
18Clinton 'Fear' LoomisDota 2American$2,531,840.19
19Gustav 's4' MagnussonDota 2Swedish$2,502,654.11
20Ludwig 'Zai' WåhlbergDota 2Swedish$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 and Lukas ‘gla1ve’ Rossander sit within the top 60 following their dominant run in CS:GO (dubbed the Astralis era).

League of Legends phenom and three-time world champion, Lee ‘Faker’ Sang-hyeok makes the list at 66th, being the only LoL player to earn over $1million. 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: 7:20 AM (EST) on 01/09/19.

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