eSports Earnings: The Richest Pro Gamers in the World (2020)

Illustration of various game controllers

In the last few decades, video games have become big business. With top publishers such as EA, Bethesda and Activision regularly releasing bestselling products to a demanding market, revenue in the sector is expected to reach $196 billion (£151 billion) by 2022.

Now gamers themselves are getting in on the act, too, with eSports – professional video game competitions – evolving into a highly lucrative industry in itself. As player participation and spectator interest continues to increase, the concept has attracted major sponsorship partners and financial backers. For professional gamers, the end result of all this means one thing: there’s money to be made, and lots of it.

The idea isn’t to be sniffed at, either. Whether through competing in individual tournaments or as part of a team, elite players are able to attract similar base salaries and endorsement deals to those earned by traditional athletes, with their worth only set to rise as the popularity of eSports soars.

So, if you’re bored of sitting in your mother’s basement and trouncing your buddies on Call of Duty, and you want to finally make all those hours of practice pay, maybe you could consider moving up to the big leagues.

To give you an idea of what you could earn, these are the 10 highest-paid pro gamers in the world.

10. Sumail Hassan

Sumail HassanDota Blast

Alias: Sumail

Current team: None

Nationality: Pakistani

Age: 20

Earnings to date: $3.6 million (£2.77 million)

As the youngest ever gamer to surpass $1 million (£769,000) in earnings, Karachi-born Sumail Hassan is one of the most recognisable figures on the eSports scene. He was even featured in Time magazine’s top 30 influential teenagers of 2016 and was a core member of the Evil Geniuses team that won the International in 2015.

Following his fleet with achievement with Evil Geniuses, he joined the Quincy Crew team along with his brother Yawar. However, following contractual complications, Sumail had to exit the team shortly after, leaving him unable to compete for the DreamLeague Leipzig Major and the WePlay! Bukovel Minor that took place in December 2019.

9. Maroun Merhej

Maroun MerhejjoinDOTA.com

Alias: GH

Current team: Team Liquid

Nationality: Lebanese

Age: 24

Earnings to date: $4.1 million (£3.16 million)

After making his professional debut for Wired Gaming in 2014, Maroun Merhej also spent time with E-LAB before signing with eSports heavyweights Team Liquid in January 2017. Credited with significantly improving the team’s performances, he was part of the roster that won the International in 2017, adding the Aegis crown to an already impressive haul of trophies.

GH and Team Liquid have gone on to win first place at the 2018 China Dota2 Supermajor and second place at the International in 2019.

8. Ivan Ivanov

Ivan IvanovaggScore

Alias: MinD_ContRoL

Current team: Team Liquid

Nationality: Bulgarian

Age: 24

Earnings to date: $4.5 million (£3.46 million)

After turning professional in 2014, Ivan Ivanov represented a number of high-profile teams before settling with Team Liquid in late 2015. There he won the International in 2017 and continues to represent the Netherlands-based team.

Although Ivanov was subject to controversy in June 2018 for making anti-Russian comments during a live game, he continues to be one of the most valuable players on the scene.

7. Amer Al-Barkawi

Amer Al-BarkawiRoman-Kos / Shutterstock.com

Alias: Miracle-

Current team: Team Liquid

Nationality: Jordanian-Polish

Age: 22

Earnings to date: $4.7 million (£3.62 million)

Yet another International 2017 winner with Team Liquid, Amer Al-Barkawi initially rose to prominence in individual non-team affiliated public games, topping the European rankings in 2015. He secured a deal with Monkey Business (later rebranded as OG) as a result, where he won several competitions prior to signing for Liquid.

Known for his modest and unassuming nature, Al-Barkawi is a highly popular figure within the eSports community.

6. Kuro Takhasomi

Kuro TakhasomiZEIT ONLINE

Alias: KuroKy

Current team: Team Liquid

Nationality: German

Age: 27

Earnings to date: $5.1 million (£3.92 million)

Since turning professional at the age of 16, Kuro Takhasomi has had success with a wide array of teams over the last 8 years. He has participated in every single International since it began (one of only three players to do so) and finally won the tournament outright in 2017 with Team Liquid, finishing second in 2013.

As one of the most experienced and popular figures in eSports, Takhasomi has taken on various leadership roles and is considered a legend of the game. He will continue to captain Team Liquid into 2020 and beyond.

5. Topias Taavitsainen

Topias TaavitsainenjoinDOTA

Alias: Topson

Current team: OG

Nationality: Finnish

Age: 21

Earnings to date: $5.4 million (£4.16 million)

As one of the newest and youngest players in the pro Dota 2 scene, Topias ‘Topson’ Taavitsainen stands in as OG’s mid-laner. Topias was only eight years old when he began playing the game, and his unusual style and preference for mechanically difficult characters helped him land a place on Team OG after being spotted by Sébastien Debs.

As of August 2019, Topias holds the title for the first two-time winner of the International after he and his team took home the trophy for two consecutive years.

4. Sébastien Debs

Sébastien DebsGaimer

Alias: Ceb

Current team: OG

Nationality: French

Age: 27

Earnings to date: $5.5 million (£4.23 million)

Sébastien Debs made his debut as a professional Dota 2 player back in 2011 with Team Shakira. Since then, he’s moved through different teams before eventually becoming OG’s coach in 2016. With his guidance, OG earned a fleet of wins including the Frankfurt, Manila, Boston and Kiev Majors.

In time, he went on to become an official player for OG, helping the team win the International in 2018 and 2019.

3. Anathan Pham

Anathan PhamDot Esports

Alias: ana

Current team: OG

Nationality: Australian

Age: 20

Earnings to date: $6 million (£4.62 million)

As one of the youngest members of Team OG, Anathan Pham began his professional career in 2016 with Invictus Gaming before joining his current team later that year. During the International of 2018, his impressive performance on Ember Spirit demonstrated his mastery of the character, while in the 2019 games he was able to make an unbeatable record of 6-0, instating him as a dominant player of the game.

After taking a couple of breaks from Dota 2, Anathan has resumed his position as an active player for OG.

2. Jesse Vainikka

Jesse VainikkaESPN

Alias: JerAx

Current team: OG

Nationality: Finnish

Age: 27

Earnings to date: $6.5 million (£5 million)

Having originally made his name in Heroes of Newerth, Jesse Vainikka played in several tournaments before a stint in the Finnish Navy. Upon discharge, he then switched to Dota 2 and has represented several teams, culminating in a shock victory at the International in 2018 and 2019 for the newly formed OG roster.

1. Johan Sundstein

Johan SundsteinRoman-Kos / Shutterstock.com

Alias: N0tail

Current team: OG

Nationality: Danish

Age: 26

Earnings to date: $6.9 million (£5.31 million)

Another starlet that began in Heroes of Newerth, Johan Sundstein’s roll call of tournament wins since 2014 speaks for itself, including the Internationals he won in 2018 and 2019 with his team OG. As a stalwart of the Dota 2 scene, Sundstein is an experienced and respected player and coach within the community.

He is also the original founder and captain of OG (prior to their takeover by Red Bull) and was responsible for bringing Al-Barkawi onto the professional circuit.

As you can see, success doesn’t have to be defined by pursuing a conventional career. As these players show, it’s entirely possible to make a living out of your passion, and if that happens to be PC gaming, then don’t rule out the possibility of following suit.

After all, many of the players on this list started out as hobbyists in a gaming café with no real expectation that they would one day be among the richest athletes in the world. So if you’ve got a talent for gaming, then make the most of it!

What do you think? Is eSports the next big thing? Let us know in the comments section below!

 

This list was adapted from e-Sports Earnings’ player rankings. Currency conversions are based on rates supplied by XE.com on 14 January 2020.

This article is an updated version on earlier article that was originally published on 2 October 2018. It was written in collaboration with Melina Theodorou.