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eSports Earnings: The Richest Pro Gamers in the World (2018)

Group of male and female pro gamers playing at an eSports tournament
Gorodenkoff / Shutterstock.com

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 exceeded $100 billion (£76.36 billion) in 2017, with these figures only set to grow.

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.

The 2014 League of Legends World Final in Seoul, South Korea, for instance, was watched by 27 million people online and broadcast on over 40 TV channels. In 2017, meanwhile, eSports earnings for the year’s five major game titles amounted to $78.1 million (£59.63 million) – a staggering amount for what was until recently a niche market.

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. Peter Dager

Peter Dager Roman-Kos / Shutterstock.com

Alias: ppd

Current team: Independent

Nationality: American

Age: 26

Earnings to date: $2.9 million (£2.21 million)

A former Heroes of Newerth professional, Peter Dager made his Dota 2 breakthrough captaining Evil Geniuses to victory in the highly prestigious International tournament in 2015, with his shrewd decision making widely viewed as a key factor of the team’s success.

The Indiana, US-native retired to an executive role in 2016 but returned to compete in 2017 with an independent team that was later picked up by OpTic Gaming. He has again selected an independent roster of players for 2018 and is currently awaiting potential representation.

 

9. Saahil Arora

Sahill Arora ESPN

Alias: Universe

Current team: VGJ.Storm

Nationality: American

Age: 28

Earnings to date: $3 million (£2.29 million)

Another former Evil Geniuses alumnus, Saahil Arora was a key member of the successful 2015 International team, executing an in-game play in the final that has since been termed the $6 million Echo Slam (after the amount of prize money it secured). He left in March 2016 to represent Team Secret, before returning to Evil Geniuses three months later where he won the Manila Masters tournament.

In January 2018, he signed with Fnatic in Malaysia, before committing to the US-based VGJ.Storm roster in September 2018.

 

8. Maroun Merhej

Maroun Merhej joinDOTA.com

Alias: GH

Current team: Team Liquid

Nationality: Lebanese

Age: Unknown

Earnings to date: $3.1 million (£2.36 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.

Also a highly successful individual player, Merhej will continue to represent Team Liquid professionally in 2018.

 

7. Sumail Hassan

Sumail Hassan Dota Blast

Alias: Sumail

Current team: Evil Geniuses

Nationality: Pakistani

Age: 19

Earnings to date: $3.2 million (£2.44 million)

As the youngest ever gamer to surpass $1 million (£763,570) in earnings, Karachi-born Sumail Hassan is one of the most recognisable figures on the eSports scene. He was 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.

He has remained with Evil Geniuses ever since and will also represent Team USA in the upcoming WESG tournament alongside his brother Yawar.

 

6. Jesse Vainikka

Jesse Vainikka ESPN

Alias: JerAx

Current team: OG

Nationality: Finnish

Age: 26

Earnings to date: $3.3 million (£2.51 million)

Another gamer who 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 for the newly-formed OG roster.

Vainikka will continue to represent OG and also launched his own merchandise range in January 2018.

 

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5. Lasse Urpalainen

Lasse Urpalainen Esports Edition

Alias: MATUMBAMAN

Current team: Team Liquid

Nationality: Finnish

Age: 23

Earnings to date: $3.4 million (£2.59 million)

A fellow Finn who has achieved great success in the eSports field, Lasse Urpalainen represented several teams before signing with his current employers, Team Liquid, in 2015. He was part of the roster that won the International in 2017, as well as a host of other major tournaments across the globe.

 

4. Ivan Ivanov

Ivan Ivanova ggScore

Alias: MinD_ContRoL

Current team: Team Liquid

Nationality: Bulgarian

Age: 23

Earnings to date: $3.4 million (£2.59 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.

 

3. Amer Al-Barkawi

Amer Al-Barkawi Roman-Kos / Shutterstock.com

Alias: Miracle-

Current team: Team Liquid

Nationality: Jordanian-Polish

Age: 21

Earnings to date: $3.7 million (£2.82 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.

 

2. Johan Sundstein

Johan Sundstein Roman-Kos / Shutterstock.com

Alias: N0tail

Current team: OG

Nationality: Danish

Age: 25

Earnings to date: $3.8 million (£2.9 million)

Another starlet that began in Heroes of Newerth, Johan Sundstein’s roll call of tournament wins since 2014 speaks for itself, including the International he won in 2018 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.

 

1. Kuro Takhasomi

Kuro Takhasomi ZEIT ONLINE

Alias: KuroKy

Current team: Team Liquid

Nationality: German

Age: 25

Earnings to date: $4.1 million (£3.13 million)

Since turning professional at the age of 16, Kuro Takhasomi is to date the highest-earning eSports player of all time, having had success with a wide array of teams over the last eight 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, at the tender age of 25, is considered a legend of the game. He will continue to captain Team Liquid into 2019 and beyond.

 


 

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 17 September 2018.