There's no doubt about it - global eSports revenues rose dramatically in 2019, up 27% compared to 2018, according to Newzoo, a gaming industry analysis company.
Popular leagues are taking the industry by storm like League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Fortnite leading the way. Additionally, major global brands like Coca-Cola (KO) , T-Mobile (TMUS) and Toyota (TM) , among others, are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in sponsorship money.
With plenty of cash flowing into the picture, how do eSports teams and players earn money? Primarily, through capitalistic means that any American would recognize:
- Cash prizes. There is no shortage of prize money available to eSports gaming participants, with single-game cash earnings up to $200,000. Some high-level competitions, like Dota 2 International, earns $10 million to the competition's winning team.
- Team salaries. eSports offers regular salaries to team participants, with average salaries in the $3,000-to-$5,000 monthly in gaming hotbeds like China and the U.S. Top echelon players can earn much more, up to $15,000 for a single competition plus bonuses. Some teams even offer their players perks like health insurance and retirement plans.
- Sponsorship money. With major global brands in the picture, eSports is raking in the sponsorship cash. Some of that money goes into competition and cash prizes, and some go directly to team ownership, as is the case with Audi and its sponsorship of Astralis Counter Strike franchise. Sponsors comprise $456 million of the overall $1.1 billion in eSports revenues this year, Newzoo reports.
- Digital streaming. Online competition has also spawned a highly effective and organized network of digital streamers who can earn $4.99 per month per viewer and show eSports competitions via platforms like Twitch. Advertising and investment dollars are also starting to flow into the eSports arena.
- Media rights. According to industry statistics, media rights encompass one-fifth of revenues earned by eSports companies and players. Mostly, media rights money is paid out to event organizers and game developers, who pass on some of the cash to teams and players in the form of prize money and bonuses. According to Newzoo, media rights comprise $251 million of the $1.1 billion total eSports revenue in 2019.
- Merchandising and tickets. At $103 million in revenues in 2019, merchandising and tickets are among the top tier leaders in eSports payouts. That said, merchandising usually follows the ascension of a sport, as it historically has on the PGA tour, in the NFL and NBA, and in other popular professional sports leagues. Expect both merchandising and ticket revenues to climb as gaming continues to flourish on a global stage.
Merchandising companies like 100 Thieves have already translated the popularity of eSports to the masses - its signature shirts are already a common site around the world and are reportedly often worn by other professional athletes. That's a sure sign merchandising should be a cash cow for organized eSports for years to come.
How Much Do eSports Players Make?
With sponsorship cash and gamer salaries stacking up, it's worth noting the big financial winners in the eSports market - the players.
These players are the highest income earners in the gaming realm, making millions in the process.
Johan Sundstein. Sundstein, also known as NTtail, to gaming fans, is a highly popular and successful "Defense of the Ancients 2," (more commonly known as "Dota 2") game player. The 26-year-old has earned almost $7 million playing in 108 tournaments to date, making him king of the hill in the eSports earning game.
Jesse Vainikka. Also known as HerAx in the Sports world, the 27-year-old Finland native has earned $6.47 million competing in 64 eSports tournaments. Like Sundstein, Vainikka is one of the most accomplished "Dota 2" players in the world.
Anathan Pham. Known simply as "ana" by gaming enthusiasts, Pham has earned $6 million. At 19 (Pham turns 20 on Oct. 26) Pham is one of the youngest players on the eSports tour. He's also earned $3.14 million so far in 2019 alone.
Sebastien Debs. At $5.5 million in career earnings, "Ceb" Debs clocks in as the fourth-highest income earned in the eSports arena. Competing as both a coach and a player, the Frenchman won the prestigious International "Dota 2" event in 2018 and 2019, as a member of team OG.
Topias Taavitsainen. Known as "Topson" on the eSports tout, Taavitsainen has earned $5.4 million in professional gaming income. The Finland native began playing "Dota 2" at age 8, and is now considered a franchise player for team OG, widely recognized as one of the most dominant teams in all of eSports.
Other Ways to Make Money in Gaming
Players aren't the only earners in the eSports world. Other gaming participants are cashing in, too:
- Broadcasters. Like any entertainment sporting event, announcers and color commenters are needed to call the action. Those who do so can earn up to $1,000 per broadcast.
- Coaches and managers. Gaming teams need strategic help that eSports coaches provide. The best coaches can earn over $80,000 annually.
- Media and writers. No eSporting contest is complete without coverage of the game that's read by gaming fans all over the world. The money's not great, but if you love eSports and want to write about it, you can earn about $35,000 annually doing so.
- Marketing specialists. To expertly sell eSports to the global masses, marketing specialists plugged into the gaming world can earn an annual salary of about $90,000.
- Social media experts. To get people talking about eSports online, social media experts can earn about $25,000 annually.
- Event manager. Gaming event specialists, who set up and run the actual contests, can make up to $40,000 every year.
Tips on Becoming an eSports Player
Now that the secret is out and people see that eSports players are earning big money, is there a millionaire's future in gaming for you?
It's not easy, as gamers frequently bring up the lack of sleep and hours of practice it takes to become a major league gamer. But if you put in the work and catch a break or two, fame and fortune await those who make it to the top of the eSports world.
Chances are, those who did so followed some or all of the following steps:
They Chose to Specialize In One Game
Players who've made it to the various eSports gaming circuits say the key was to find one prominent game they were good at and keep playing and grinding until they were beating all challengers. Subscribing to a gaming service like on Xbox Live makes it easy to play a variety of popular games against competitors all over the world. That's the training it takes to get a reputation and become a professional gamer.
Don't Be Afraid to Lose
When you're online training to become a gamer, don't be afraid to lose. Gamers who have made it to the professional level say they learned a lot through losing at games like "Call of Duty" or "Fortnite." By studying the best tactics, the best gamers accumulate the knowledge needed to eventually upgrade their own skills and start winning more games.
Play Fair and Emphasize Character
The best gamers say a big step for them was joining an online community and learning to become a part of a team. That helped them learn (and abide by) the rules, develop an "us" and not "me" attitude, and becoming a team player - all traits needed to make it in the eSports world.
Start Entering Tournaments
Like a professional golfer who gets off the practice range and starts teeing it up against his peers for real, entering tournaments will allow you to test your skills among premier players. You won't know for sure if you have what it takes to become a professional gamer if you don't compete in online or local tournament play. Start signing up and see where you stand as a gamer among your peers.
When you do start to break through and win marquee tournaments, you'll start to get noticed. A good sponsor can provide the financial assistance and computing equipment needed to play with the best on the professional level. By networking and getting word of mouth advice on sponsors, great players can get the help they needed to reach the professional eSports level.