How to Make $6.6 Million in One Day by Playing Video Games

Updated from 6:45 a.m. to include comments from Twitch in the ninth paragraph.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) --  If your kid is locked in the basement playing video games, don't despair. There's real money to be made in e-sports these days.

On Saturday, the five gamers on a team called Evil Geniuses made $6.6 million after winning the International Dota 2 tournament for Defense of the Ancients 2, a multiplayer online game. That comes out to $1.32 million each.

In contrast, the National Football League paid each of the 53 players on the New England Patriots roster $97,000 for winning Super Bowl XLIX last February.

The e-sports market is a lucrative one. According to research from SuperData, a digital games and playable media market intelligence provider, the market is valued at $612 million in worldwide revenues, with a global audience of 134 million.

When expanded to the entire gaming video content realm -- meaning online videos and live streams related to all things gaming -- the market size jumps to $3.8 billion, and the audience 486 million.

One entity capitalizing on the fast-growing industry is streaming video platform and gamer community is Twitch, which was bought by Amazon (AMZN) for $970 million in August 2014, beating out a reported $1 billion from Google (GOOG) (GOOGL) "YouTube is all of the broadcast channels, and Twitch is like ESPN," said SuperData CEO Joost von Dreunen.

YouTube has about 353 million subscribers (i.e., users who follow a specific channel or personality), while Twitch has 256 million. Google announced its own e-sports-friendly platform in June, YouTube Gaming.

While YouTube is starting to give Twitch a run for its money in the highly-lucrative gaming arena, Twitch still rules the roost financially. According to SuperData's research, Twitch claims the highest gaming video market share by revenue at 43% and has brought in $1.6 billion this year.

"The core of Twitch's success is the strength and passion of its community. That just can't be duplicated or emulated," said Matthew DiPietro, Senior Vice-President of Marketing at Twitch, in an email to TheStreet. "We built Twitch because we recognized the organic growth of a completely new community with a new way of interacting."

Hardcore gamers are fueling Twitch's advantage, and they are a major source of funding for some tournaments as well.

The highest-paid gamers are those who play DotA 2. The game has developed an extremely dedicated audience of fans who not only play it and watch it but who also contribute funds.

"What the publisher behind this has come and done is to make it possible for fans to contribute to the prize pool of its annual worldwide championship," said von Dreunen. "And so you have to ask yourself, if you're truly a fan of this game and you haven't contributed, what kind of a fan are you?"

Competitive gaming website e-Sports Earnings estimates that $41.9 million in total prize money has been awarded across 2,140 tournaments in 2015. The prize pool for this year's international DotA 2 tournament was over $18.4 million.

All five of the top-earning e-sports players in the world today, according to data from E-Sports Earnings, are DotA 2 gamers. And they all play for the same team, Evil Geniuses.

Saahil Arora

Saahil Arora is the top-earning e-sports player in the world. The 25-year-old from Wisconsin has made $1.96 million from 39 tournaments throughout his career, including $1.64 million in 2015 alone.

Arora took a short hiatus from the professional e-sports world in late 2012 and 2013 and is currently playing his second stint with Evil Geniuses. He plays under the name UNiVeRsE, a tag he chose "because of his interest in astronomy and discovering whole new worlds," according to the Evil Geniuses website.

Peter Dager

Peter Dager started out playing a different game, Heroes of Newerth, before transitioning to DotA 2 in 2014. He has earned $1.96 million in his gaming career, $1.95 million of which came from DotA.

Dager is the Evil Geniuses team captain. He is 24, from Indiana, and plays under the name ppd.

Kurtis Ling

Kurtis Ling of Vancouver, Canada started his professional gaming career three years ago in 2012. Since then, the 22-year-old has earned $1.88 million from 46 tournaments.

Ling, who plays under the name Aui_2000, earned $4,000 in his first year on the scene. The next year, he made $20,178, and the following, $215,791. So far in 2015, he has made $1.64 million.

In his Evil Geniuses biography, Ling says he plans to use money from his winnings to take duet singing classes for his post-DotA career.

Clinton Loomis

By e-sports standards, Clinton "Fear" Loomis is a veteran. He has been playing professionally since 2008, earning $1.73 million total.

Some years for the 27-year-old Californian have been better than others, gaming-wise. He has made $1.64 million in 2015 and brought in $78,510 in 2014. But in 2010, he made just $60.

Loomis suffers from a chronic repetitive-stress injury that kept him out of the 2014 DotA international tournament and told Bloomberg he doesn't know what the future holds for his career. "I've been playing DotA for so many years I don't really know anything else as far as work goes," he said. "It's really fun -- it's my passion -- but I don't know if I can keep playing."

Sumail Hassan

Bloomberg put the spotlight on 16-year-old Sumail Hassan in July -- and for good reason. The Pakistani teen who now lives in Rosemont, Illinois has earned $1.64 million in just eight tournaments this year.

Hassan, who plays under the tag Suma1L, started playing DotA while still in elementary school. His older brother, Yawar, is also a professional DotA 2 player and is on Team eHUG.

 

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.

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