Just How Much Money are Pro-Gamers Really Making?

Illustration for article titled Just How Much Money are Pro-Gamers Really Making?

As I discussed previously, interest in eSports is on the rise, and like any other popular competition, the rewards can be beyond lucrative.


There is a reason that so many little boys and girls’ early dreams involve swinging a bat or kicking a ball for a living, and it’s not all about the fun. Sport stars today are widely known for their humongous earnings, but just how big are they? As posted by the nest,

In 2011, the minimum salaries of NFL rookies increased by $55,000 annually, to $23,437.50 per regular season game, or $375,000 a year. After a player’s first year in the NFL, his minimum salary jumps to $28,125 per regular season game, totaling $450,000 per year.


When looking at the wage difference between a NFL Pro and a League all-star from a yearly angle, it’s hard to contrast. Most of a professional gamer’s wage comes from big wins in championship series. However, for the sake of comparison, we can take the average from above and compare it to the highest paid pro in eSports, Hao. (Chen, Zhihao)

Chen’s total earnings come to a rattling $1,249,642.81, all earned in six years. In addition, the highest paid pro gamer makes over $400,000 a year. That means that if we assume the statistic is referring to Chen, he would make ~$3,649,642 in six years.


Our example player (who I’ve decided to call Leonardo) has just finished his first year in the NFL, and makes $450,000 annually. Over 6 years, this means Leonardo will make $2,700,000. Unfortunately, this total doesn’t take into account his earnings from game wins or sponsoring. With that included, we could estimate his salary to easily rival Chen’s.

The discrepancy is obvious. Leonardo, a relatively run of the mill NFL pro, is already making a similar wage to the best eSports player in the game. However, this might be an unfair comparison, especially if you don’t consider eSports to be in the same boat with professional athletics. A better comparison may lie in other competitive, non-physical games; an example being chess.


The following information is taken from a list of highest paid chess players from 2012. 2012 is admittedly a bit outdated, but there aren’t as many articles as you’d expect on the earnings of those in the riveting realm of pro chess.

#1 Viswanathan Anand, India, 43

Prize money in 2013 (estimate): $2,000,000

#3 Magnus Carlsen, Norway, 22

Prize money in 2013 (estimate): $480,000

Again, this data does not include sponsorship; with sponsorship included, we can expect his total earnings to surpass 2 mil. Keep in mind that Chen’s total of ~$3,649,642 (or more reliable $1,249,642) were accumulated over the span of six years. Viswanathan makes 2 mil in only one.


While Chen remains a millionaire, his totals might seem dim in comparison to the others. Not all is dark, however—these totals exclude one of the most lucrative aspects of pro gaming: twitch.tv.

While most streamers and professional eSports players shroud their earnings, a handful of streamers are fairly transparent about their streaming income. For instance, 23-year-old Michael Santana — better known as “Imaqtpie” — has reported over $8,000 from streaming in just one month. As one of the most popular streamers on Twitch, his broadcasts often net anywhere from 18,000-40,000 live viewers and his channel has seen over 83 million collective views.


To read more on how pro gamers earn their money on twitch, I’d recommend the rest of the article from the excerpt above on Huffington Post.

The most important takeaway from this piece is hopefully not that there is no money in eSports, because yes, there surely is, but that it may not be as lucrative as once believed. eSports is a growing market, and there is no doubt that it will become a higher paying career as it garners more attention.


Disclaimer: I can’t confirm the accuracy of every data source in this article, but the overall comparisons should be relatively sound.

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