Esports Earnings 2021: Games, Players and Tourneys

Esports earnings have skyrocketed in recent years, with the professional gaming industry is now worth over $1 billion worldwide. But exactly how much esports prize money do pro esports teams and players earn? In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look into esports winnings for the most popular games.

 

Which Video Games Have the Highest Esports Earnings?

Esports is a relatively young phenomenon, but it is already experiencing rapid, record-breaking growth as a global movement. The worldwide revenue generated by the video gaming industry is expected to reach nearly $1.62 billion USD by 2024.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that the top gamers are making millions of dollars in esports earnings between sponsorship, esports prize money and even esports betting. Let’s take a closer look at the highest-paid esports games of 2021.

 

Rank Esport Total Esports Earnings Number of Professional Players Number of Tournaments Highest-Earning Player
1 Dota 2 $231,909,771.24 4,010 1,499 N0tail

($6,963,091.58)

2 CS:GO $113,535,858.58 13,764 5,592 dupreeh

($1,908,781.07)

3 Fortnite $102,681,159.13 4,646 698 Bugha

($3,159,595.05)

4 League of Legends $83,659,579.50 7,644 2,575 Faker

($1,259,840.87)

5 StarCraft II $34,739,474.78 2,087 6,067 Serral

($912,136.55)

6 PUBG $32,853,449.92 2,967 327 Loki

($890,840.34)

7 Overwatch $26,750,317.28 3,532 747 Rascal

($331,108.68)

8 Hearthstone $25,006,783.47 2,492 924 Thijs

($501,418.66)

9 Arena of Valor $24,093,832.78 681 62 Adou

($517,481.85)

10 Heroes of the Storm $18,188,482.65 1,253 475 KyoCha

($464,560.82)

 

Dota 2

“Dota” stands for “Defense of the Ancients”, a MOBA esports game developed by Valve, in which 2 teams of 5 players go head-to-head and battle it out to defend their base. As far as esports earnings go, Dota 2 leads the market by far, with more than $230 million USD awarded across 1500 tournaments since 2013.

The highest-paid esports player of all time, Johan “N0tail” Sundstein, recently won over $3 million USD in 2019 as part of Team OG at Dota 2’s premier esports competition, The International 2019. With so much money floating around from crowd-funding, sponsorships and esports prize money, it’s easy to see why Dota 2 betting has recently taken off in popularity as well.

 

CS:GO

Counter Strike: Global Offensive, often abbreviated to simply “CS:GO”, is a tactical first-person shooter, also developed by Valve Corporation. While it has generated some controversy in recent years due to CS:GO skin betting and CS:GO coinflip betting, this game is also one of the most lucrative in terms of esports earnings.

The prize pools in CS:GO rarely reach the astronomic levels of Dota 2, but many tournaments often equal or exceed $1 million USD. In fact, the CS:GO community has awarded over $113 million USD over 5592 tournaments since 2012. Check out our expert guide to CS:GO betting to learn more about how to wager on this game.

 

Fortnite

As a cartoonish, family-friendly game that draws from and directly influences popular culture, Fortnite is one of the most popular video games in the entire world. This fast-paced battle royale esports title has awarded more than $100 million USD over 698 pro tournaments since 2017.

Fortnite averages higher esports earnings per player per tournament than most other games. Despite being relatively new to esports overall, Fortnite betting is especially lucrative, as professional players and punters look to make a name for themselves. Speaking of age, have you ever wondered how old the Fortnite characters are?

 

League of Legends

As fourth in our list of esports with prize money, League of Legends (or LoL) is nothing short of a worldwide phenomenon. One of the original esports titles, LoL has awarded over $83 million USD in 2,575 tournaments since 2009.

Moreover, the fact that fans watched 580.8 million hours of gameplay in 2020 shows how League of Legends streams are immensely popular, with an international community of players, commentators and supporters.

The creator of LoL, Riot Games, takes a different and more accessible approach to competitive esports. All players on the LoL Championship Series earn an actual salary, instead of directly competing for esports earnings in the form of prizes.

That said, there’s still plenty of money to be made playing this Multiplayer Online Battle Arena game, so we recommend giving League of Legends betting a try as well.

 

Overwatch

Overwatch is a squad-based first-person shooter that combines the tactical action of CS:GO with the over-the-top animations and pyrotechnics of Fortnite. Many of the best Overwatch players, such as Dong Jun “Rascal” Kim, are from South Korea. But all around the world, players compete for esports prize money, which has totalled over $26 million USD across 747 tournaments since 2016.

The primary esports organisation for this game is the Overwatch league (OWL), which has awarded $12.7 million USD in 15 tournaments, and consistently provides great opportunities for OWL betting. To learn more about this thrilling esport and how to get in on the action as a punter, check out our in-depth guide to Overwatch betting.

Overwatch team Shock capture the Overwatch League championship and win esports earnings. Source: https://overwatchleague.com/en-us/news/23150584

 

Valorant

While not currently one of the leading games as far as esports earnings go (it ranks 29th), Valorant is a promising new team-based FPS released by Riot Games in 2020 as an answer to Valve’s CS:GO. We see it as comparable to both Overwatch – with quasi-realistic combat and emphasis on character abilities/spells – and CS:GO, for the tactical and strategic elements of its 5v5 competition.

As this game continues to grow in popularity, we expect Valorant betting to become even more dynamic for interested punters, especially in terms of live betting.

Despite its relatively young presence in the esports world, Valorant has doled out over $3.5 million USD in 341 tournaments in little over a year’s time. The most important of these is the Valorant Champions Tour (VCT), and it has already awarded well over $1 million USD since November 2020. Learn more about Valorant’s first official tournament circuit at our guide to VCT betting!

 

Top Esports Earnings Tournaments

Esports tournaments are a major source of revenue for both esports teams and individual players. For example, the Intel Extreme Masters CS:GO tourney series is the oldest-running professional gaming tour in the world, awarding millions of dollars in esports prize money and giving rise to IEM Katowice betting and IEM Beijing betting.

Strictly speaking, in terms of esports earnings, a few major tournaments reign supreme as the undisputed leaders of professional video gaming events. These tournaments generate much of the activity for global esports market revenue, bringing together players, fans and sponsors around the world.

 

The International

As mentioned earlier, Dota 2’s The International is the current leader for esports earnings in professional tournaments, with TI19 in Shanghai, China awarding more than $34 million USD.

We’re very excited to see what comes next for The International in 2021, now that Valve has restructured its approach to Dota 2 Pro Circuit competition by replacing the Minors with Regional Leagues. Another major event is the Dota 2 Singapore Major, which continues to excite fans of this game.

 

Fortnite World Cup

The Fortnite World Cup is the second highest-grossing tournament in terms of esports earnings, with over $30 million awarded between its “Solo” and “Duo” events in 2019. The winners from both of these championships – Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf and Cooler Esport, respectively – took home $3 million USD each in esports prize money.

 

League of Legends Worlds

Viewership of the League of Legends World Championship peaked at 3.8 million in 2020. The LoL Worlds event also frequently rivals major Dota 2 competitions in terms of esports earnings, awarding $6.4 million USD in 2018.

All year long, pro LoL gamers from across the globe compete in numerous regional leagues for their chance to shine at the World Championship. For betting tips on these LoL esports leagues, check out our reviews of each below:

Finally, professional League of Legends tournaments are often spectacular events set in massive stadiums, with laser light shows, professional commentators, live music and more. Read our guide on where to watch LoL for more information.

 

PUBG Global Invitational.S

PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS, often abbreviated as “PUBG”, was originally a series of mods made by one video game enthusiast that eventually flourished into a full-fledged esport title. Nowadays, PUBG is arguably the most popular of all mobile esport games, which makes it a natural fit for punters who prefer to play and wager on the go through esports betting apps.

The PUBG Global Invitational.S 2021 (PUBG’s largest tournament to date) awarded over $7 million USD between 32 teams, with the lion’s share of esports earnings being over $1.2 million. While not currently legal for esports betting in India (where PUBG is very popular), PUBG betting is a thrilling way to get involved in the action.

N0tail leads G2 to victory at Dota 2 The International 2019 esports competition. Source: Dota 2 The International | Flickr

Top Gamers in the World and their Esports Earnings 2021

Professional gamers as young as 14 years old can make hundreds of thousands – or even millions – of dollars playing esports. And many of the top esports earners share one thing in common: Dota 2. In fact, at the time of writing, all of the top 30 best-paid gamers in the world play Dota 2 professionally, except for one: Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf at rank 12, who plays Fortnite.

However, let’s zoom out to look at the best-paid esports players in different games, some of whom are among the biggest names in the esports industry. The following players come from many different esports countries around the globe, and have each made esports earnings history.

 

Rank Username Player Esports Earnings Game
1 N0tail Johan Sundstein $6,974,817.80 Dota 2
2 Bugha Kyle Giersdorg $3,172,261.72 Fortnite
3 dupreeh Peter Rasmussen $1,908,781.07 Counter Strike: Global Offensive
4 Faker Lee Sang-hyeok $1,259,840.87 League of Legends

 

Johan “N0tail” Sundstein – Dota 2 ($6.97 Million)

As the captain of OG Esports’ Dota 2 team, Denmark native N0tail led his squad to back-to-back victories at TI19 and TI18, shattering all previous records for esports prizes earned by one player. With career earnings of nearly $7 million USD won between 127 different tournaments, N0tail is breaking the ceiling of what an esports career can become.

 

Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf – Fortnite ($3.17 Million)

After winning $3,000,000 USD as the champion of the 2019 Fortnite World Cup, American-born Bugha became the second-best paid professional esports player overnight. This massive prize is partially due to Fortnite’s runaway popularity in recent years, but also reflects a trend toward even larger esports earnings than ever before.

 

Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen – CS:GO ($1.9 Million)

As a core member of the Astralis CS:GO team, dupreeh is the second Dane to top our list. Whether leading the charge as their frag master or hanging back as lurker, dupreeh plays a big part in Astralis' ranking as the best CS:GO team in the world. And with career earnings just shy of $2 million USD, we can see that it’s paid off well for him – literally!

 

Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok – League of Legends ($1.26 Million)

Widely considered as the best League of Legends player of all time, Faker is known for his aggressive mid-laning and charismatic off-stage personality. He has led his team, SK Telecom T1, to countless victories in LoL competitions around the world, and netted huge esports earnings while doing so.

 

How Do Esports Players Make Money?

There are countless different ways to make money playing video games. And while the astonishing prizes of Dota 2 competitions may be lucrative, most pro gamers actually make their living by a combination of means.

 

Sponsorships

According to Newzoo, over 75% of the total market share of esports’ $1.08 billion USD in revenue will come from sponsorship and media rights. That’s why pro teams’ jerseys are usually stylised with logos of brands ranging from Intel and Honda to Pepsi, Disney and even various esports betting sites.

This revenue is then passed on to players in the form of salaries, as is the case with League of Legends.

 

Merchandising

Just like professional athletes use their persona to sell merchandise – think of Michael Jordan’s relationship with Nike – savvy esports players will also use their persona and gameplay to sell merchandise on social media and other platforms.

One notable example is when the lifestyle brand and gaming organisation, 100 Thieves, tapped LoL player and YouTube streamer Jack “CouRage” Dunlop as their brand ambassador. This encourages gamers to use their platform to connect audiences with brands, and earn some esports income while doing so.

 

Competitions

As we discussed in earlier sections, gaming competitions are a huge source of revenue for both esports organisations and their players. The first-place awards for the “Big Three” games – Dota 2, CS:GO and League of Legends – are often worth millions of dollars, and players often receive a significant chunk of the esports prize money if they win. 

 

Broadcasting and Streaming

Broadcasting gameplay to sites such as Twitch.tv and YouTube has become a major stream of esports earnings for countless celebrities in the gaming world.

Whether they focus on delivering superior gameplay, an outlandish persona or educational value, esports streams attract millions of viewers from around the world, who tune in to watch broadcasts of professional competitions, humorous commentary, speedruns and more.

And those millions of viewers can provide income, such as with YouTube monetisation and Twitch’s Partnership Program.

 

Whether competing or streaming, you can win esports earnings from pro video gaming Source: Flickr

 

Esports Earnings History and Future

Long gone are the days where video game competitions were confined to arcades and LAN parties. With over 223 million fans and counting, professional esports are now worth over $1 billion, and they’re taking the world of entertainment by storm.

As we’ve seen in this article, there are many ways to start earning money through esports, whether as a player or as a punter through real-money bets. If you enjoy betting and are interested in becoming a part of the professional gaming action, why not visit our betting academy to learn the best esports betting tips. Afterwards, claim your esports bonus and try your hand at making some esports earnings today!

 

Esports Earnings FAQs

How much money do esports players make?

In general, most professional players in the top tiers will make between $3,000-5,000 USD per month on average. Furthermore, through winning esports prize money, streaming and sponsorships, some streamers manage to make millions of dollars.

 

What esports pay the most?

At the time of writing, the best-paying esports are Dota 2 and CS:GO.

 

Is esports a good career?

This answer to this really comes down to individual preference and prowess. But in general, as long as you're supporting yourself doing something you love, our team believes it can be a good career for many.

 

Who is the highest-paid esports player of all time?

At the time of writing, Johan “N0tail” Sundstein, from Denmark, has made the most esports earnings of any professional video game player: nearly $7 million USD between 127 tournaments, mostly from Dota 2.

 

What portion of earnings do esports teams take?

Different esports organisations pay their players differently. For example, developer Riot Games ensures that all its professional League of Legends players are paid a generous salary – but they don’t take home much of the prize money from esport competitions.

Meanwhile, with Dota 2 teams, pro players may earn minor salaries throughout the year – but walk away with huge esports earnings if they place first.

 

How much esports earnings can I make if I join an esports league?

This depends on the game you play, the league you’re in, and, of course, how often you (or your team) win(s). Having said that, it is very possible to turn a passion for video gaming into a side hustle or even a full career – so long as you’ve got the dedication and skill.

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