One of the biggest dreams of any gamer is to be able to pay their bills while doing what they love, which is gaming. One of the most sought-after careers for gamers is becoming a professional esports player. Gone are the times when esports players only got paid with the prize money. Being paid a proper salary to be a professional esports player has now become a reality. But how much does an esports player actually make? Here is our take on how much money esports players make, how did we get to where making a living out of epsorts became a reality, and what determines the salary of a professional esports player.
How Did Esports Become A Career
If we go back in time only about ten or so years ago, we will find that there is not a lot of talk about esports actually becoming a career or something that people can earn a living from. For the longest time, esports has not been taken seriously by people that are not from the whole gaming and esports community. Gaming was thought of as something that only those people take part in that have no plans for their future. In general, gaming was thought of as only a waste of time. Even people that played video games casually thought that making money by playing video games could never become an actual thing.
However, things have changed quite a bit, with most of the changes being positive for the esports and gaming community. Despite everything that the world has thrown at esports, it has managed to come out as a behemoth that is taking over the entertainment industry. These days it is not uncommon to see an esports player making well over the average salary of someone in any other profession. But how did we come to this point?
The thing is, for over ten or fifteen years ago, the only way that esports players could make money was from the prize money that they won. If a team did not manage to get any position in a certain tournament, all their hard work would have been for nothing, and the players would not have earned anything. However, what has changed now is that gaming, in general, has become a part of pop culture. Almost everyone these days has played a video game. When something gets this popular, there is big money to be made, and organizations start stepping in so they can capitalize on this potential. It is exactly what happened with esports. Organizations came into the world of esports, recruited talented players, created teams, and started paying those players to play as professional esports players.
What Factors Affect Salaries Esports Players
In the world of conventional sports like football or basketball, not every athlete is paid the same. Some athletes might be paid more, while some other athletes might be paid less. In the same way, esports players are also paid differently. Some professional esports players are paid way more than other esports players. There are tons of factors that affect the salary of esports players. For example, a professional basketball player that has been playing professionally for over 4 to 5 years is not going to be paid the same as someone who is a professional darts player that just entered the field. Here are some of the main factors that determine the salaries of esports players.
As we have already mentioned, a basketball player does not have the same salary as a football player. In the same way, players that play professionally for Counter-Strike Global Offensive are not paid the same salary as players that play Dota 2. But why is there a difference?
The thing is, certain games are much more popular than other games. For example, Counter-Strike Global Offensive is one of the most popular first-person shooters right now. Tons of people play Counter-Strike Global Offensive, and consequently, tons of people watch esports matches for Counter-Strike Global Offensive. It means that there is tons of money to be generated through sponsors in esports events for CSGO. The prize pool will also be much larger for these events. Since there is a lot of money in esports for Counter-Strike Global Offensive in general, the chunk of cash that pro-CSGO players will earn will be much larger.
However, the difference is not that much. The only time that a substantial difference is seen in the salaries of players depending on the game is when either we are comparing the top players of two different games or when one game is super popular while the other is not popular at all. For example, on average, esports players for Counter-Strike Global Offensive are paid anywhere from around 15,000 to 20,000 USD while professional Overwatch players are paid an average of 10,000 USD. Not only that, but you can also find a lot of CSGO pro players that also earn around 10,000 USD. However, esports players for Super Smash Bros are paid around 1000 to 5000 USD.
The skill level of a professional esports player by far has the most amount effect on their salary. You can't expect one of the best professional football players like Ronaldo or Messi to be paid the same as a player that just entered the professional football scene. It just doesn't make sense. Ronaldo and Messi are both highly valuable players, and they are also very talented. Since they are at such a high skill level, team organizers are willing to pay a lot of money to keep them in their teams.
The same is true for esports players. There are certain players in professional esports that are very talented. They have insane abilities when it comes to in-game performance. For example, s1mple is a professional CSGO player that is considered by most to be the best AWPer of all time. In other words, he is one of the top players, if not the best player, in terms of the ability to aim and use the AWP sniper rifle. It is for this reason that his estimated earnings are anywhere from around 60,000 to 70,000 USD every month. His net worth is estimated to be around 1,100,000 USD. This is way more than what the average CSGO player would earn. On Average, the top players of CSGO esports earn around 40,000 USD per month. An esports player is expected to have both talent and tons of hours of practice under their belt to be paid this much money.
Right after skill level, the Region where an esports organization is from has the largest effect on how much they can pay their players. In almost all cases, it is also the region where the player is from. For example, a player from Europe would most likely be a part of a team from Europe. This has nothing to do with esports itself, and it has everything to do with economics.
The thing is, the average salary is different for different countries regardless of the profession. For example, the average salary of a Primary Care Physician in the United States is around 15,000 USD to 20,000 USD. On the other hand, the salary for a Primary Care Physician in the UK starts at around 35,000 USD. The major factors that influence this fluctuation in salaries in different regions include the strength of the region's currency and the supply and demand for that particular profession in that region.
In the same way, if a country has a relatively stronger currency, esports players in that country will be paid a lot more. Along with that, if there is tons of demand for professional esports players in a particular country, then esports players will be paid a lot over there. However, when you reach the top in terms of skill level, the differences in salaries start to get a lot smaller.
How Much Do Pro CSGO Players Earn
When it comes to esports, the main first-person shooter that comes to mind is CSGO. It is simply because it is one of the most popular first-person shooter esports titles. The esports scene for CSGO also has the largest amount of professional players. There are over 15,000 esports players that are a part of the whole CSGO esports scene. This is why taking a look at the average salaries for professional CSGO players makes the most sense if the average esports salary is to be analyzed.
The Top Earners
CSGO players that are super talented are paid a ton of money. Firstly they get paid a lot by their team organizers because they are super valuable to them. And secondly, if they win a major tournament, the portion of the prize money that they receive is also huge. When it comes to large-scale tournaments, it is mostly the prize money that makes CSGO players super-rich. The total accumulative prize pool for CSGO tournaments in 2016 was around 17 million US dollars. By 2021, this number has grown all the way up to 21 million US dollars. If a team manages to win most of the tournaments, the prize money starts to stack up really fast.
The first players that managed to break the 1 million US dollar threshold for prize money include dev1ce, dupreeh, and Xyp9x, all of which were from Astralis at that time. The richest CSGO player as of 2022 in terms of their prize money is dupreeh from Denmark, who has a total earning of a whopping 1.95 million US dollars. The CSGO player that is at the 20th spot on the list, NiKo, still has an earning of around .95 million US dollars. That's nearly a million US dollars. On top of all this, the top players in the CSGO esports scene are easily paid over 40,000 USD as a salary. Needless to say, the top earners in the CSGO esports scene make a ton of money.
Salaries Of Specific Teams
As we have already mentioned that while professional CSGO players usually get rich with the prize money that they win for their teams, their team organizers also pay them a huge amount of money. Players first have to make a contract with the team organizes, which usually lasts around three years. The contract determines for how long the player will be a part of the team and how much will the player be paid during their time on the team.
One of the first teams to ever publicly announce how much they pay their players was Cloud9. Cloud9 has been reported to have spent a whopping 5 million US dollars on the acquisition of players for three-year terms. The biggest chunk of this 5 million US dollars was allocated to acquire Alex McMeekin or ALEX who also served as the leader of the team. Other teams that spent similar amounts of cash on the salaries of their players are Astralis and North. Astralis reportedly pays a fixed salary of around 30,000 USD per month to all of its players. Along with that, players from North got paid around 20,000 USD per month. The total cash that North spent on their team is less than the 5 million US dollars that Cloud9 managed to pay. However, 20,000 USD a month multiplied by 5 players comes out to 100,000 USD, which is still a lot of money.
The reason that these teams manage to pay this much cash and can afford it is that the players that they acquire with this cash do some amazing stuff for them. For example, Cloud9 is one of the world's most popular esports teams right now. High popularity means more eyes that look at you, which means more sponsors, and more merchandise sold. In a later section, we will be explaining more about how esports teams actually make money to pay their players.
How Do Teams Make Money To Pay Their Players
We have already mentioned that some professional esports teams have spent several million dollars to acquire players so they can play for their teams. However, how do these organizations afford to spend all that money? The first thing that comes to mind is prize money. Since these players win most matches for them, they receive a ton of prize money. However, that's not enough to keep paying the amount of money that team organizers pay their players as salaries. Besides, most of the prize money goes to the players anyway.
The most common way that esports teams make money is through sponsorships. For example, let us say that a particular team performs really well and dominates the competition. That team will most likely stay in the tournament for a longer time. Both of these things mean that there will be a ton of eyes on the team, and they will stay on them for a longer portion of the tournament. If an energy drink or a gaming mouse manufacturer wants to advertise their brand, all they have to do is add their names on the T-shirts of the top players. This is what sponsorships are in a nutshell. There are a ton of other ways that brands use sponsorships to advertise their brand. In return, they pay the organizers of the team for these sponsorships.
Another way that the most popular esports teams make money is through selling merchandise. Die-hard fans usually want to represent their favorite teams, just as sports fans do. Just as sports fans wear jerseys of their favorite teams, esports fans get T-shirts and caps for their favorite teams. You might not think about it, but both sponsorships and merchandise when combined create a ton of revenue.
The Bottom Line
With the current state of esports, it is clear that making money through esports is not unheard of, and these days, quite a lot of people are making a living out of esports. Gamers that are good at particular games finally have the opportunity to utilize their skills in something that can pay their bills. With that said, the amount of money that an esports player will make is not set in stone. While there are a lot of players that make well over tens of thousands of dollars every month with their esports career, there are also a ton of players that make only around 5,000 USD every month. Another thing that you should keep in mind is that reaching the point where you get paid even 5,000 USD is no easy task. You will have to be really good at the game you play and have tons of practice. However, if you have the talent and are willing to spend the hours, you will surely reach the point where you get paid well over 10,000 USD for playing your favorite game.