Esports have been the topic of a lot of public discussion lately, with new developments within the tournament scene of the popular video game “Fortnite.” Three weeks ago, Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf, a 16-year-old esports athlete, won the 2019 Fortnite World Cup, winning $3 million and cementing himself as the 10th wealthiest esports athlete of all time. Also, recently, professional streamer and esports athlete Ninja signed a deal with Mixer, a Microsoft-owned livestreaming company, that paid him $50 million to stream exclusively on their site.
Until the past couple of years, there hasn’t been a lot of money in esports; many players had to grind at endless tournaments to achieve pro status, and climb the ranks to be the richest esports athlete of their respective game. While prize money payouts have been lower in previous years, due to the influx of competitors in modern esports, new players should also get the respect they deserve for doing well in their games.
Esports encompasses athletes from all different types of competitive video games, and there have been top players of almost every age, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. In fact, some of the wealthiest esports athletes have overcome adversity based on some of these aspects of their identities.
Here are some of the current richest esports athletes. (This list does not include income earned from streaming or sponsorship deals, and is only based on the players’ tournament placing.)
KuroKy is a professional “Dota 2” player from Germany and is the wealthiest esports athlete of all-time; he has made over $4.2 million from 103 tournaments. He is known as one of, if not the best “Dota 2” player ever to play the game. Team Liquid, a premier esports team, signed KuroKy in 2015. They were the 10th team to sponsor KuroKy, a testament to his skill and future legacy.
KuroKy has many impressive wins at major tournaments; however, his most impressive win is his first-place finish at The International 2017, the largest tournament series for “Dota 2.” He had never gotten a first-place finish at any previous International tournaments, and this victory netted him over $2.1 million, an amount that only the top esports athletes have obtained.
Scarlett is the wealthiest female esports athlete and hails from Canada. She made her breakout performance at IPL 4, with an impressive open-bracket run, defeating many difficult opponents only to get knocked out in the fifth round of losers. She truly put her name on the map when she won the 2012 Starcraft II World Championship Series Canada tournament, making her the best Canadian “Starcraft II” player. She then won the 2012 Starcraft II World Championship Series North America tournament and became the best North American player.
Scarlett is an extremely well-known player in the “Starcraft II” community and inspires female gamers around the world. She’s also the richest transgender esports athlete. She is currently placed ninth on the WCS Circuit ranking, and 27th on the WCS Korea ranking. Scarlett most recently won the Intel Extreme Masters Season XII — PyeongChang SC2 tournament, earning $50,000.
“Dota 2” is the esports game with the most money in it, by far. Forty-three of the top 50 richest esports athletes have made the majority of their earning playing “Dota 2.” It’s a team-based, Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) video game, which means that competitions take place among teams — “Dota 2,” specifically, in teams of five. It wouldn’t be fair to the rest of Team Liquid not to include Miracle.
Miracle is the highest-earning esports athlete from Jordan, and the second-wealthiest esports athlete of all time. He accompanied KuroKy on Team Liquid for their first-place finish at The International 2017, and Miracle, along with their three other teammates GH, Matumbaman and MinD_ContRol, all won the same amount as KuroKy in that tournament. Miracle also has three other first-place finishes at tournaments that have earned him over $550,000. Given the fact that he is only 22 years old and has only been playing “Dota 2” competitively for five years, this young star’s potential is only beginning to grow.
Xyp9x is the wealthiest “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” player, and the third-richest esports athlete from Denmark. He has earned over $1.45 million from “CS:GO” and currently plays support, as a rifler for Astralis. He has come in first place at 43 tournaments and had his biggest win recently, at Intel Grand Slam Season 1, in which he earned $200,000. Before Xyp9x was even 18, he had already won over $5,000 in esports competitions, setting him up as one of the youngest athletes to look out for, and now that he is 23 years old, he has broken expectations and has built a legacy on continuing to break expectations to this day.
Faker is the No. 1 ranked “League of Legends” player and the richest esports athlete in South Korea. “League” is a popular MOBA game inspired by “DOTA” and “Warcraft III” and, like other popular esports games, “League” has a variety of players from all around the world; however, the most dedicated fanbase is in South Korea. “League” has always been one of the most-viewed games on Twitch.tv, and it has been that way since its release in 2009, when it really blew up.
To be the top player at a game like this proves Faker’s prowess. He has earned over $1.2 million from “League” competitions, and has made first-place finishes in major tournaments since 2013; his most notable win was at the League of Legends 2016 World Championship. While Faker might be an extremely talented player, like in “DOTA 2,” you play as a team, so his team, SK Telecom T1 K, deserves props too.
Karma is the eighth highest-earning gamer from Canada and the richest “Call of Duty” player, having taken the prize money at tournaments for nine different games in the series. He has had consistent results in each “COD” game, with peak years in 2013, 2014 and 2017, but he has also done well within the past few months, earning over $65,000 in prize money.
For many people, “COD” was the first game through which they heard about esports and major-league gaming. The game inspired countless kids to compete in esports, so being the richest player in the game is quite a title. Karma has won 59 tournaments, winning the most from the 2017 Call of Duty World League Championship tournament as a member of OpTic Gaming.
I feel like a happy old man seeing these guys make the plays they are. Took a year but I'm loving it.
— Damon B (@OpTic_DKarma) August 18, 2019
Of course, there’s plenty of other wealthy esports athletes out there, and there are lots of top players to admire. Esports are still an emerging medium, and it is likely that the current wealthiest and best players will soon be dethroned. With new money flowing in and more public attention toward esports than ever, it is likely that future tournaments will be even bigger and more competitive.
Video game entertainment is a big market, and many competitors record and stream videos to supplement their incomes, which can sometimes earn them more money than actual tournament revenue. It’s clear that gaming has a lot to look forward to in the future.