E-sports has been a thing since 1972, when the first video game competition was held at Stanford University – Spacewar was the game, and Bruce Baumgart won the five-person tournament, while Slim Tovar and Robert E. Maas finished on top in the team game.
Much has changed in the near fifty years since — e-sports is now a multi-million dollar industry, with countless players and an enormous number of games. So popular are e-sports, that the stars of the field are now earning huge fees comparable to traditional athletes.
In the following article we have taken a look at the highest paying tournaments, top-earning stars, and money trends between e-sports stars and traditional athletes.
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Biggest tournaments & competitions
Every major sport on the planet has at least one major event that offers competitors the chance to win some serious money – whether it’s the Superbowl or Champions League, there are big payouts available to traditional athletes.
As e-sports has gained in popularity, the number of big tournaments has grown and the top ones now have big prizes for the winners as well.
The following two lists give you the top-five richest events in the calendars of both traditional sports and e-sports.
Top five e-sport events by prize pool size
|1.||Dota 2 The International||$30 million|
|2.||Fortnite World Cup||$30 million|
|3.||LoL World Championship||$6.45 million|
|4.||Call of Duty World League||$6 million|
|5.||The Overwatch League||$5 million|
Top five traditional sporting events by prize pool size
|1.||UEFA Champions League||$2.29 billion|
|2.||Formula One||$1 billion|
|3.||UEFA Europa League||$629 million|
|4.||FIFA World Cup||$400 million|
|5.||The World Series Championship||$66 million|
So, while the biggest e-sport events in the world have huge amounts of money sloshing around, they’ve still got some way to go – the winners of these tournaments can walk away with millions, while the winners of traditional sporting events get tens of millions.
Highest earning players & athletes
Plenty of e-sport players make serious money these days, with the very best making more in a year than most people make in a lifetime. However, how does this compare to the earnings of multi-millionaire sports people – where the UK’s highest-earning soccer player is paid almost the same as the country’s annual average casino winnings combined?
Below we have listed the career earnings of the five most successful e-sport stars and traditional athletes.
Top five highest-career-earning e-sport stars
|1.||Tyler ‘Ninja’ Blevins||$10 million|
|2.||Kuro ‘KuroKy’ Takhasomi||$4.2 million|
|3.||Amer ‘Miracle-‘ Al-Barkawi||$3.8 million|
|4.||Johan ‘N0tail’ Sundstein||$3.7 million|
|5.||Ivan ‘MinD_ContRoL’ Ivanov||$3.6 million|
Top five highest-career-earning traditional athletes
|1.||Vince McMahon||$2.2 billion|
|2.||Ion Tiriac||$2 billion|
|3.||Michael Jordan||$1.7 billion|
|4.||Michael Schumacher||$800 million|
|5.||Tiger Woods||$800 million|
Much of the earnings from the sport stars come from sponsorship agreements, however, it all counts in their earning potential. This means that while the best e-sport players can earn a large amount of money, they don’t really compare to the amounts that are earned by the world’s top athletes.
Could e-sport stars soon earn more than athletes?
It’s clear that e-sports is a much bigger deal now than when it began, with the very best in the industry being able to earn millions from playing the games that they adore. While their earning potential is nowhere near that of traditional athletes, could they soon be making more than track and field stars? Advertising executives certainly think so.
Event sponsorship and advertising from brands like Red Bull, Coca-Cola and Samsung is worth millions to the e-sports industry. Indeed, there is so much money being pumped into e-sports by big companies that the industry is expected to be worth between $1.4 and 2.4 billion by 2020.
The continued and growing injection of cash into the e-sports industry is helping to close the gap between its stars and traditional athletes. Indeed, streamer and video game star, Tyler ‘Ninja’ Blevins, is now considered the 14th most marketable sports star in the world – you can expect plenty more to join him in the World’s 50 Most Marketable sports stars in the coming years.
There’s really no comparison when it comes to the earning power of e-sport stars and traditional athletes – e-sport stars can become millionaires, while athletes can become billionaires.
However, just because the gap is wide now, doesn’t mean that e-sport stars’ earnings will never compare to their athletic rivals.
More and more money is coming into the e-sports industry, meaning you can expect its very best stars to begin getting a lot closer to traditional sport stars.