With the rapid and powerful rise of esports, more individuals are seeking a career in the industry with each passing day. Typically, young and avid gamers will seek out a career as an esports professional long before they will a ‘traditional’ career path. It’s one of the most accessible industries for a gamer with talent, and these days, it can be remarkably lucrative to be an ‘esports pro’. With that in mind, we’re here to identify the highest-paid gamers in 2023, looking at the average pro gamer salary and determining just how much money esports players make.
Once upon a time, a pro gamer salary was a laughable concept and, at the best of times, it would have been a meagre sum. Today, the world is a different place, driven forward by digital industries that are growing at an immeasurable rate. These days, some of the highest-paid gamers boast multi-million-dollar fortunes, and a pro gamer salary is no longer something to laugh at.
How Much Do Esports Players Make?
In 2019, at the first Fortnite World Cup, Kyle ‘Bugha’ Giersdorf made history by securing a $3 million prize, beating out a huge host of players. It was the biggest solo win in the history of esports, and even today, it hasn’t been beaten as a record. Barely two years later, in 2021, Dota 2’s The International 10 took place, boasting a $40 million pool – the biggest tournament prize pool ever to exist.
With these figures on the table, it seems bizarre to think that esports was once a valueless industry, equal parts small-time and ridiculed.
As the tournaments themselves have massive prize pools, an abundance of sponsorship opportunities, and investment backing, players must also earn a lot, right? On average, how much do esports players make, and who are the highest-paid gamers in 2023? Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to this question, as it differs by proficiency, game, geographical region, and even age.
Recently, it was revealed that the average salary of a professional Dota 2 player was around $35,000 per month. However, that figure was reserved almost exclusively for those playing at the ultimate, highest level. As the tiers cascade, the salary understandably gets lower, with minor-league organisations paying around $500 – $1000 per month. In 2020, it was suggested that the average League of Legends player competing in the LCS boasted an annual salary of around $410,000.
Outside of these ‘top-tier’ esports titles, salaries can drop considerably. For instance, in 2021, the Call of Duty League published information that revealed that all players in the League would receive a ‘minimum annual base salary’ of $50,900. So, immediately, we can identify that some of the highest-paid gamers in 2023 gravitate in and around titles like Dota 2 and League of Legends.
Who Are The Highest-Paid Gamers in 2023?
By the end of the first quarter in 2023, a small band of pro esports gamers had already racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars. At the PUBG Mobile Global Championship, which ran in January of 2023, five players of Nova eSports claimed the ultimate victory, securing a massive prize pot worth $1.5 million. Once divided, this meant that each player had secured an instant payout of $306,000 each:
- Zehai ‘Order’ Ceng – $974,622 total earnings
- Bojun ‘paraboy’ Zhu – $1,093, 943 total earnings
- Yinjun ‘Jimmy’ Xu – $959,483 total earnings
- Ronghua ‘coolboy’ Zeng – $778,597 total earnings
- Yien ‘King’ Lin – $769,113 total earnings
Now, let’s bear in mind that the $1.5m pool was the result of one tournament. Every year in the esports schedule, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of esports tournaments. Most of these tournaments boast a prize pool worth at least $1 million at the highest level. However, as we’ve explained, it differs massively based on the game in question. As we transition out of 2021, many of the year’s top earners will continue to perform at a high level in 2023.
Here’s a breakdown of the highest-paid video gamer pros (from multiple franchises) from 2021 – many of them should be watched closely in 2023:
- Miroslaw ‘Mira’ Kolpakov – Dota 2 – $3,696,652
- Alexander ‘s1mple’ Kostylev – CSGO – $832,750
- Peng ‘Fly’ Yunfei – Arena of Valor – $667,803
- Tyler ‘aBeZy’ Pharris – Call of Duty – $515,916
- James ‘TGLTN’ Giezen – PUBG – $379,728
It’s important to remember that while these are some of the highest-paid gamers in 2023 (or at least, they might be), these figures are simply their tournament earnings. When we’re trying to work out how much money esports players make, we must also consider their salaries, endorsements and sponsorships, and any money raised through other means, such as streaming.
Can Anyone Make Money in Esports?
If you want to become one of the highest-paid gamers in 2023, you’ll need to have the skills to back up that desire. Today, esports is a dense and saturated industry, and there are millions of competitors trying to make a name for themselves. However, if you’re good enough at your chosen game, there’s a high chance you can make at least a little money by competing at even the lowest level.
Outside of the fundamental realms of esports, some of the highest-paid gamers come in the form of streamers. While these individuals might not boast a pro gamer salary, they make plenty of money through other means, with video games sitting at the core of everything that they do. For instance, let’s consider the net worth of some of the biggest, most popular twitch streamers ever:
- Tyler ‘Ninja’ Blevins net worth: $40,000,000
- Michael ‘Shroud’ Grzesiek net worth: $20,000,000
- Timothy ‘TimTheTatman’ Beter net worth: $10,000,000
- Nick ‘NICKMERCS’ Kolcheff net worth: $9,000,000
- Guy ‘Dr Disrespect’ Beahm net worth: $6,000,000
- Imane ‘Pokimane’ Anys net worth: $3,000,000
Many of these big names have either made money through esports or continue to do so today. For instance, Shroud was once a world-class, top-tier CSGO competitor who picked up around $220k in tournament winnings. However, for some of the highest-paid gamers in 2023, having unbeatable skills isn’t always a requirement. Ultimately, many of the biggest earners in gaming make a living based on their undeniable personalities, their entertainment value, and the quality of the content they produce.
So, if you’ve got your eyes on a high-value pro gamer salary, you might not need to worry if you’re not all that good at the games you play. If you want to become one of the highest-paid gamers in 2023, perhaps you can follow in the footsteps of these streamers.