From humble beginnings, the world of competitive video gaming has exploded. In over 50 years of competition, the industry is unrecognisable in the present day.
In theory, the first ever eSports tournament took place in 1972, but the concept of professional competitive play has only really developed since the dawn of the digital age. From there, the finances behind it have increased exponentially.
The potential for earning serious cash at eSports tournaments came into the wider public consciousness in 2020. The $1m top prize made available for the Fortnite Super Cup ensured that the wider world took an interest.
It was just the start: In 2022, DOTA 2 smashed all records by introducing a prize pool of $32.85 million. The stats show that Arena of Valor was only just behind in second place with $32.73 million.
These are staggering sums and, inevitably, they have made the best eSports competitors very wealthy. Here is a round up of the highest earners on the circuit.
The most successful eSports players in terms of winnings have benefited by that surge in prize money via DOTA 2. At the top of the pile is the Dane Johan Sundstein who has amassed £7,184,163 USD on the back of this particular game.
It’s generally easy for followers of any title to spot the best competitors. There is significant interest in eSports among the betting community and sports betting markets put the most successful players at the top of the list.
Known by his player ID as NOtail, Sundstein will be among the favourites moving forward. His OG team won the DOTA 2 International for two consecutive years in 2018 and 2019 and he is the most important figure in that side.
Coming in at number two on the list of top earners is Finland’s Jesse Vainiika who is another pro gamer who earned his fortune with DOTA 2. The man known as JerAx has so far compiled career earnings of $6,486, 948.
JerAx is a former team mate of Johan Sundstein at OG who were the most successful unit on the DOTA 2 circuit. He later took up a post as coach of Team Liquid, but subsequently left after stating that he didn’t enjoy the game as much as he felt necessary.
Vainikka’s future is unclear, but he can surely continue to compete at the highest level.
JerAx’s downtime may give Australia’s Anathan Pham a chance to overtake the Finn and claim second place. For now, Pham is more than comfortable in third with career earnings from DOTA 2 that have hit $6,024,411.
He plays under the ID of ana. and he knows Sundstein and Vainikka well as a pivotal member of the OG team. Pham was part of the side that won the DOTA 2 International for two consecutive years. He’s also won two major tournaments across his career.
In 2021, ana announced his retirement but, at the age of 23, he has plenty of time to come back into competitive play.
A French professional gamer playing under the ID of Ceb, Sebastien Debs is following a common theme. Like other entries on this list, he is an expert in DOTA 2 and was part of the OG team that claimed the International in 2018 and 2019.
At the age of 30, Debs has more experience than most of his young team mates and he’s put all that knowledge to good use. Aside from his playing success, Ceb has also coached the OG team to four Major title wins.
All of this has added up to provide career earnings of $5,823,909.
Known more widely for his abbreviated ID of Topson, Finland’s Topias Taavitsainen eases into fifth place with an exceptional set of career earnings of $5,690,417. A compatriot of JerAx, he’s also a former team mate of his fellow Finn as the two men enjoyed a successful career with OG.
The top earners have, essentially, got where they are thanks to the earning potential of the 2018 and 2019 DOTA 2 International tournaments. Topson was involved in both successes and he was named the MVP for the 2019 edition.
More to Come
The top of the eSports earnings leaderboard is dominated by exponents of DOTA 2. The phenomenal amounts of money put up by the organisers has made multi-millionaires out of the best players.
Those who compete in other games such as Call of Duty, CS:GO and Fortnite can still earn life changing sums of money from pro gaming. As the competitions develop and more sponsors get involved, DOTA 2 will have competition at the very top. For now, it stands out, but there is more than one game that can give the best players access to the millionaire’s club.