In traditional sports, a team will typically supply athletes with the majority of their salary. Of course, this is not an athlete’s only source of income; a large portion of it also comes from personal sponsorships by companies’ that want the athletes to endorse certain products. In this respect, professional eSports athletes are similar to their traditional athlete counterparts. Just like in traditional sports, an overarching organization will pay a player to play. In the case of eSports, a gaming organization takes this role rather than a team. A gaming organization pays the salaries of multiple players so that they will play under the organization’s name. In many games, professional players will typically put the abbreviation of the gaming organization that sponsors them at the beginning of their “in-game name” or the name they use when they play the game. This naming scheme is not unlike the wearing of a team jersey in a traditional sport.
Currently, the salaries that professional gaming organizations pay their players are kept private. However, in a game called League of Legends, the developer company of the game (Riot) pays a salary to all of the professional players which compete in their League Championship Series (LCS). A team in the LCS is given a $175,000 salary, so with 5 people on a team, the average LCS player will earn around $35,000 from this income source. That number does not include the gaming organization’s salary, tournament prizes, and sponsorships that must also be included to know how much a professional League of Legends player earns. Based on these four sources of income, the average LCS player can make any where from a minimum of $35,000 to hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is enough for professional players to maintain a living. Gaming organizations will also typically buy a house for all of their players to live in together. This means the players are able to focus on their games without worrying about overhead maintenance and upkeep fees.
In the previous paragraph, the similarities of how a professional gamer is paid and how a professional traditional athlete is paid were shown. However, there is one more income source that many professional gamers utilize that traditional athletes cannot: live streaming. A description of live streaming can be found in another post on this blog located here. Through live streaming, the professional player will gain an audience which he/she is able to show advertisements to. The player will then make a certain amount of money based on the number of people watching the ads and the number of people watching the stream. In the above image, there is are chart of a live streamer’s earnings for the month of March in 2011. From the 22nd to the 27th, there were a few errors in the earnings reporting system, so the days show nearly zero dollars earned. Still, when all of the earnings are added up, the streamer still made over $4000 that month even with the under-reported earnings on those six days. Thus, if this income stays relatively constant for all 12 months in the year, the streamer would make at least $48,000. Again, it is important to note that this income is separate from the rest of a player’s earnings, and should be added on top when calculating his total salary.
Overall, professional eSports players have multiple sources of income, many of them similar to sources of income of the athletes of traditional sports. Professional eSports players can make hundreds of thousands of dollars from their jobs. One high profile example is Carlos “Ocelote” Rodriguez. Rodriguez earns anywhere from $820,000 to $950,000 a year. According to SportsInteraction.com, professional soccer players in America make around $160,000 a year. These numbers show how an eSports player can make just as much as, if not more than, a traditional athlete.
In today’s world, becoming a professional eSports player is economically viable. These gamers are able to earn a large income, allowing them to live a comfortable life. In the past, they may not have made as much but as times are changing, so are their earnings. Now more then ever, it is an economically sound decision to become a professional eSports player.