As it stands today, the highest paid athlete in the world is boxer Floyd Mayweather. His earnings, with no endorsements, total some $105 million dollars. Footballer Christiano Ronaldo comes in second, with his bank manager gleefully overseeing around $80 million a year. Imagine that. Getting paid such substantial amounts for doing something you love every day, something that could hardly be considered a “job” at all.
But this is the dizzying world of the professional sportsperson, this is not for us mere gamers! We’re all out of work graphic designers or stuck in dead-end IT jobs. A bespectacled World of Warcraft player’s bank account is never going to look the same as LeBron James’ ($72.3 million), is it now? I bet your parents probably said this exact sentence to you only yesterday. But oh, how misunderstood us gamers are.
Like any pro sportsman, if you’re really, really good at winning, you can rise to the top – like the delicious cream in a milky underworld of quickscoping and sexually ambiguous usernames. And then, once you’re there, you can start makin’ paper. Some pretty serious paper too, as it happens. In truth, your bank account might not quite rival that of Tiger Woods’, but you’d be surprised at just how much you could earn for a few hours worth of pwning nOObs.
So, by way of comparison, here are the seven highest game-playing earners from around the world. Read on to find out just how much they’re making (or just how much you could expect to earn if you limber up your fingers and beat them).
It should be noted that these figures are based on prize money alone, and do not take into account the extra income from sponsorship and promotions. Some even charge you to watch their practice games on Twitch. Expect to easily add an extra few thousand for all that.Next
8) Lee Young Ho – South Korea
AKA: KT FlaSh Total earnings: $449,516
FlaSh’s game of choice is StarCraft: Brood War, and in case you didn’t know, that game is huge in South Korea. Like, colossal. To the point where people who want a career in StarCraft (which is a completely eligible option) move to Korea in the same way that people who want a career in acting move to Hollywood. It’s gotten to the point where the Korean Air Force started up a team so the young pros didn’t have to stop playing when they got called up for their compulsory military service.
But FlaSh already lives in South Korea. And he’s probably done his time in the force. And he’s definitely pretty good, taking home just shy of $10,000 per tournament. Half of his total earnings were won before his 18th birthday.Previous Next
7) Clement Ivanov – Estonia
AKA: Puppey Total earnings: $450,480
I just did some research on Estonia and I came up with only three noteworthy offerings from their Baltic republic. That they apparently gave us gap-year chat messenger Skype, drummer-approved Paiste cymbals, and a beer called “Le Coq,” which is mildly amusing.
What it also gave us was a very, very good competitive video game player named Clement. His game of choice, Dota 2, has racked him up a fair bit of pocket money, a large portion of which coming from Dota 2 tournament “The International” – which his clan Natus Vincere only received the entry keys to three weeks before it started. Not bad.
BONUS FACT: He also looks a lot like Rick Astley.Previous Next
6) Oleksandr Dashkevych – Ukraine
AKA: XBOCT(4) Total earnings: $453,311
This guy has 19 letters in his name, and only five of them are vowels. So whilst you bumbling Westerners try to figure out precisely how to pronounce it, let me fill you in on the legend behind the moniker.
After an arguably poor run with his clan Planet-X in 2009, the group parted ways. A few months later he joined the budding Natus Vincere clan (alongside previous entry in this article Clement Ivanov). Because of his history, indie studio Beyond The Summit rated his ability as 4/10 at a forthcoming Alienware Cup event. He subsequently demolished the top Chinese team, and went on to a shock victory.
At the following “The International” event, held last year, he added a (4) to his name by way of a middle finger to his naysayers. Unfortunately, however, he only came second – though it still netted his squad an equal share of over $600,000, so I’m sure he was basically fine about it.Previous Next
5) Jang Min Chul – South Korea
AKA: MC Total earnings: $453,926
Back to South Korea, and back to StarCraft. Are you starting to see a pattern emerging? On the circuit, MC is something of a veteran. At the ripe old age of 24, he’s one of the most traveled competition players around, particularly frequenting tournaments in and around Europe, and stuffing 79 contests under his belt in the process – almost double the average.
Aside from getting about, MC is particularly known for performing ritualistic ceremonies after any victories he may have accumulated, and in the 2011 MLG Providence Pro-Circuit pulled some weird, crowd-pleasing moves after his win while dressed as a Murloc. That’s way more exiting than Usain Bolt’s “lightning Bolt” pose, I’m certain.Previous Next
4) Johnathan Wendel – United States
AKA: Fatal1ty Total earnings: $454,919
Johnathan Wendel is widely considered to be the first, and best, electronic competition player ever. Unlike many of the players today, he plays a wide variety of games as opposed to specializing in one particular title. He made his name in the often overlooked shooter Painkiller, but has also ripped people to shreds in all manner of other FPS games, like Quake, Call of Duty, Unreal Tournament, Doom 3, Counter Strike, and Alien Versus Predator (lol, what?).
He estimates he’s killed somewhere in the region of 5 million people online over the years, and if that doesn’t make you a legendary cyber-athlete, nothing does. Now something of an entrepreneur aged 33, he continues to play competitively outside of designing gaming mice and headphones and such. In 2010, he was inducted into the International Video Game Hall of Fame and even holds a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for most kills in 60 minutes.Previous Next
3) Danil Ishutin – Ukraine
AKA: Dendi Total earnings: $452,841
Yet another Natus Vincere player, many consider Dendi to be the greatest Dota player in the world right now. Not much is really known about Dendi, other than that he has amassed over 26 podium finishes in the last couple of years, with more than 15 of those being gold medals. Umm… yes, that’s it.
In order to fill this second paragraph, here’s a list of things he could buy with his $450,000 in earnings since he went pro in 2009:
- A luxury South African villa, with pool
- An unfeasibly small apartment in London
- Several college degrees
- A round trip to Mars with SpaceX
- A Lamborghini Aventador
- A BGM-109 Tomahawk missile
- 900 Xbox Ones. Not that he’d be caught dead playing a console.
- 450,000 hammers from the dollar store
And so on. I promise, I’m a qualified writer.Previous Next
2) Lee Jae Dong – South Korea
AKA: Jaedong Total earnings: $519,086
With nicknames including “The Tyrant” and “The Legend Killer,” Jaedong is something of a competitive videogaming heavyweight. He’s South Korean, so guess what his game of choice is? That’s right, we’re back at StarCraft again. Just in case you still don’t quite believe how popular that game is over there, bear in mind that over half of all the copies of StarCraft in existence were sold in South Korea.
In 2005, the country held a StarCraft Championship, and it attracted 120,000 spectators. To put that into perspective, imagine 40,000 more people than attended this year’s SuperBowl. What that is, is amazing.
And even with all the competition, Jaedong is the best, earning the most prize money of any professional gamer in the world currently, over his seven year career. He revolutionized the way StarCraft was played, he holds several records, and he earned half a million dollars from playing a videogame. He’s a badass, and he commands both your love and respect for that.
But in case you’re having delusions of grandeur about become a pro player yourself, it might be worth considering that these guys treat it like a full time job, training together for hours a day. Have a look at this clip – from excellent documentary The Hax Life, regarding exactly what these guys get up to – then see if you feel like you could still live the dream. Good luck.Previous Next
1) Team Newbee – China
AKA: Zhang Pan (Mu), Chen Zhihao (Hao), Zhang Ning (xiao8), Wang Jiao (Banana), Wang Zhaohui (SanSheng)
Total earnings: $1,005,661 each
I understand I’ve cheated a little bit here, but these guys recently won so much money that their team would basically now comprise the entire list, and I wouldn’t want the other entrants to feel too deflated. They probably do though, as the five members of Team Newbee bagged just over a cool one million dollars each – effectively doubling the previous record – in a single tournament.
The tournament in question was Valve’s International, a Dota 2 competition that’s responsible for so many of the other dollars in this list. This time, however, history was ready to be made, with the prize pot sitting at over $5 million, the largest electronic sports prize ever offered. Someone had to win it, and so they did. Ironically named Newbees, their skill and aggression proved they were anything but – and now they’re gaming millionaires.Previous