The Conquest of Esports

The 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris might include a new sport. Instead of karate, skateboarding, and surfing (all of which are being added to the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan), committee officials are contemplating whether or not to incorporate esports in one of the most prestigious athletic categories.


In 1980, the “Space Invaders” Championship was one of the first big esports competitions, attracting more than 10,000 competitors. In 2007, the overall prize fund for the Championship Gaming Series Season surpassed $1 million. Now, income from professional gaming is projected to reach $1.8 billion by 2022 and continues to expand at an outstanding rate.


Who is participating, and how much money is truly at stake? Continue scrolling to learn about the last two decades of professional gaming. We will discuss how many millions of dollars have been awarded in prize money, which nations have embraced esports, and which games and competitions provide the largest payouts. Are you prepared for an intimate look at the current esports industry? Let’s go!


Making Financial Moves

Titles are more than simply medals and status for professional sportsmen. Almost often, winning teams (and sometimes losing teams) are compensated handsomely for their accomplishments.



In 2019, each New England Patriots player got $118,000 for winning the NFL championship game. In contrast, the Masters Tournament champions in Augusta, Georgia will get up to $1.98 million. The NBA maintains a $20 million playoff pool, from which the Cleveland Cavaliers received $2.66 million in 2016 for winning the title. Esports isn’t much different. In 2018, The International, a “Dota 2” tournament, offered a prize pool of $25.5 million, including nearly $11 million for first place.


Professional gaming and esports may not appear to be as physically demanding or prestigious as other big sports leagues, yet it rewards its winners professionally. Obviously, it wasn’t always like this. In 1998, the average prize pool for esports events was less than $15,000, while the total reward pool for all championship games that year was $132,000. The average tournament prizes in esports have climbed by 205% from 1998, from $14,633 to over $45,000 during the past two decades. In 2018, the worldwide prize pool surpassed previous records, settling at roughly $156 million (aided in part by Valve’s daring $100 million wins pledge to multiple “Fortnite” competitions).


A Global Spectacle

Esports and professional gaming did not become a $1 billion industry by concentrating their efforts in a single nation. In its place, esports have become a worldwide phenomenon, with some nations rushing to catch up and capitalize on the popularity of video games.



Japan may be home to some of the world’s largest video game producers (including Nintendo, Capcom, and Konami), but the nation has not been at the forefront of esports. Legal issues have made it difficult for Japan to create prize pools large enough to attract foreign players and events. Japan’s involvement in the esports business has increased more than any other nation (from $250 in tournament profits in 2000 to over $2.2 million in 2018), although it still lags behind the world’s most dominant esports nations.


In 2018, the United States (over $28 million), China (almost $17 million), South Korea (nearly $14 million), and Denmark (over $10 million) were the countries with the greatest overall profits. Danish players and supporters take esports so seriously that the country has implemented programs in postsecondary institutions to assist develop their talents. In Denmark, the average total profits per player were more than anyplace else in the globe, exceeding $27,000.


Worthy of Green

Are you considering taking up the gamepad and joining the action? You may be possible to earn a few cash by playing “Tetris” or “Mario” competitively, along with a few other minor titles, but these games are unlikely to make you a billionaire.



The International, the annual “Dota 2” championship event, continues to have the most lucrative prize pool in all of esports. Since its inception, Valve’s tournament has grown each year in terms of grand prize payments and excitement, making it a massive spectacle for players and viewers. Compared to four “Quake II” tournaments in 1998, in which 16 competitive players earned a total of $66,000, the playing field has undergone a dramatic transformation over the past two decades. In 2018, the prize pool for “Dota 2” reached $41 million across 161 events and 1,093 participants.


Unfamiliar with the sport? Valve has taken measures to assist welcome new players to the game’s ranks and reduce toxic playing circumstances. It may take time to reach the highest level of professional play, but Valve has taken efforts to help new players join the ranks and eradicate poisonous playing conditions.


An Entire New World

If it were simple to become a professional athlete, everyone would do it. To keep in shape throughout the year, some of the greatest names in professional sports engage in the most difficult weight training programs, aerobic workouts, explosive circuit bodybuilding, and Olympic lifting. Professional video game gamers may not be able to bench press as much as John Cena or sprint as far as Canelo Alvarez, but their daily rounds may still surprise you.



Obey has a team of dietitians and other specialists to ensure that players remain physically and psychologically healthy between events. Other teams participate in multi-day boot camps aimed to improve team cohesion and physical condition. To be successful in the game, esports players must control what they consume and maintain excellent physical and mental health, much like traditional athletes.


In 1998, there were just 34 esports players, compared to roughly 19,000 in 2018. Similar to conventional athletes, their efforts have the potential to pay off. In contrast to Thresh, the highest-earning esports player in 1998, who made $16,000, current players may now become millionaires. In Finland in 2018, JerAx made about $2.3 million. In addition to being among the highest-earning players, N0tail, 7ckngMad, Topson, and ana earned more than $2.2 million in tournament prizes and endorsement deals.


Strive to Win

If you enjoy playing video games, there are several chances to make money from your hobby. Live-streaming your games, publishing to YouTube, making walkthroughs and manuals, and beta testing new titles are a few ways to add “professional video gamer” to your résumé, even if you don’t become a billionaire. Nevertheless, if you want to make a lot of money, you should target video game competitions. By devoting time and effort to improving your gaming talents, you may earn millions and become a global celebrity.


Methods and Restrictions

For this study, we used data from 1998 to 2018 on total prize money, average prize pools, tournament earnings by country, active players, and tournament earnings per player. The information was collected on February 5, 2019. Insufficient data for 1998 and 1999 were omitted from the required visualizations. In addition, we did not have access to data for all nations from 1998 to 2018, thus our reporting may be incomplete. Additionally, data are susceptible to change over time, as relies on data submissions and updates from gaming community members. We did not do statistical analysis on the data, and our findings are based only on the means. Any future study on this topic should take a more scholarly and inclusive approach.


Fair Use Declaration

Who knew that all those hours spent playing video games might one day be so lucrative? Want to help distribute wealth? The results of our investigation and the accompanying visuals are accessible for noncommercial use by your readers. Include a link back to this page in the co-op mode so that our creators receive credit for their work.

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