How Much Money Do Pro Gamers Make?

The top pro gamers make an estimated $1.1 million a year from playing video games professionally. The money comes from prize money, salary, Twitch subscriptions, streaming ad revenue and sponsorships. The highest paid gamer in the world in terms of prize money is American Saahil Arora, known by his player ID as UNiVeRsE, with a career $2.7 million. All of the top 30 biggest prizewinners (and most of the top 100) play Dota 2, though the players with highest salary are said to play Counterstrike.

On average, players stand to make the most money from streaming ad revenue on YouTube, with many pro gamers earning more than half their annual income from that source. Next in order of pay comes sponsorship deals followed by Twitch subscriptions, with prize money bringing up the rear.Pro Gamer Money

Pro Gamer Money Facts

The top line pro gamer money facts are shown in the list below. The most pertinent of all is that anyone who thinks they can make an easy living as a pro gamer is in for a serious wakeup call. The odds of making it as a pro are about the same as those of getting struck by lightning or making it in the NBA. In fact a career seeker would have about a 5,000 times better chance of making it as a doctor as making it as a pro gamer. The gaming world is about as tough to chisel into as major league sports like the NBA, NFL or MLB. That’s because pro gaming, though a lot less physical than those sports, is every bit as competitive and just as demanding.

  • It’s as hard to make money as a pro gamer as it is to make money in the NBA or NFL.
  • There are around 2,000 pro gamers making a living from playing video games in the world.
  • The most pro gamer money from tournament prizes comes from Dota.
  • Dota 2 has an $18 million crowdfunded prize purse each year.
  • There are 26 tournaments each year with prize purses over $1 million for pro gamers.
  • There are 500 tournaments with prize purses over $80,000 for pro gamers.
  • Worldwide, three times more people watched the 2015 League of Legends tournament than the Super Bowl.
  • The top 500 pro gamers made more than $20,000 in prize money each in 2016.
  • The top 100 pro gamers made over $125,000.
  • The top 20 pro gamers made over $400,000.
  • A top League of Legends gamer makes from $5,000 to $10,000 a month in salary, not including prize money.
  • A top Counterstrike gamer makes from $8,000 to $15,000 a month in salary.
  • Pro gamers make about $3 per month per subscriber on Twitch. A player with 1,000 Twitch subscribers therefore makes $3,000 a month.
  • Pro gamers who stream a lot get about $0.005 per 1,000 views from ad revenue. That works out to $1 for every 200,000 views.
  • Pro gamers who stream a lot get about $0.005 per 1,000 views from ad revenue. That works out to $1 for every 200,000 views.

In fact there are only about 2,000 pro gamers making a living at it. That’s comparable to the NFL (1,696) and not much more than MLB (about 1,000) or the NBA (about 450). That said, the small pool of highly-skilled elite players does make a fair bit of cash. Dota 2 alone crowdfunds an $18 million purse for its annual tournament. A top League of Legends player can pull down $5,000 to $10,000 a month in salary alone. Many gamers make thousands per month from Twitch subscriptions. Still others make a half million a year or more from YouTube ad revenue. Finally, growing sponsorship deals create yet another income source for pro gamers. See below the table for an analysis of how much money pro gamers actually make.

Where Does Pro Gamer Money Come From?

The table below gives a rundown of the earnings sources available to pro gamers. In general 55% of all pro gamer money comes straight from streaming ad revenue from YouTube and Twitch. Another 13% comes from sponsorship deals. That’s tied with Twitch subscriptions for second place, with prize money coming in at about 11% of all professional video game player earnings. Salary brings up the rear at about 8%.

Exact dollar figures for how much a player earns from any of these sources depends heavily on the gamer. Someone playing in the top 100 of all gamers naturally makes a lot more than someone ranked down around 1,700. For estimates about how much pro gamers make in each category, scroll down to the next section.

Pro Gamer Money Sources
Pro Gamer Money SourcePercentage of Total
Streaming Ad Revenue55%
Sponsorships13%
Twitch Subscriptions13%
Prize Money11%
Salary8%

Here’s How Much Money the Top 100 Pro Gamers Make

The top 100 pro gamers in the world make a lot of money. They don’t yet earn as much as the top 100 NBA or NFL players but their pay is growing all the time. Generally speaking, pro gamer money of $1.1 million a year goes to the best of the best.

Top NBA players frequently earn an average of about $35 million a year. That’s based on salaries from $10 million to $25 million and endorsement deals with companies like Nike and EA Sports that are almost as big. LeBron James for example makes an estimated $50 million a year.

Though the top 100 pro gamers make a lot less than most people working in major league sports, they’re still doing very well. The table below shows the breakdown for professional video game earnings. In general, a top-100 player can earn about $125,000 a year in prize money from tournaments, $96,000 from salary, $144,000 from Twitch subscriptions, $625,000 from ad revenue and $150,000 from sponsorships.

Pro Gamer Money: Top 100 Players
Top 100 Pro GamersMoney Per Year
After Tax$569,643
Prize Money$124,286
Salary$96,000
Twitch$144,000
Ad Revenue$625,000
Sponsorships$150,000
Total$1,139,286

The prize money shown in the table above is an average of all prize money earned by the top 100 gamers from the site ESportsEarnings.com. Since that average reflects total career earnings we’ve divided it by an average of seven years of pro gaming activity. Salary is an average of estimates given by gaming professional Scott Smith, former COO of Evil Geniuses, the world’s top-earning eSports team. Twitch subscription income is based on $3 per month per subscription. Since the top 100 Twitch streamers average about 4,000 subscribers, that gives them income of $144,000 per year. Ad revenue is maybe the biggest shocker. The top 100 gamer channels on YouTube have an average of one billion views each. At about $5 per 1,000 views, that gives them earnings of about $5 million. Split over eight years that’s $625,000 per year.

Of course not every gamer earns exactly this much money from exactly these five sources. The info in the table is intended to give a fairly accurate ballpark figure of how much a top 100 gamer earns. For estimates of how much money the top 200-2000 gamers earn, see the sections below.

How Much Money the Top 200-500 Pro Gamers Make

Pro gamer money for the top 200-500 players in the world is shown in the table below. According to data at ESportsEarnings.com, gamers ranked in the 200-500 range earn a rough average of $36,000 a year in prize money. We don’t have data on how much those players earn from salary. However, based on proportions similar to those in the section above, gamers working at that level would make about $30,000 a year in salary payments. They’d also get about $40,000 from Twitch subscriptions and $187,000 from ad revenue from both YouTube and Twitch. Sponsorships would come to about $15,000 a year for a total of $308,000 in annual earnings.

Pro Gamer Money: Top 200-500 Players
Top 200-500 Pro GamersMoney Per Year
After Tax$154,107
Prize Money$35,714
Salary$30,000
Twitch$40,000
Ad Revenue$187,500
Sponsorships$15,000
Total$308,214

Pro Gamer Money for the Top 500-2000 Players

The top 500-2000 players make average pro gamer money of about $82,000 per year. That’s based on the data above and a best-guess estimate of $10,000 a year in prize money. Using similar proportions to those in the sections above gives about $8,000 in annual salary, $12,000 from Twitch subscriptions, $50,000 from YouTube and Twitch ad revenue and $2,000 from sponsorships.

Keep in mind that the figure above is an average, so those closer to the 2,000 rank are probably not earning anywhere near $82,000 a year. Anyone below that 2,000 mark is likely not earning a healthy living as a pro gamer.

Pro Gamer Money: Top 500-2000 Players
Top 500-2000 Pro GamersMoney Per Year
After Tax$57,400
Prize Money$10,000
Salary$8,000
Twitch$12,000
Ad Revenue$50,000
Sponsorships$2,000
Total$82,000

Ten Highest Paid Pro Gamers

The table below shows the top ten players earning the most pro gamer money in terms of prize winnings. Every single one of them plays Dota 2, which shouldn’t come as a big surprise considering that the game’s tournament has an annual prize purse of $18 million each year. The figures shown are career totals. The #1 prizewinner Saahil Arora has earned $2.7 million, but it’s taken him six years to do it. That means he’s made an average of $453,437 a year in prize money.

Lest we deceive readers into thinking Dota 2 is where all the money is, remember that the table shows only prize money. Salaries for pro Counterstrike players reach $8,000 to $15,000 a month, while other games may pull more earnings from YouTube ad revenue.

Highest Paid Pro Gamers
RankPro GamerPrize Money
1Saahil Arora$2,720,624
2Peter Dager$2,618,120
3Sumail Hassan$2,401,426
4Clinton Loomis$2,383,156
5Li Peng$1,981,327
6Zhou Yang$1,937,778
7Zhang Yiping$1,937,778
8Zhang Ruida$1,937,717
9Chu Zeyu$1,937,617
10Kurtis Ling$1,930,129

Pro Gamer Money from Prize Winnings

About 13% of all pro gamer money comes from prize winnings. According to ESportsEarnings, the top four players in the world in terms of prize money have all earned career totals of over $2 million from that source. To date, Counter-Strike has paid out over $30 million in tournament money while Heroes of the Storm has paid more than $7 million. Dota 2 has paid close to $95 million and League of Legends tips the prize money scale to the tune of $37 million. The table below shows total tournament payouts for the games with the top five prize purses.

Highest Paying Games (Prize Money)
Dota 2$94,000,000
League of Legends$37,000,000
Counter-Strike G.O.$28,000,000
StarCraft II$21,700,000
Counter-Strike$107,000,000

Salary, Twitch, Ads, Sponsorships

Other sources of pro gamer money include salary, ad revenue, Twitch subscriptions and sponsorships. Top players in games with the most fans command anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 a month in annual salary from their teams. That’s based on info from Scott Smith, former COO of the high-paying Evil Geniuses eSports team.

Ad revenue can be a mammoth pay source for a pro gamer. It’s not that every top gamer makes lots of money on Twitch, but the potential is definitely there. Estimates place earnings per subscriber at $3 per month on Twitch. The top five Twitch streamers all boast more than 7,000 subscribers per month, which gives them earnings of over $21,000 a month each.

Highest Paid Pro Gamers from Twitch Subscriptions
Twitch StreamerViews/MonthEarnings/Month
timthetatman7000$21,000
kinggothalion7000$21,000
forseniol7000$21,000
professorbroman7000$21,000
nl_kripp7000$21,000
Ad revenue probably pays out more pro gamer money than any other source. Consider that the top 100 YouTube gamer channels have view counts averaging around a billion. At earnings of $5 per 1,000 views, that’s $5 million in total earnings or about $625,000 a year. Twitch view counts are much lower in the 70-100 million range. That said, Twitch ads may pay more than YouTube since Twitch viewers tend to be the more engaged video game fans.

It’s not known exactly how much money video gamers make from sponsorships. Our best guess estimate is that the money doesn’t yet come close to the tens of millions earned by NBA stars. Even so, we put the figure at about $150,000 a year for the best of the best. The more significant fact here is that with worldwide interest in pro gaming and eSports now eclipsing interest in pro sports like football and baseball, the sponsor dollars are sure to follow.

Scholarships for Gamers

One last pro gamer money fact of interest is that the world of gamer scholarships is growing. Collegiate eSports scholarships are springing up at dozens of universities. It’s now possible for talented gamers to pay for a college education through their video game skills.

Sources:

ESportsEarnings

SocialBlade

YouTube

TwitchStats