While it is probably common knowledge to many that some of the best online casinos around the world host international poker tournaments (with a nice, fat reward for the winning hand), it might come across as news to many that there also equivalent tournaments for computer games. It’s a quaint notion to be sure but for a few, playing computer games is much more than fun. In fact, it’s probably not much fun at all and is neither pastime or hobby. Instead it’s a means to an end; a way to make a living from (possibly) the comfort of your bedroom. Much like professional poker players.
In this instance the word ‘sport’ is a misnomer. Sitting on a chair, sofa or Lay-Z-Boy (other comfy chairs are available) and exercising the brain and thumbs does not, to the ordinary person, constitute a sport. While there is an argument that says eSports do indeed get the blood flowing and the adrenalin pumping, by no stretch of the imagination can they be regarded as a full body cardio-vascular workout. The peril is only virtual, and no-one has ever strained a calf muscle while playing Call of Duty.
Yet, putting the fact it’s not a sport to one side, it is competitive and those who play the games at the highest levels can make money occasionally lots of it. You can look at it this way; becoming super proficient at one of these games is a bit like winning the jackpot of a very lucrative progressive slot. You can earn millions from just being good at playing your favourite game. It’s worth pointing out at this juncture that many who class themselves as pros do not make their money in the traditional ‘sporting’ way. Unlike, for example, the tennis circuit, where there are worldwide circuits that involve numerous tournaments, most gamers specialise in one specific game for which there is one annual major championship that offers prize money fit for a champion. Therefore, for most the pickings are relatively modest and so it’s through streaming their daily online activities through platforms such as Twitch and YouTube that the advertising revenue rolls in for those with lots of subscribers.
But it’s the championships that we’re particularly interested in, specifically the video game championships from around the world that attract the top players and the big prize money. In our graphic, we have listed the top 17 in terms of value and even a skim down the list of runners and riders will be enough to reveal some mouth-watering sums of money.
Top of the pile is the Dota 2 International - the annual world championships for one of the most popular video games in the world – which takes place over two weeks every August in Seattle. Following months of various qualifying events around the globe, the best teams in the world – five players in each – congregate in deepest Washington state to battle it for title of world Dota2 champions and a winner’s purse of, wait for it, $10,806,301; the total prize fund being a whopping $24,014,551.
The top teams arrive with the same sort of reputation (and swagger) as the Real Madrids and Barcelonas of the football and while Evil Geniuses, Team Liquid and Team Secret may not trip off the tongue in quite the same way, in the world of the gamers these names signify greatness. The players in the top teams enjoy superstar status and the trappings that go with being at the very top of a handsomely remunerated pastime. The world’s top Dota2 player, Saahil Arora – who plays under the name UNiVeRsE and is part of the US’s Evil Geniuses – boasts total winnings of $2,777,796; putting his earnings up there with, for example, some good standard pro golfers and tennis players who travel the world on the PGA and ATP tours respectively.
For the record, Dota2 is a game in the fantasy genre that has been described as ‘online team-based lightning chess, with each team selecting 5 out of 110 unique playing pieces’. So now you know.
That same genre also provides number two in the ‘chart’ with the League of Legends (LOL) world championship finals that take place in LA every September/October. In a format that is not dissimilar to the Dota2 championships, a total of 86 competitors in 16 teams compete for the title and their shar of a prize pot worth $5,070,000 – second only to Dota2. This time the winning team bags a cool $2,028,000. Lee Sang Hyeok, who plays under the name Faker, is the world’s top player with earnings of $912,406; another who makes a handsome living from sitting on a chair and exercising his thumbs. He plays for SK Telecom T1, a South Korean team who were runner-up in the 2017 tournament.
Dota2 and LOL are PC based games and ‘multiplayer online battle arena’ games (MOBA) but at number three in our chart is a game that transcends all gaming platforms and boasts a clean sweep of PC, Xbox and Playstation versions. Call of Duty: Black Ops III is a familiar name – even to non-gamers – and sits proudly in third place. Unlike the other two, CoD is a ‘first person shooter’ (FPS) game which involves first-person, life-like shoot ups.
The CoD championships, as with LOL, take place in LA every September and tantalisingly offer up a prize pot of $2,000,000 to the 32 teams, the winners taking home $800,000. Top of the world rankings is an American, Johnathan Perez, who plays under the baffling pseudonym of John. Where do they get them from?
Other first-person-shooter games to appear in the list include Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO to the cool kids), Halo5:Guardians, Crossfire and Overwatch; all of them team games that involve qualifying stages and a tournament to determine the ultimate champions. The most lucrative of this bunch is the CS:GO championships that take place in Changzhou, China and gifts the winning team a very tasty $800,000.
What also became apparent from the graphic is that California is the place to head to for gamers. We’ve already concluded that the COD and LOL championship are held in LA, but a short trip north of the city will take you to Burbank - considered by some to be the gaming capital of the world – and which plays host to the Halo5: Guardians tournament as well as Heroes of the Storm and Heartstone: Heroes of Warcraft.
A couple of collectible card games make that chart – Heartstone and also Gwent. We’re at a stage in the rolling of the years where classical games may fetch a pretty penny because they have become rare collectibles. It is not surprising therefore that only one racing game makes the list: CrazyRacing KartRider, a game very reminiscent of the classic Super Mario racing game.
So, all in all, a fine collective that makes for gamer heaven and one that proves beyond all doubt that, aside from being a haven for geeks, the elite gaming world is one that can be the route to a more than healthy income stream.
You just need to be someone with few friends and who is happy staying in.