Olivia R. April 26, 2019
League of Legends Championship Series Commissioner Chris Greeley revealed the average pro salary for pros in the North American region. And it's a lot.
"We work a lot to make being a pro LCS player an aspiration for our fans. Part of it is money," Greeley said at GamesBeat Summit 2019. "A pro LCS player makes an average of $300,000 in guaranteed base salary, before any bonuses or prize pools."
The shocking six-figure amount is more than double what the average LCS salary was in 2017. In just over two years, the average has gone from $105,000 to $300,000. This is a salary that rivals that of Major League Soccer players in 2016, according to an ESPN report.
The reason for the rapid rise of LCS salaries
There are a couple reasons behind LCS salaries jumping to such a staggering amount in such a short time. Many League of Legends fans are speculating that the overall growth esports industry is the main reason. Esports is a rapidly growing industry, especially in and around League of Legends. Last year, it was reported that teams had to pay $10 million for a franchise slot in the LCS. This sudden influx of cash could easily lead to players earning bigger paychecks.
Another theory is that the average number is inflated based on the salaries of the LCS' superstar players. The base minimum salary in the LCS is $75,000, according to Greeley. Could big names in the LCS be skewing the average?
It's possible that teams are paying their top players more and more to ensure that these salaries remain more lucrative than a full-time streaming career. Many esports players have retired to the full-time streamer life, usually referencing stress as the reason. But famous LCS players have the potential to make immense amounts of money by streaming.
While there are no confirmed salary numbers out there, retired Counter-Strike: Global Offensive player Michael "Shroud" Grzesiek most likely makes much more money through streaming than he ever did while competing with Cloud9. His YouTube channel has over 5.5 million subscribers, accumulating over 480 million views. Since YouTubers get paid between $2 and $7 per 1,000 monetized view after the platform takes its cut, it can be estimated that Shroud makes $440,000 a year from YouTube ads alone.
That's not even counting Twitch, where he was estimated to make around $112,000 a month based on his subscriber count, and that's before factoring in donations and sponsorships. Of course, there are many other variables that would dictate Shroud's true annual salary, but it's safe to say he most likely makes more as a streamer than he would as a pro player.
It's no stretch to assume LCS players like Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng and Zachary "Sneaky" Scuderi could make a similar amount of money if they turned to full-time streaming.
Esports salaries remain a secret
Greele's salary admission created a buzz in the esports community not just because it's a big number, but because fans don't often get to hear concrete salary numbers within the esports industry. There are rumors and speculations, but actual salaries remain largely unknown. Fans and other pros have made guesses on Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok's multi-million dollar salary, but no real numbers have ever been announced.
When the Overwatch League was first announced, Blizzard stated that teams were required to pay a minimum salary of $50,000. A few months later, a Korean publication released a few more official numbers, announcing that most players are making between $80,000 and $120,000. This isn't hard to believe, since it was reported that the San Francisco Shock had paid $150,000 for 17-year-old Jay "sinatraa" Won.
It's difficult to say if the $300,000 salaries will be enough to appease the bigger names in the LCS, or if the LCS can even keep up with the rapid salary increases required to compete with the streaming industry. But for now, it's hard not to be impressed with just how much financial success can be had by the league's top players.