Neslyn A. August 15, 2019
The International 2019 has a prize pool of over $33 million and climbing, and is set to dramatically shake up the list of the best-earning teams in the history of esports.
With the competition now getting underway, we’ve assembled a list of the highest-earning esports teams to date and explained how they got to their lofty positions prior to TI9.
Team Liquid ($29,133,964.41)
The Team Liquid organization dates back to its original founding in 2000 and was heavily associated with its StarCraft news website. Liquid signed its first StarCraft professional team in 2010 and announced its debut Dota 2 roster in 2012.
Team Liquid continuously expands its esports ventures and successfully maintains its significance across a variety of competitive scenes, including Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, and more. Liquid has earned hefty tournament winnings in many different game titles.
Team Liquid won more than $17 million in various Dota 2 tournaments. The team’s victory at The International 2017 makes up a huge chunk of this amount.
The team dominated in the lower bracket at that year’s event and eliminated multiple powerhouse teams from different regions. Captain Kuro "KuroKy" Salehi Takhasomi was lauded for the huge success of the team with his outstanding leadership and drafting skills.
Team Liquid’s TI7 winning squad stayed together and has remained relevant in the competitive scene since.
Liquid’s Counter-Strike and StarCraft teams have further contributed to the organization’s winnings, with its CSGO team in particular making significant contributions with its recent dominant streak and million-dollar prize from Intel.
Evil Geniuses ($21,601,767.11)
Evil Geniuses is considered one of the pillars in the development of esports in North America. As one of the oldest North American esports organizations, EG has established teams in various disciplines including Call of Duty, League of Legends, StarCraft 2, Halo, and more.
More than 85% percent of EG’s earned prize money was yielded by its Dota 2 team. That Dota 2 roster boasts three third-place finishes in the annual Dota 2 competition The International. In 2015, EG secured the top prize with a first-place finish, winning $6.6 million.
The current EG Dota 2 roster comprised of seasoned players Syed Sumail "SumaiL" Hassan and Artour "Arteezy" Babaev has shown impressive results in this season of the Dota Pro Circuit. The team has two third-place finishes in major tournaments to its credit.
OG is an esports organization primarily focused on Dota 2. Founded in 2015, its Dota 2 roster made great strides in the competitive scene and became the first team to win four Dota major championships.
OG’s Cinderella run in The International 2018 made a huge impact in its total tournament winnings. The team was considered underdogs at the time but defied all odds and showed dominance at the tournament.
After a huge roster shakeup, Johan "N0tail" Sundstein managed to lead OG to the team’s victory with a mix of fresh and seasoned players. Exceptional plays from Anathan "ana" Pham and former coach Sébastien "Ceb" Debs paved the way.
OG gained $11.2 million for winning TI8 and the organization is the current defender of the Aegis of Champions.
LGD Gaming ($16,137,162.38)
LGD Gaming is an organization sponsored by Guizhou Laogandie Food Co., who specializes in a seasoning made with chili. The organization invested in creating teams in different game titles but focused chiefly on exploring the professional Dota 2 scene.
The Chinese organization formed different Dota 2 rosters such as LGD Forever Young, LGD Gaming, LGD International, and LGD.CDEC. In 2018, LGD Gaming entered a partnership deal with French football club Paris Saint-Germain and the Dota 2 roster was rebranded to PSG.LGD.
PSG.LGD received $4 million for its second-place finish in The International 2018. Many would agree that they are the top Dota 2 team in the region of China.
Founded in 2004, Fnatic partakes in different titles such as Dota 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and League of Legends. Fnatic won the first ever League of Legends World Championship in 2011 and is currently the holder of the most League of Legends European Championship (LEC) titles.
Last year, Fnatic’s CSGO team earned almost 41% of their total CS:GO tournament winnings by finishing first in World Electronic Sports Games 2017. The team bounced back from a deficit in the grand finals series versus Space Soldiers to win $800,000 in its first-place finish.
The highest tournament winning for Fnatic was the fourth-place finish in The International 2016. The team received $1.4 million after Digital Chaos ended Fnatic’s tournament run in the lower bracket. After TI6, the Dota 2 team has struggled to match that success at The International.
In 2014, Zhang "Xiao8" Ning founded Newbee and the organization was sponsored by billionaire Wang "Niuwa" Yue. Its Dota 2 lineup was officially announced in February 2014, but it had a roster shakeup after just one month.
The organization soon gained popularity for being the grand champions of The International 2014. Just a few months after its birth, Newbee was able to conquer the biggest esports event and win more than $5 million.
The International 2017 roster was poised to be the first two-time TI champion. The captaincy of TI4 champion Zeng "Faith" Hongda brought Newbee to the grand finals, but the team’s final tournament series was a lopsided loss.
Newbee took home $3.9 million for its second-place finish at The International 2017. The organization has several Dota 2 teams such as Newbee Young, Mr. Game Boy, Newbee.M, and Newbee Boss.
It has also fielded rosters for different game titles including Hearthstone, League of Legends, Starcraft 2, and Overwatch.
Virtus.pro is an esports organization with competing teams in a variety of games, but has found its success mostly in CSGO and Dota 2. Investor Alisher Usmanov placed $100 million in the organization in 2015, aiming to boost it to the top of the esports world.
In 2016, Virtus.pro’s Dota 2 roster went through a rough patch. The team failed to qualify to The International 2016 and this resulted in Virtus.pro dropping the entire roster. The team was rebuilt shortly after and won The Summit 6. The team has consistently finished in the top six in the last three TI events they’ve participated in.
The Russian organization takes great pride in its Dota 2 roster. The team has been considered one of the most stable teams if not also the strongest squad in the current scene.
Since the launch of the Dota Pro Circuit in 2017, the squad has frequently topped the rankings. Vladimir "No[o]ne" Minenko, Vladimir "RodjER" Nikogosyan, and Alexei "Solo" Berezin each also own a brand new Mercedes-Benz car for winning MVP awards in ESL One tournaments.
Vici Gaming ($10,981,516.51)
Another Chinese esports organization with high winnings is Vici Gaming. Founded in 2012, Vici Gaming started to handpick highly skilled Chinese players who were at the top of the Dota 2 ladder.
Vici Gaming’s Dota 2 roster was considered to be one of the pillars of China’s professional Dota 2 scene. The organization has also hosted several other Dota 2 rosters. These include VG Potential, VG Reborn, VGJ.Storm, and VGJ.Thunder.
During The International 2014, Vici Gaming placed second against Chinese team Newbee. The team took home more than $1.4 million for finishing in second.
They bagged more tournament winnings the following year and won more than $1.5 million for finishing fourth in The International 2015. VGJ.Storm and VGJ.Thunder also made significant contributions to their totaled winnings with their earnings racking up more than $1 million combined.
Invictus Gaming ($10,653,236.06)
Invictus Gaming is a Chinese organization founded in 2012 with divisions in different games including Dota 2, StarCraft 2, League of Legends, Hearthstone, Overwatch, and CSGO.
The organization found success in their Dota 2 and League of Legends rosters. In Dota 2, Invictus Gaming formed side team iG Vitality, while Young Glory and Invictus Girls were formed in the League of Legends Division.
Invictus Gaming took the championship title at The International 2012, defeating Natus Vincere. The team was awarded $1 million for the victory. The International 2017 saw Invictus Gaming made another significant gain, winning $1.1 million.
The organization’s biggest win was in the League of Legends 2018 World Championship. Invictus Gaming stomped Fnatic in ones of the quickest best-of-five series in the history of the professional game. The team won $2.4 million for its triumph. The title also marked the team as first non-Korean world champion since the disbanded Taipei Assassins.
Wings Gaming ($9,734,325.87)
Wings Gaming achieved popularity in Dota 2 for their aggressive play and huge hero pool.
The team dominated the upper bracket of The International 2016 before winning the tournament. Wings Gaming earned $9.1 million for taking the tournament trophy over Digital Chaos.
In 2017, the Association for Chinese Esports issued a lifetime ban to the TI6 championship team due to players leaving the organization while they were still under contract. The ban forbid the players from participating in many tournaments, though it did not include Valve’s majors and The International. This effectively ended the era of Wings Gaming..