The highest earning esports players for each major game

By William Davis

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Oct 4, 2023

Reading time: 4 min

Esports have revolutionized the gaming landscape, transforming competitive gaming into a global cultural phenomenon. Today, the esports industry is highly lucrative, with top players earning massive paydays for their exceptional skills, dedication, and hard work. What started in basements has grown into massive weeks-long events with millions of viewers across the globe, and the prize pools used to attract players have grown proportionally. 

As the popularity of esports has soared, so have the investments pouring into the industry, enabling significant prize pools and lucrative sponsorship deals. This symbiotic relationship between passionate gamers and dedicated organizations has paved the way for a new breed of superstar gamer who is able to monetize their talents. With some growing up in the gaming capitals of the world and others cutting their teeth in LAN cafes, here are some of the highest-earning players across the top five major esports.

The highest earning esports players

This is a list of some of the highest esports earners across a range of disciplines with the figures displayed representing earnings made through prizes.

Johan “N0tail” Sundstein (Dota 2) – $7.2 million

Hailing from the Danish Faroe Islands, N0tail started out as a humble MOBA grinder and ended up as the highest earning player in esports history. Making his name Fnatic’s Heroes of Newerth squad before transitioning to the org’s Dota 2 division, N0tail’s insane earnings primarily come from captaining OG, the only team to ever win Dota 2’s The International twice. 

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Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf (Fortnite) – $3.6 million

Best known for his prowess in the free-to-play hit battle royale Fortnite, Bugha won the Fortnite World Cup in 2019, taking home the $3 million grand prize at just the age of 20. The victory made international news and helped solidify esports in the cultural mainstream. The American is currently playing for team Dignitas and regularly tops events in the Fortnite Champion Series.

Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen (CS:GO) – $2.2 million

The second Dane in the top five, dupreeh is known for his skill in the holy grail of competitive first-person shooters, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Now a 30-year-old veteran of the game, dupreeh is the most successful player in the game’s history, having won five of the 20 CSGO Majors and attended every one of them. He earned the bulk of his winnings from his time on Astralis, which remains the only Counter-Strike team to ever win three consecutive majors.

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Ian “C6” Porter (Call of Duty) – $1.4 million

C6, formerly known as Crimsix, is a retired American professional gamer who represented the organizations Optic Gaming and Complexity in Call of Duty. Porter now creates content for Faze Clan, but at the height of his career, he was integral in the team’s win of the Call of Duty League Championship in 2020. Call of Duty’s relatively small prize pools compared to other major esports make his seven-digit earnings all the more impressive.

Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok (League of Legends) – $1.4 million

South Korean Faker is one of the most successful League of Legends players on the circuit and arguably the greatest esports player of all time. Throughout his historic career, the mid lane wonder has flexed his insane mechanical skills and deep meta knowledge to codify his role. Faker is synonymous with his team T1, which holds the longest undefeated record in the League of Legends Champions Korea. His continuous success in the game’s most competitive region continues to this very day.

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How do esports players make money?

Substantial financial contributions from investors have led to staggering prize pools, offering players the chance to compete for millions of dollars. Major events like The International for Dota 2 and the League of Legends World Championship are prime examples of tournaments with massive prizes that significantly contribute to players’ earnings.

Esports players, particularly those at the top of their game, also attract a wide array of sponsorships and endorsements. Companies ranging from gaming manufacturers to energy drink brands to apparel companies recognize the massive global reach and influence of esports and their brightest stars. Their appeal to the younger generation also plays a role in attracting sponsors.

The rise of streaming platforms such as Twitch and YouTube has opened up even more avenues for esports players to monetize their skills and personalities. Top players can build dedicated fan bases through live streaming, engaging in interactive chats, and providing insightful commentary. These streaming platforms allow players to earn through ad revenue sharing, subscriptions, sponsorships, and donations from their viewers. Many players even create and sell their own lines of merchandise as part of a personal brand.

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