Will esports create the next generation of billionaire sports athletes?

Albert Sheng • December 10, 14:02

Esports is coming of age, especially in 2020. In a world defined by staying home, video games have had a huge surge in both players and viewership. 

While esports competitions are traditionally played in big venues with teams at their own stations, the nature of these competitions means it’s possible to play and compete from anywhere in the world, even at home with the right internet connection and gear. It’s worth taking a look at esports’ comeuppance and see if this new breed of athletes has the capability of becoming billionaires in the field.

Billionaires in sports

When one thinks of billionaires, it’s generally people at the top of their game in business: Warren Buffet, Jeff Bezos, even Kylie Jenner somehow. But there are also those people in other fields who have been able to turn their name into the big bucks.

One of the first sportspeople that might come to mind when it comes to billionaire athletes is Michael Jordan. This basketball player’s current net worth is estimated to be a staggering $2.1 billion. One of the greatest players of all time, he has plenty of brand deals, career earnings, ongoing royalties, and even owns a majority share of the Charlotte Hornets.

Jordan is the only billionaire athlete to make his fortune largely through the sports industry. Ion Tiriac is the only other billionaire athlete, but most of his money came from founding a bank after he stopped competing in tennis. Golfer Tiger Woods is approaching billionaire status as well. Can esports produce someone with that sort of financial muscle? 

The Esports revolution

Nowadays, it’s not just physical athletes that are attracting an audience and stacking cash. It’s also professional video game players, otherwise known as esports athletes. With gaming established as a huge industry and millions of dollars changing hands in massive tournaments, esports could become a competitor to traditional sports. Games such as Call of Duty, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, FIFA, and Fortnite are wildly popular with a large, international player base. 

Plus, it’s not just playing these games that people are into. Watching others play games has become its own huge industry. With streaming 24/7 on Twitch, and huge international esports tournaments like Blizzard’s Overwatch League attracting attention, there’s no question that there is money to be made in esports.

Current superstars

Esports players can compete in games individually, or as part of a team. Teams come from all over the world and just because players aren’t physically located in a particular country doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t represent that nation. 

The most well-known esports teams in the world at the moment include Team Liquid, Cloud9, FaZe Clan, and Evil Geniuses. Readers can check out Ranker’s list of the top teams right over here. Top esports organizations typically offer contracted talent a base salary, benefits like insurance, and position players to earn more tournament winnings.

Though salaries can be huge, the money awarded based on in-game results is potentially enormous, with a total prize pool of $227 million in 2019

Jesse “JerAx” Vainikka a Finnish Dota 2 player, earned $3,163,536.20 in 2019, although he retired from professional gaming in January 2020. Anathan “ana” Pham, a teammate of JerAx, reported similar earnings in 2019 at the age of just 21. In fact, there are a handful of players that have lifetime earnings of over $5 million just in prize pool winnings. A number of millionaires have also been made through undisclosed salaries.

NoDepositFriend.com had this to say: “We are already seeing some staggering amounts of money being earned by the best esports athletes. We cannot see this slowing down as people continue to migrate to the excitement of esports and the games become more and more lifelike.”

Are billionaire esports players really going to be a thing?

Sure, millions of dollars made from esports is a very healthy income, but 5 million is a long way off from a billion dollars. A billionaire esports player isn’t likely to come along for a while yet, but it’s definitely possible in the foreseeable future. 

As games progressively get bigger, internet speeds and GPU rendering improve, the global visibility and accessibility of esports is only going to grow. Gen Z is big on gaming and they are the future. While regular sports will always have their place, and will likely produce more billionaires in the near future, esports will grow bigger in the long term. Watch this space.

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