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The esports economy in six charts

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
Members of Korea’s SK Telecom T1 team celebrate with their trophy after defeating China’s Royal Club at the 2013 League of Legends Season 3 World Championship Final, in Los Angeles.
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Esports organizations earned an estimated $906 million in 2018

Esports companies make money in five main ways

Valuations of top esports organizations are skyrocketing, even when revenue isn’t

Here are the most valuable esports companies, according to a 2018 Forbes analysis.

CompanyValue (in millions)Revenue (in millions)Number of playersNumber of teams
Team SoloMid$250$25397
Team Liquid$200$176514
Echo Fox$150$11238
OpTic Gaming$130$10526
Gen.G Esports$110$12507
G2 Esports$105$85311
Envy Gaming$95$5697
100 Thieves$90$5334
Counter Logic Gaming$50$4457

For players, some games are more profitable than others

According to, which tracks prize money through media reports, news releases, forums, and other sources.

RankPlayer IDNameTotal winnings
1KuroKyKuro Takhasomi$4,137,000
2N0tailJohan Sundstein$3,742,000
3Miracle-Amer Al-Barkawi$3,701,000
4MinD_ContRoLIvan Ivanov$3,492,000
5MatumbamanLasse Urpalainen$3,476,000
6JerAxJesse Vainikka$3,313,000
7SumaiLSumail Hassan$3,306,000
8GHMaroun Merhej$3,095,000
9UNiVeRsESaahil Arora$3,036,000
10ppdPeter Dager$2,903,000

Unsurprisingly, the top 10 (and the top 50) is almost entirely made up of players who play Dota 2. Every year, Valve hosts The International, a massive Dota 2 tournament that stacks a humongous winner’s purse. In 2018, the prize money stood at $25 million, because Valve essentially “crowdfunds” the pool through the sale of in-game items to its user-base. It goes to show you how much esports athletes rely on the support of publishers and investors in order to turn a profit

Esports still suffers from a massive representation problem, with very few women hitting the echelon that male competitors do. You can chalk that up to a ton of issues (a cultural bias, a lack of mentorship, bad hiring practices, to name just a few). The top-earning women esports player, the trans Canadian StarCraft pro Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn, made around $300,000 playing esports.

There is more than one way to be a professional gamer

The most popular competitive esports games aren’t necessarily the most popular games to watch people play on platforms like Twitch.

It’s not just about gaming, it’s also about influence

When investors salivate over the growth potential in esports, they’re also looking at the social media numbers that companies like FaZe are posting.