Modern-day eSports originate in Doom 2, which was the first game to feature a network game mode, thus enabling gamers from around the world to compete with each other. Then there was Quake, a game that catapulted eSports to a whole new level. It was a spectacular and dramatic game. But, most importantly, it was a perfect fit for eSports tournaments.
Quake proved to be so popular that there were offline tournaments with prize pools that seemed enormous at the time. That’s when Dennis Fong aka Thresh won Ferrari owned by John Carmack, one of Quake’s creators.
It didn’t take long for major sponsorship deals to enter the game. Giants like ASUS, Intel, Nvidia and Alienware made prize pools at such tournaments to grow to $1 million, while at the dawn of eSports a new GPU seemed a very good prize.
Blizzard, one of top game developers, reported that an eSports league dubbed Overwatch drafted new players on the condition of paying them wages starting from $50 thousand a year. The contract remained valid for at least one year. The league’s management was responsible for insurance and pension deductions for the gamers.
Still, cyberathletes earn more from winning major tournaments, not getting their salaries. Thus, The International, a major tournament held this August, had the prize pool of $25 million, mostly received from advertisers that believe eSports can compete with traditional sports in term of audience coverage and advertisement efficiency. For instance, when Coca Cola started their cooperation with Riot Games (the publisher of the League of Legends), their prize pools expanded dramatically.
According to esportsearnings, Dota 2 players are those who make most money of them all. KuroKy is the first on the list with impressive $3.5 million; Miracle of Jordan is the second with nearly $3 million. Finally, U.S.-based UNiVeRsE, is the last in the top three with $2.9 million.
The earnings of professional gamers depend on their team, their ad contracts, and the tournament’s prize pool. Still, Valve doesn’t sponsor The International directly: they make money by selling tickets, and the proceedings combined with sponsor money make up their prize pool. Thus eSports help companies promote their games amidst players.
It makes eSports one of the most profitable sports disciplines, but, most importantly, it shifts the perception paradigm of games. It’s not a game anymore.