Reckon that video games are just an entertaining diversion for kids? Well, think again. An activity that was once "just a bit of fun" has birthed a whole new sport which has amassed huge audiences, incredible cash pots, and sponsorships that enable the best players to transform their passions into careers.
When it comes to potential winnings in esports, the genre of the game can have an impact on the size of the prize pot. Based on an analysis of the top 100 games, Multiplayer Online Battle Arena Games award the highest prizes, with total prize pots (split across all tournaments featuring the title) averaging $38.5 million. This said, there are also the highest number of competitive players for games in this genre and the most tournaments. Battle Royale Games and Tactical Shooters are also incredibly lucrative.
As it stands, popular multiplayer online battle arena video game Dota 2 is the biggest moneymaker, with an overall prize pool of $223.3 million across all tournaments. In 2019, the winner of the four-day Fortnite World Cup was awarded a whopping $3 million in prize money.
The size of esports prize pools have fluctuated over the years, in keeping with changes in the industry and economical influences. For example, the global financial crisis of 2008 saw prize funds drop by more than half in 2009, from $14,015 to $6,256. As the economy started to recover from the recession, the prize fund had grown by seven times in 2019 to $43,863. Though the full impact of Covid-19 is yet to be felt, it is possible it could have a similar impact on the industry in 2020.
With individual prizes sometimes reaching millions of dollars, it certainly pays to be at the top of your game. Kuro Takhasomi from Germany is the world's highest paid esports player ever, with a monumental $4.2 million in prize money to his name. That's around the same amount that Serena Williams made in tennis prize money in 2019, though her earnings are significantly topped up by endorsements.
As esports gets bigger and more popular in wider culture, businesses have begun to invest big money in the sport. These include sponsorships of teams and competitions, as well as deals with individuals esports players and total team ownership.
These sponsors include huge fortune 500 companies, as well as individuals, such as Michael Jordan and Drake. In fact, sponsors comprise $456 million of the overall $1.1 billion in esports revenues over the last year. Some of the biggest sponsorships include team Cloud9 joining forces with BMW and 'Ninja' partnering with RedBull.