The esports professionals

Even as recently as 10 years ago, a career in professional gaming would have seemed like a farfetched idea. Yet, today, esports is one of the fastest growing segments in the entire sporting world. Competition is fierce, but there's a lot to be gained from reaching elite standards.

So, who is leading the way in the world of esports? And what did it take for them to climb the ranks from bedroom hobbyist to world champ?

The top esports players of 2020

To build a better understanding of who the people are within the sport, we looked at the top-ranking esports players of 2020. Disappointingly, there are no females in the top 100, signifying there may be some work to be done in the industry to improve diversity and inclusivity within the sport.

In response, we collected data on the top 100 male and top 100 female professional esports players to build a broader picture. Below is a table highlighting the top 10 male and female gamers of 2020.

Rank Player ID Player Name Team Total Winnings ($) Main Game Age Nationality
1 N0tail Johan Sundstein OG 6.9m Dota 2 26 Denmark
2 JerAx Jesse Vainikka OG 6.5m Dota 2 28 Finland
3 ana Anathan Pham OG 6m Dota 2 20 Australia
  4 Ceb Sébastien Debs OG 5.5m Dota 2 27 France
  5 Topson Topias Taavitsainen OG 5.4m Dota 2 22 Finland
  6 KuroKy Kuro Takhasomi Nigma 5.2m Dota 2 27 Germany
  7 Miracle- Amer Al-Barkawi Nigma 4.7m Dota 2 22 Jordan
  8 MinD_ContRoL Ivan Ivanov Nigma 4.5m Dota 2 25 Bulgaria
  9 GH Maroun Merhej Nigma 4.1m Dota 2 24 Lebanon
  10 Matumbaman Lasse Urpalainen Team Secret 3.6m Dota 2 25 Finland
Rank Player ID Player Name Team Total Winnings ($) Main Game Age Nationality
1 Scarlett Sasha Hostyn Brave Star Gaming 358k StarCraft II 27 Canada
2 Liooon Li, Xiao Meng N/A (independent) 224.2k Hearthstone 23 China
3 HaganeNoTema Siobhan Bielamowicz N/A (independent) 122.7k Attack on Titan Tribute Game Unknown Australia
  4 Mystik Katherine Gunn Carolina Core 122k Halo: Reach 32 USA
  5 Ricki Ortiz Ricki Ortiz Evil Geniuses 81.4k Street Fighter V Unknown USA
  6 Hafu Rumay Wang G2 Esports 70.9k Teamfight Tactics 29 USA
  7 TINARAES- Tina Perez Gen.G 64.8k Fortnite 22 USA
  8 Kasumi Chan Marjorie Bartell Chicago Chimera 55k Dead or Alive 4 Unknown USA
  9 xchocobars Janet Rose N/A (independent) 53.1k Fortnite 24 Canada
  10 Sarah Lou Sarah Harrison Birmingham Salvo 50k Dead or Alive 4 31 Britain

The top esports teams

Unlike traditional sports, there is no standard recruiting process for esports teams, though many of the top players are recruited by talent scouts. Grouping elite players together, the biggest teams work as a collective to dominate the competitive gaming world. Team Liquid holds the title as reigning champion, having won 1706 tournaments and $34.9 million in prize money as a team.

Rank Player ID Total Winnings ($) No. of Tournaments Won Top Games Top Players
1 Team Liquid 34.9m 1706 Dota 2
Counter Strike: Global Offensive
StarCraft II
Ivan Ivanov
Kuro Takhasomi
Maroun Merhej
2 OG 33.6m 78 Dota 2
Counter Strike: Global Offensive
Super Smash Bros Melee
Johan Sundstein
Jesse Vainikka
Anathan Pham
3 Evil Geniuses 23.9m 838 Dota 2
StarCraft II
Call of Duty: World War II
Sumail Hassan
Saahil Arora
Peter Dager
4 Fnatic 15.4m 896 Counter Strike:Global Offensive
Dota 2
League of Legends
Jesper Wecksell
Freddy Johansson
Robin Rönnquist
5 Newbee 14.2m 221 Dota 2
StarCraft II
WarCraft III
Hu, Liangzhi
Damien Chok
Zhang, Pan
6 Virtus.pro 14m 481 Dota 2
Counter Strike: Global Offensive
StarCraft II
Vladimir Minenko
Alexei Berezin
Roman Kushnarev
7 Vici Gaming 12.9m 286 Dota 2
Counter Strike: Global Offensive
CrossFire
Lu, Chao
Xu, Linsen
Xie, Junhao
8 Team Secret 11.4m 241 Dota 2
Fortnite
Rainbow Six Siege
Clement Ivanov
Yazied Jaradat
Zheng, Yeik Nai
9 Invictus Gaming 11.2m 458 Dota 2
League of Legends
StarCraft II
Song, Eui Jin
Luo, Feichi
Wang, Liu Yi
10 Natus Vincere 10.9m 450 Dota 2
Counter Strike: Global Offensive
World of Tanks
Danil Ishutin
Egor Vasilyev
Ioann Sukharev

How old are the top esports players?

Based on the data, we learnt that the average age of a top-ranking esports player is just 24 for male players and 27 for female. Some in the top 100 are even as young as 16. This demonstrates that progression in the sport can move at a rapid pace, providing young people with fantastic opportunities for success at a young age. To compare this to traditional sports, the average age of the top 100 sportsmen and women is 31 and 30, respectively.

Where are the top esports stars from?

The world of competitive esports is very much an international affair, with top players hailing from countries all around the globe. The nationality split of the top 100 male and female players differ quite significantly, however, with China hatching the most elite male players and America home to many of the highest-ranking female players.

Looking at esports as a whole, the top competing countries are the USA, China and The Republic of Korea, with overall winnings in 2019 totalling $41.3 million, $18.5 million and $16.5 million for the respective nations. In terms of player count, the USA comes in first with a huge 1,441 competitive players, followed by the Republic of Korea with 401 competing players.

Rank Country Total Winnings in 2019($) No. of Players
1 United States 41.3m 5412
2 China 18.5m 1099
3 Korea, Republic of 16.5m 1100
4 France 9.9m 1075
5 Finland 9.8m 318
6 Denmark 9.3m 421
7 Canada 7.8m 904
8 Sweden 6.6m 466
9 Australia 6.4m 804

Diversity in esports

Unlike other 'traditional' sports, gaming does not require physical strength or a large frame. So, why are women so underrepresented in esports?

Aoife Wilson says:

"Women are still hugely underrepresented in professional gaming and esports, but that's hardly surprising given that it's taken time for women to become more visible in the wider industry. There needs to be women working in every sector of the industry, and there needs to be women in more senior roles - as managers, as directors, as coaches and mentors. It's only then that younger generations of women will look at professional gaming and esports as a viable, safe and welcoming place for them to work and forge a career."

The same can be said for the racial gap in the industry, with Asian, and White American and European players making up the vast majority of top-ranking players. This has driven campaigning within the industry to improve inclusivity in the sport.

Aoife Wilson says:

"We have a long way to go before we achieve racial equality and inclusivity in gaming. There needs to be more done on the industry side to actually go out and find, recruit and nurture new talent. It's not enough to say that everyone is welcome, we need to prove it. It shouldn't be the job of players who don't see themselves reflected in the industry to fix these ingrained systemic imbalances themselves - it's up to those in positions of power within the industry to acknowledge racial or socio-economic inequalities that prevent many up-and-coming players from reaching their potential, and work towards eliminating those systems holding them back."