Millionaire gamers: The dollars and sense of a career in e-sports
The International 2015 “Dota 2” tournament shocked casual and professional gamers alike with its $18 million prize pool that made millionaires out of the top six placing teams. This is just one of the events that’s making it possible for skilled gamers to make a career out of e-sports, which is exactly what many of them are doing.
Just five years ago, e-sports had a small following with limited opportunities to make a living playing games, but recently there have been a few factors that have contributed to making gamers’ passions into professions.
1. Increased viewership
In 2011, the live video game streaming website Twitch.tv was born, and is likely the spark that jump-started the popularity of e-sports. Because of Twitch.tv, it became easy to follow e-sports tournaments, and eventually games like “League of Legends,” “Dota 2,” and “Counter-strike: Global Offensive” started hosting tournaments to online audiences of millions. How does more viewers equal more money for professional gamers?
Now that millions of people from around the world are watching e-sports, big name sponsors like Coca-Cola, Intel, and Nissan are shelling out money to gaming teams and events. Having access to sponsors incentivises gaming organizations into hosting more tournaments, so they can profit off of advertisers. This reaction from game developers has greatly increased the number of financial opportunities available to professional gamers.
2. High tournament payouts
The hosting of an $18 million dollar e-sports tournament is far from common, and was only made possible at The International 2015 through crowdfunding. When gamers purchased the $10 “Dota 2” in-game item known as the “compendium,” 25 percent of the profits were added to the tournament’s winnings.
Not all e-sport tournaments have payouts in the millions, but it’s common for a single tournament to have a prize pool larger than the average person’s yearly salary. The top 500 gaming tournament prize pools have ranged from $50,000 to $18 million, and have taken place all over the world. These large tournaments have surfaced because game developers like Riot Games, Valve, and Blizzard see dollar signs in competitive gaming tournaments, and have the financial backing to fund large prize pools.
3. Scholarship opportunities
Many professional gamers have had to make the difficult decision of choosing between going to college or pursuing a career in e-sports, but it’s now becoming easier to do both. Colleges like the University of Pikeville are creating varsity e-sports teams to play the popular game “League of Legends.”
“UPIKE is serious about the endeavor and we expect to compete at the collegiate level,” said Gary Justice, the vice president for enrollment management. “We will be offering scholarships beginning in the fall of 2015.”
High school students have access to scholarships through the High School Starleague, which has a $35,000 scholarship fund for gamers in 2015. When compared to athletic scholarships this amount is low, but just a few years ago there were no such funds available to students. As e-sports continue to grow at the collegiate level, so will college gaming scholarship opportunities.
The projected audience for e-sports is projected to grow from 134 million viewers to 170 million in 2017, so it’s not too late to try your hand at a career professional gaming.
Will e-sports get as big as most athletic sports in the United States? Will there be more financial opportunities for professional gamers in the coming years? Leave a comment or talk to me on Twitter @Karbowski_Devon.