Top-25 Highest paid Esports players in the World

July 17

It goes without saying that the year 2020 has so far been financially negative for thousands of people all across the world. The outbreak of COVID-19 followed by the global shutdown has not only resulted in a lot of people taking a big hit in their finances, but it has also reduced the number of available earning opportunities by a substantial margin.

One of the major international fields that have been affected by Coronavirus is sports. Almost all global sporting events including the Tokyo Olympics, the UEFA Euro Cup, the Wimbledon and French Opens and multiple Formula 1 Grand Prix races have been canceled or postponed until further notice, and countless athletes are still whiling their time away on the sidelines, without any hope of returning to their profession any time soon.

In most cases, the losses suffered are in the millions. For instance, Borussia Dortmund – a German football club that plies its trade in the Bundesliga and the UEFA Champions League, recently reported a loss of €45million, according to a recent report from Sky Sports. Several teams and sports franchises across the world have also already made up their mind to force their players to take wage-cuts to keep themselves in business.

We are very sorry to begin this article on a bad note, but it only helps us to prove our point more effectively. During the course of this piece, we will be talking about how we are only halfway into the year and yet Esports have served as an exception to the above situation, with several top players having already made enough money to build Scrooge McDuck-style coin-filled swimming pools on their vast estates. Or in their parents’ houses, given how old some of them are.

Research carried out by Seattle-based Esports bookmaker Unikrn has uncovered just how much the world’s top 25 players have won in tournament prize money since the start of 2020. And given how the lockdown has led to a boom in Esports’ viewership, we can only presume this cashflow will continue to grow.

Up to this point, 2020 has seen the prize money pot hit $32.5 million. While this pales in comparison to the total prize pool of $227 million in 2019 as a whole, the cancellation and postponement of countless events–plus a busy end-of-year calendar–has pushed big-money prizes back to later in 2020, or will roll over to create a bumper 2021 pot.

The highest-earning player of 2020 so far is Brazil’s Paulo Damo da Rosa, A.K.A. PVDDR, who won big at Magic: The Gathering Arena’s Magic World Championship XXVI in February. One lump sum put him well ahead of the field.

Meanwhile, the biggest team win came for the five-strong Spacestation Gaming unit playing Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege; the squad’s victories in Pro League Season 11 and the Six Invitational 2020 earned players Bosco, Fultz, Canadian, Rampy and Thinkingnade $210,000 apiece, putting them all in the top ten.

The youngest guns in the top 25 are Wolfiez, Furious, and JannisZ. At a combined age of 47, the trio placed in the top 16 for success in–gasp–Fortnite. Wolfiez, A.K.A. 16-year-old Jaden Ashman of the U.K., took $130,000 for a pair of second-place finishes in both European FNCS Invitationals. The youngest top-25 player, JannisZ, 15, from Germany, won one tournament, while 16-year-old U.S. gamer Furious grabbed $121,500 for dominating the FNCS Grand Finals in North America.

Image Courtesy: Unikrn

Other surprises

If you think League of Legends was a kingmaker in the final payment table, you’d be wrong–the game is absent from the top 25. Even more shockingly, Chess24 made two appearances: Hikaru Nakamura and grandmaster Magnus Carlsen have claimed over $100,000 of Esports money each in 2020.

While Esports’ top-earning country is the U.S. ($6 million across 1,870 players) the best-performing country on a per-player basis is Jordan. And despite the highest-earning Esports player of all time being absent from the 2020 list–Denmark’s Johan Sundstein, the Dota 2 legend–his fellow countrymen maintain the Scandinavian nation’s Esports profile in another game. Five Danish players (Asger Larsen, Lucas Andersen, Frederik Gyldstrand, Rasmus Beck, and Fredrik Jorgensen) make the top 25 for their victories in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

Ryan Jurado, Esports analyst at Unikrn, said: “As impressive as the prize earnings are in Esports, they’re just the tip of the iceberg. In reality, thousands of players around the world make an additional income by building their brand and fanbases with non-competition activities such as gaming streams, earn income with sponsorship deals, and receive a salary to play as part of an organized team.”

“Amazon’s Twitch alone has 22,000 partnered streamers, most of whom are playing games and earning cash outside of tournaments. When you add in Microsoft’s Mixr, Google’s YouTube, Facebook, plus non-American platforms like Huya, plus thousands of yearly video game tournaments, the number of players making some form of income by gaming is likely well over 100,000 worldwide. For most, this is a paying hobby rather than a career, but some players do reach multi-millionaire status before they even graduate high school,” he explained further.

He is not wrong: the earnings below don’t include sponsorships, bonuses, or salaries; some of these, combined, are thought to give certain gamers $500,000 per year each.

The following top-25 list aims to give readers the amount of prize money that the best Esports players have earned so far in 2020. Take a look:

Top Esports earners in 2020 so far

Real name

Player name




Prize Money 2020


Prize Money (Overall)

Paulo Damo da Rosa


Magic: The Gathering Arena






Troy Yaroslavsky


Rainbow Six Siege






Dylan Bosco


Rainbow Six Siege

United States





Nathanial Duvall


Rainbow Six Siege

United States




Javier Escamilla


Rainbow Six Siege

El Salvador





Alec Fultz


Rainbow Six Siege





Lee, Byung Ryul


StarCraft II






Marcio Carvalho

Marcio Carvalho

Magic: The Gathering Arena






Jaden Ashman








Lasse Urpalainen


Dota 2






Clement Ivanov


Dota 2






Ludwig Wahlberg


Dota 2






Yazied Jaradat


Dota 2






Michał Jankowski Nisha Dota 2 Poland 19 $122,413.40 7 $852,679.11
Furious Fortnite United States 16 $121,500.00 3 $122,400.00
Jannis Matwin JannisZ Fortnite Germany 15 $120,000.00 1 $131,362.42
Asger Larsen AcilioN CS: GO Denmark 23 $117,688.05 6 $205,471.35
Lucas Andersen Bubzki CS: GO Denmark 21 $113,800.00 5 $186,770.86
Frederik Gyldstrand acoR CS: GO Denmark 22 $113,800.00 5 $183,034.72
Rasmus Beck sjuush CS: GO Denmark 21 $113,800.00 5 $178,613.09
Fredrik Jorgensen roejJ CS: GO Denmark $113,800.00 5 $167,242.03
Hikaru Nakamura Hikaru Chess24 Japan 32 $102,632.19 10 $148,117.61
Sven Magnus Carlsen DrNykterstein Chess24 Norway 29 $101,170.48 7 $130,928.92
Seth Manfield Seth Manfield Magic: The Gathering Arena United States 29 $100,000.00 1 $141,900.00
David Wang Aqua Fortnite Austria 18 $98,750.00 4 $1,868,341.23


As you can see, six out of the world’s top 25 highest-paid Esports athletes are from the U.S. At second place is Denmark with five representations, all of them from CS: GO. DrNykterstein – placed at 23rd position in the above list – is the alter-ego of Magnus Carlsen, who is also the current world champion in Chess.


The average age of the top 25 earning players so far in 2020 is 24 years old.

So far this year, the top country for earning prize money is the United States with players making over $6million between 1,870 of them.

However, the best average prize winner per country belongs to Jordan.

Six players earned an average of $33,000 each – made up mostly by Doha 2 players YapzOr and Miracle-, who claimed $175,000 of the total $200,000.

Bear in mind all of these earnings do not include their sponsorships, bonuses or salaries – some of which are rumoured to be around the $500,000 mark.

So, there will be players easily taking home close to $1,000,000 a year.

The highest earning Esports player of all-time is Danish Dota 2 player Johan Sundstein.

The most prestigious tournament in Esports is the International Dota 2 Championships. The two most recent Dota Internationals in 2017 and 2018 ranked #13 and #14 on our top 52 sports list respectively (Top 30% of events based on tournament earnings). The International 2018 Dota 2 Championship offered a total prize pool of $25,532,200, with Team OG winning the event. Each player on the winning team earned around $2,247,000 of the $11,234,000 (5 players per team). One thing to consider here is the inflation of tournament prize pools in Dota 2. Tournament prize pools are inflated due to fan crowdfunding through the purchase of in-game items. This highlights the popularity of Dota 2 even today, given that this is a much older game, compared to Fortnite for example.

One of the more recent Esports tournaments Fortnite Fall Skirmish Series 2018, ranked #20 overall, which is a testament to how much money Fortnite makes. Considering its recent emergence in the gaming and Esports markets (released in 2017) this is impressive and highlights how far Fortnite has come in a short space of time. There was an available prize pool of $4,000,000, with $1,500,000 going to the winning team.

The tournament winnings and prize money made available for successful players in the Esports industry highlights it’s growing popularity, allowing competitors to become some of the wealthiest sports stars in the world. Sports fans may be surprised that the most successful Esports players currently earn more than golfers, badminton players, cyclists, marathon runners, and even UFC stars.

Image Courtesy: JD Sports

The Esports industry has experienced significant growth since 1998, but this has been more rapid over the last 5 years. There are more professional Esports players now than there have ever been; and based on the increases over recent years, the number of competitors is only set to rise. Increases in earnings and tournament pay-outs appear to correlate with the number of competing players; with tournament winnings set to increase next year, we expect to see the number of Esports players increase again in 2019.

Up until 2015 the number of competitive Esports tournaments had increased year on year, but 2016 saw the number of competitive Esports tournaments decline. One explanation for this is that tournaments are maturing – they are becoming prestigious, with greater amounts of prize money being offered. This all means that the much smaller tournaments are being shunned in favour of the more popular tournaments in a bid to earn more money and make a real career of out Esports.

If the Esports industry experiences a similar growth rate of 2017-2018 – a 31% increase; we can expect total yearly player earnings to surpass $195,000,000 in 2019.

Key forces in the industry such as Dota 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and League of Legends are increasing prize money each year and are solidifying themselves as the games with the biggest prize pots. There are encouraging signs for new games in Esports though – Fortnite has rapidly broken into the top 5 highest paying games of all time in Esports and we only see their share increasing next year.

With the emergence of Fortnite, and based on previous increases in player earnings, we expect to see further growth within Esports. If the Esports industry experiences a similar growth rate to 2017-2018 (a 31% increase in player earnings) we can expect total yearly player earnings to surpass $195,000,000 in 2019.

After all of this – we believe Esports should be given the same attention as the more traditional sports. Not only is Esports leading the way in terms of growth and competition, but this is a viable career for someone willing to dedicate the time and resources to become an Esports champion.

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