Recently Games.on.net, the video game site for ISPs iiNet and Internode, posted an article bringing to attention to the fact StarCraft 2 player Lee Jae Dong (aka Jaedong) has hit number one on the highest earnings list for e-sport players worldwide.
“According to eSports Earnings … Jaedong’s earnings now total $489, 384.” (Article by Alex Walker)
It’s important to note that these earnings are winnings only. Professional gamers can also have endorsement deals, salaries, and fan donation support systems that make up a large majority of their yearly earnings. However it wasn’t what was gained that interested me, but what was undoubtedly lacking.
Looking at the stars of our regular sporting events the difference in winnings is painfully obvious. For example, Roger Federer topped the tennis field by winning $6.5 million during the period of June 2012 and June 2013. That is over $6 million more in prize money than the highest earning e-sports player Jaedong, whose winnings were gathered over a lifetime. More incredibly, Poker champion Ryan Riess took out the No-Limit Hold’em main event at the 44th Annual World Series of Poker, the winnings for first place equalled $8, 361, 570! The highest paying prize pool in e-sports for individual play was the CPL World Tour Finals in 2005, equally a mere $510, 000. While the highest paying prize pool for teams, The International 2013 for Dota 2, pulled in $2, 874, 407. These barely scrape Riess’ first place winnings and as prize pools, they are shared over many participants. It can’t be denied that E-sports have indeed grown over the last few years, the total prize money for a year in e-sports growing by almost $10 million in value between 2010 and 2013. However in the world of sports it is but pocket change.
The question is, will we see this change over the next decade? Surely e-sports will continue to grow in prizes but the real earnings for athletes come in the form of endorsements; companies who use them as living billboards for their brands and support the sporting events that showcase their prized star. Gamers do get sponsored, the highest ranking among them given salaries and endorsement deals, but as video gamers their ability to sell brands to the public are limited by society’s outlook of what they represent. Certainly we look to them for the latest gaming hardware, but would you look to them for fitness, diet, or clothing advice?