From being a mainstream media laughing stock to having prize pools of multi-million dollars, Esports have come a long way. But such huge prize pools were not always there. Earlier Esports tournaments barely had any prize pool and during the late 2000s prize pools peaked at a few hundred thousand dollars at best.
But everything changed once the 2010s rolled around. With the advent of popular MOBA DotA, Valve and Riot Gaming became enrolled in a lawsuit as both wanted to develop a sequel game based on DotA. The lawsuit was settled soon enough and both companies developed their own versions of the game. Riot made League of Legends and Valve made DotA 2. These two games would change the esports landscape forever.
Valve kicked off DotA 2 with a 1 Million Dollar tournament in Gamescom 2011, Cologne. While Riot didn't have such a huge start they eventually hit the 2 Million mark with their second World Championship in 2012.
As it happens with such huge prize pools, some of the best players in the world won fortunes playing the game they loved. Winning the premier tournaments have now become lifechanging with Fortnite and DotA 2 having massive prize pools of over 25 million dollars USD. Here, I will take a look at the 10 Richest Players in esports history.
But before we start, there is something that we need to get out of the way. Owing to Valve's crowd-funding of DotA 2's The International and the huge player-base DotA has all over the world, the entire top 10 is just DotA 2 players with the first non-DotA player coming in at 13th. So, let's start the list with some honorable mentions from other amazing esports.
(Figures collected from esportsearnings.com)
Bugha - Fortnite - $3,030,300
Kyle 'Bugha' Giersdorf won the 2019 Fortnite World Cup's Solo competition and won over $3 Million. He is the youngest Esport player to ever become a millionaire from prize money and considering this was just his first tournament, he will go a lot further in his career.
Xyp9x - Counter-Strike Global Offensive - $1,476,691
Andreas 'Xyp9x' Hojsleth is the richest CSGO player in the world. He has amassed just under $1.5 million in earning and most are thanks to Astralis' 3 Major victories. His 4 teammates are just behind him in CSGO's richest rankings but he is the highest of them all thanks to his short 1.6 career. He is still the 50th richest esports player of all time.
Faker - League of Legends - $1,217,873
Lee 'Faker' Sang-hyeok is considered the best League of Legends player ever. The mid-laner from SK Telecom T1 is also the richest League player ever. His winning amounting over a million is primarily from his three Worlds victories. Even with that, he is the 66th highest earning esports player of all time.
#10 Syed 'Sumail' Hassan - $3,590,225
Syed 'Sumail' Hassan was born in Karachi, Pakistan. He started playing DotA at the age of 8 and when his family moved from Pakistan to Chicago, Illinois, he began developing a name for himself within the NA Pro scene. His mechanical skill within the game impressed Evil Geniuses' Saahil 'Universe' Arora so much that he pushed EG to sign Sumail. After a rough start, Sumail began posting strong performances.
During the 2015 season, analysts and fans started considering Sumail as one of the best mid-laners in the world and he has been so ever since, except for a short period in 2017 when he switched to the off-lane. He was part of the Evil Genius roster that went on to win The International 2015 and has since finished 3rd in TI6 and TI8.
The majority of his earnings come from his three very high TI finishes and his victory at 2015's Dota 2 Asia Championships. His highest career earnings come from: His victory at TI5 ($1,326,932) , 3rd in TI8 ($536,175), 3rd in TI6 ($436,179) and 1st at 2015 DAC ($256,831).
Not only is he the highest earning Pakistani player of all time, he is also the 3rd highest earning Asian esports player of all time. Sumail is also the youngest player to ever cross $1 million in earnings at just 16 years old.
#9 Maroun 'GH' Mehrej - $4,086,426
Very few people have won The International in their first-ever attempt. Maroun 'GH' Mehrej is one of those people. Born in Lebanon, GH gained notoriety for the first time when he reached 9k MMR, the highest in European servers. After playing in some Middle-Eastern teams, most notably E-Labs, GH was asked to stand in for Team Liquid in November 2016.
He would play in place of Bulba at DreamLeague Season 6 and Liquid would go on to win that tournament. His performance impressed team captain Kuroky so much that the team would go on to officially sign him in January of 2017 in place of Bulba as part of their new-look young squad led by Kuroky.
After some time together and a few mediocre performances, the team started dominating the pro scene. They won StarLadder i-League StarSeries Season 3 and Epicenter 2017 in convincing fashion. Their success in 2017 would eventually lead to them win The International 2017 and life the coveted Aegis of Champions.
GH was an integral part of winning TI7 for Liquid. He also became the 7th player to win TI in their first attempt (of course excluding TI1). Most of his earnings came from 3 TI finishes, all in the top 4. His highest earnings came from: Victory at TI7 ($2,172,536), 2nd at TI9 ($892,581) and 4th at TI8(357,450).
He is the second highest-earning Asian esports player in addition to being the highest-earning Lebanese player of all time.
#8 Ivan 'Mind_Control' Ivanov - $4,483,493
Ivan 'Mind_Control' Ivanov is a Bulgarian off-laner who started his career off in small teams around the European online circuit. He had little success in big tournaments, seldom qualifying for any but managed to win a few smaller online tournaments. He jumped from team to team several times until he was picked up by Kuroky in his new team, 5Jungz.
After Kuroky's team started producing results they were picked up by Team Liquid. But after a disappointing performance at TI6, Kuroky made several roster moves to turn Liquid into a much younger squad. Mind_Control stayed with the team and this new-look Liquid would go on to dominate 2017 as a team and win The International of that year as well.
His win at TI7 and his performances made him one of the best off-lane players in the world. He has also won the China Dota 2 Supermajor in 2018 and finished top 4 in two more Internationals. As a result he has amassed just under $4.5 Million in earnings.
His highest earnings come from his TI finishes in the Top 4. The highest of them are: his victory at TI7 ($2,172,536), 2nd place at TI9 ($892,581) and 4th at TI8 ($357,450).
He is the highest earning Bulgarian player of all time and the 6th highest earning European esports player of all time.
#7 Amer 'Miracle' Al-Barkawi - $4,692,418
Amer 'Miracle' Al-Barkawi was born in Jordan. He started his career for a small team called Balkan Bears before being removed shortly after joining. While teamless, Miracle made a name for himself by becoming the player with the highest MMR in Europe. This caught the attention of Notail who signed him to his team- Monkey Business.
As part of Monkey Business, which later formed OG, Miracle won two Valve Sponsored Majors: The Frankfurt Major and The Manila Major. While with the team he slowly gained the reputation of being one of the best carry players in the world. His ability to seamlessly transition between the Mid-Lane and the Safe-Lane made him an invaluable addition to OG.
However, after a disastrous TI6 performance, Miracle left OG to join Kuroky's Team Liquid. With Liquid, Miracle cemented himself as one of the best players ever and went on to win TI7. He has stuck with Liquid since than and has total career earnings of $4,692,418.
His highest earnings came from: His win at TI7 ($2,172,536), 2nd at TI9 ($892,581) and 4th at TI8 ($357,450).
He is the highest earning Jordanian as well as Asian esports player of all time.
#6 Kuro 'Kuroky' Takhasomi - $5,128,788
Born in Germany, Kuro 'Kuroky' Takhasomi's story begins on a sad note. He suffered from disabilities to his legs which eventually led him to video games and becoming one of the greatest esports players of all time. Kuroky started his career with Mousesports where he became friends with Puppey. After failing to make an impact in the first two TIs, Kuroky was asked to join Na'Vi by Puppey.
As part of Na'Vi, he managed to finish 2nd in TI3 and after a disappointing run at TI4, Kuroky left the team. After leaving Na'Vi, he and Puppey formed Team Secret. The superstar team had a shaky start but after some roster shuffles created one of DotA's strongest line-ups ever. But they failed to make an impact at TI5 and amidst several internal issues, Kuro left the team.
After leaving Secret, Kuro took matters into his own hands forming his own team called 5Jungz which would eventually become Team Liquid. After yet another disappointing exit from TI6, Kuro made some roster moves which turned Liquid into a powerhouse. They went on to win TI7 making Kuro the first player to play two TI finals on separate teams.
His total earnings amount to $5,127,814. His highest paychecks came from: His win at TI7 ($2,172,536), 2nd at TI9 ($892,581) and 4th at TI8 ($357,450).
He is the highest earning German esports player of all time, as well as the fifth highest earning European esports player of all time.
#4 Topias 'Topson' Taavitsainen - $5,413,446
Topias 'Topson' Taavitsainen was born in Finland. He started playing DotA when he was 8 years old and made his name as a pub star. His unorthodox playstyle got the attention of several professional players and analysts most of whom criticized him harshly for his unorthodox plays.
However, he caught the attention of Sebastian 'Ceb' Debs who realized the potential within the player. So when OG was down a Mid-Laner just before TI8, Topson joined the team. With Topson OG won the European Qualifier for TI and went on to win the tournament in one of the greatest underdog stories in esports history.
OG fell off right after TI8 failing to make it to 3 Majors and barely managing to get an invite to TI9. But at TI9, OG was once again at their finest and made history by winning TI back to back. This created a unique achievement for Topson as he became the first player to have won his first 2 TIs. Not only that, Topson has won only 2 tournaments in his career thus far, TI8 and TI9.
His career total earnings are $5,410,036. Over 99% of his career earnings come from his two TI victories. His win at TI8 got him $2,246,831 and his win at TI9 got him $3,124,036.
He is the 4th highest earning European esports player of all time and the 2nd highest earning Finnish player of all time.
#4 Sebastien 'Ceb' Debs - $5,488,233
Sebastien 'Ceb' Debs was born in France. He started playing DotA in a French team known as Team Shakira. From there he joined Team mTw ahead of TI2. As TI2 rolled around, mTw was considered to be one of the strongest teams in the tournament. But in the tournament the collapsed and were eliminated in the last place.
Following this disappointing finish, Ceb left and reformed Team Shakira. This is where Ceb would first become a coach for his team. However, after failing to qualify for TI3 the team slowly fell apart and Ceb formed yet another team, DD.Dota. After some mediocre success, this team fell apart as well and Ceb was picked up by Alliance who were looking to rebuild their team. But his Alliance run came to a swift end..
He tried his hand as an analyst in The Shanghai Major and then was mostly forgotten in the pro scene until OG signed him as their coach. With Ceb as their coach, OG won 3 Majors. After a disappointing season following TI6, several of OG's players unceremoniously left the team. This prompted Ceb to return to playing and OG went on to win back to back TIs.
Over 97% of his earnings come from his two TI finishes. His win at TI8 got him $2,246,831 and his win at TI9 got him $3,124,036.
He is the highest earning French player in esports history as well as the 3rd highest earning European player.
#3 Anatham 'Ana' Pham - $5,999,411
Anatham 'Ana' Pham is an Australian DotA player. He started playing at a very early age and quickly became Australia's best player. He moved to Shanghai in 2015 at just 16 years of age to play with China's best. There he was used as a substitute for Chinese teams CDEC and Invictus Gaming. However, after TI6 Ana joined a reformed OG.
As part of OG Ana won Valve's first Major, The Boston Major. OG won The Kiev Major as well but crashed out of TI7 after being upset by underdog team TNC Predator. After TI7, Ana took a break from competitive DotA. He rejoined OG when their team was ripped apart just before TI8. OG then went on to win not only TI8 but TI9 as well. He had taken yet another break after TI8 and is currently on one more break following their TI9 win.
He has a career total earning of $5,999,411. Most of the earnings came from his two TI victories. His highest earnings are from: His victory at TI9 ($3,124,036), 1st at TI8 ($2,246,831) and 1st at The Boston and Kiev Major ($200,000 each).
He is the highest-earning Australian player ever as well as the highest-earning esports player outside of Europe.
#2 Jesse 'Jerax' Vainikka - $6,469,000
Jesse 'Jerax' Vainikka started his career in Heroes of Newerth, one of the original DotA's sequel adaptations. After completing his compulsory military service in his home country of Finland, he started playing DotA 2 professionally.
After jumping around in a few Finnish teams, Jerax finally found his breakthrough with a team called MVP.Hot6ix. He participated in his first TI with the team but finished dead last. He left the team and was picked up by Kuroky's 5Jungz team which went on to become Team Liquid. With Liquid, Jerax played at TI6 where they had a mediocre performance causing Jerax to leave the team for OG.
With OG, Jerax won two back to back Majors becoming the first player to play in 4 consecutive Major finals. But the team failed to make an impact at TI7. However, the team stuck together and went on to win TI8 and TI9 back to back creating yet more history. Throughout his career, he has been regarded as one of the best, if not the best position 4 support player of all time.
He has a huge lifetime earnings of $6,469,000. His highest individual earnings come from: His victory at TI9 ($3,124,036), 1st at TI8 ($2,246,831) and 1st at The Boston and Kiev Major ($200,000 each).
He is also the highest earning Finnish esports player of all time.
#1 Johan 'Notail' Sundstein - $6,889,591
Johan 'Notail' Sundstein started his career in Heroes of Newerth. After switching to DotA 2, he became renowned for his micro-management skills thanks to his amazing Meepo and Chen plays. He started his DotA career in Fnatic's European team and after a string of substandard results, he decided to leave. He joined Puppey's Team Secret roster but after several internal issues, he left for North American team Cloud9.
It was this move that first separated Notail and Fly in their DotA 2 careers. However, both of them had very underwhelming performances in their new teams. So, after TI5, both of them decided to form a team of their own built on friendship and trust and founded OG. The team went on to win a record 4 Valve Majors and headed into TI6 as favorites. Unfortunately, they bombed out of TI6 early on. TI7 was the same for them as despite going in as strong contenders, OG failed to make an impact.
Just before TI8, Fly broke the promise OG was built on and left the team for Evil Geniuses. However, this change proved to be a blessing in disguise as OG's new roster went on to win back to back TIs. Notail is the only player to have won 6 Valve events, 2 TIs, and 4 Majors.
His career total earnings amount to $6,889,591. His highest earnings came from: His victory at TI9 ($3,124,036), 1st at TI8 ($2,246,831) and 1st at The Manila Major and Frankfurt Major ($222,000).
He is the highest-earning esports player of all time as well as the highest-earning Danish esports player of all time.