Top 10 eSports Teams, Earnings, and Salaries

If you are not already interested in electronic gaming, you may be surprised by just how big an industry eSports now is. It is highly competitive, and there are tournaments offering sizeable prize earnings around the globe. A surprisingly large number of people compete in eSports teams to earn their living.

We have previously discussed the rise of eSports’ influence on brands. Many of the top eSports players are celebrities to Millennial and Generation Y fans. To them, eSports is as legitimate a sport as football and basketball are to the more athletically oriented.

Importantly, eSports are not just some niche fad, likely to become old news by next year. The interest in eSports has hit critical mass, ensuring that there are sufficient high-paying tournaments to justify a competitive full-time lifestyle. It even supports television coverage, for those who still prefer the big screen, rather than livestreaming via Twitch on their tablet or phone.

So who are the big names of eSports? What kinds of money have they been making, and what games are the most popular?

Perhaps the biggest surprise is despite Fortnite being the “name” video game of 2018, it doesn’t appear anywhere near the top of the high-earning tournament games. Indeed the most lucrative game by far is Dota, and variations thereof. Dota2, in particular, appears to be where most of the money is nowadays. Dota 2 is a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) video game, played in matches between two teams of five players, with each team occupying and defending their own separate base on the map. Each player independently controls a powerful character, their "hero,” who has a unique ability and a differing style of play. 

Here is an interesting visualization of the top 15 Esports Games by Prize Money below

eSports salaries vary by team and players. Teams must pay each player a minimum of $12,500 for the 28-match season. However, players in winning and well-sponsored teams often receive considerably more than this.

Top 10 eSports Teams, Earnings, and Salaries:

1. Team Liquid

Total Prize Money Earned: $24,448,847

Total Tournaments Played:  1430

Top Games:

  1. Dota -$17,336,099
  2. Counter-Strike - $1,772,175
  3. StarCraft - $1,361,490.23

Top Players and Their Earnings:

    1. Kuro Takhasomi (KuroKy) -  $3,449,672
    2. Ivan Ivanov (MinD_ContRoL) - $3,433,172)
    3. Lasse Urpalainen (Matumbaman) - $3,428,672

Team Liquid began as a gaming community website. They sponsored a Dutch StarCraft: Brood War team in 2010. Over time, the team changed the games they played. They signed their first professional players when they began playing StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty in 2010. They recruited their first Dota2 player in 2012.

In 2015, Team Liquid merged with Team Curse, gaining the Team Curse players and management.

Team Liquid became part of the entertainment and sports management company, aXiomatic, in 2016. The Walt Disney Company chose Team Liquid to participate in the 'Disney Accelerator' program in 2017.

Team Liquid has won various tournaments over its life, over a variety of games. Its greatest success, however, was winning The International 2017 (TI17), which brought them $10,862,683.

2. Evil Geniuses

Total Prize Money Earned: $20,751,172

Total Tournaments Played: 737

Top Games:

  • Dota 2X - $17,870,742
  • StarCraft / StarCraft 2 - $798,548
  • Call of Duty - $781,050

Top Players and Their Earnings:  

  • Sumail Hassan (SumaiL) - $3,265,914
  • Saahil Arora (UNiVeRsE) - $2,919,231
  • Peter Dager (ppd) - $2,599,54

Evil Geniuses, aka EG, are a predominantly North American eSports organization, based in San Francisco. Alexander Garfield originally founded the team as a Canadian Counter-Strike team in 1999.

Their most successful player, Sumail Hassan, began his successful Dota playing days in Pakistan. Sumail’s father gained a job in the USA, and Sumail joined Evil Geniuses in January 2015. The team won the Dota Asia Championships a month later.

Evil Geniuses is a subsidiary of GoodGame Agency, owned by Amazon’s Twitch division.

3. Team OG

Total Prize Money Earned: $17,563,028

Total Tournaments Played: 50

Top Games:

  • Dota 2 - $17,562,067
  • Super Smash Bros - $960

Top Players and Their Earnings:

  • Johan SundsteinX (N0tail) - $3,507,429
  • Jesse Vainikka (JerAx) -  $2,905,424
  • Anathan Pham (ana) - $2,825,74

European-based Team OG began as the team Monkey Business, which rebranded in October 2015. They’re very much Dota 2 specialists. Their breakthrough came in the Frankfurt Major 2015, where they defeated Evil Geniuses, CDEC Gaming, and Team Secret.

They’re still newbies, as far as this list is concerned, making their winnings from a mere 50 tournaments particularly impressive.

Team OG also won the Manila Major 2016 event, making them the first squad in Dota 2 history to win two major tournaments. Indeed, Team OG won five of the first ten tournaments it entered.

4. Newbee

Total Prize Money Earned: $12,820,195

Total Tournaments Played: 130

Top Games:

  • Dota 2 - $12,438,302
  • Dota 2 (Newbee Young) - $112,208
  • Hearthstone - $109,076

Top Players and Their Earnings:

  • Zhi Hu (KaKa) - $1,352,240
  • Damien ChokX (kpii) - $1,351,665
  • Zhang, Pan (Mu) - $1,319,624

Newbee is a Chinese e-Sports team. It plays a wider range of games than many other teams. It has dedicated teams for Dota 2, Hearthstone, and League of Legends.

The team gained fame for winning The International 2014 (TI14). This resulted in winnings of $5 million, giving it the Guinness World Record for most prize earnings at the time.

5. Fnatic

Total Prize Money Earned: $11,908,332

Total Tournaments Played: 788

Top Games:

  • CS:GO - $3,531,627
  • Dota 2 - $3,089,323
  • League of Legends - $1,816,891

Top Players and Their Earnings:

  • Robin Rönnquist (flusha) - $687,864
  • Jesper Wecksell (JW) - $679,188
  • Freddy Johansson (KRiMZ) - $661,480

Fnatic is London-based, although many of its best players are Swedish. Fnatic has assembled dedicated teams for a range of games, including Dota 2, Hearthstone, and League of Legends.

Sam and Anne Mathews (son and mother) founded Fnatic in 2004, as they saw the potential future for eSports. They chose to build a team of good players from around the world. Their League of Legends team won the first League of Legends World Championship in 2011. It holds the record for the most League of Legends Championship Series split titles in the EU LCS.

Many consider their Counter-Strike team to be one of the best of all-time, having won three CS: GO Majors.


Total Prize Money Earned: $11,745,195

Total Tournaments Played: 438

Top Games:

  • Dota 2 - $7,688,777
  • CS:GO - $2,871,882
  • Counter-Strike - $333,199

Top Players and Their Earnings:

  • Roman Kushnarev (RAMZES666) -  $1,168,604
  • Pavel Khvastunov (9pasha) - $1,147,446
  • Vladimir Minenko (No[o]ne) - $1,140,246 is a Russian eSports team, established in 2003. Since then it has won more than 100 gold, 170 silver and 220 bronze medals in various eSports tournaments.

It has built a series of teams for different games. has more than 50 players on its roster. These include a woman’s team they added in September 2012.

7. Wings Gaming

Total Prize Money Earned: $9,718,637

Total Tournaments Played: 22

Top Games:

  • Dota 2 - $9,712,413.00
  • 2CS:GO - $6,224

Top Players and Their Earnings:

  • Zhang Ruida (Faith_bian) - $1,942,562
  • Zhou Yang (bLink) - $1,942,462
  • Li Peng (iceice) - $1,942,462

Although Wings Gaming still ranks as the seventh highest eSports team, in terms of prize earrings, they have actually not existed for nearly two years.

Wings Gaming was a Chinese professional Dota 2 team. A group of Chinese pub stars formed the team in 2014.

The team performed very creditably in a range of tournaments over 2015-2016, determined to prove themselves one of China's premier teams. They were the champions of The International 2016 (TI16), winning $9.1 million.

They were nominated in the best non-Olympic athlete category of the Chinese Top 10 Laureus Sport Awards – the first eSports team to do so.

However, success was fleeting. Disputes between the team’s management and its players over how the TI16 prize money should be used, led to cash flow difficulties. Player salaries weren’t paid, and as a result, the players walked. They eventually moved to Team Random.

8. Vici Gaming

Total Prize Money Earned: $9,391,057

Total Tournaments Played: 255

Top Games:

  • Dota 2 - $5,700,876
  • Dota 2 (VGJ.Storm) - $1,015,432.57
  • Dota 2 (VGJ.Thunder) - $851,202

Top Players and Their Earnings:

  • Lu, Chao (Fenrir) - $1,176,283
  • Xu, Linsen (fy) - $1,034,239
  • Xie, Junhao (Super) - $894,309

Vici Gaming began operations in October 2012. They handpicked skilled players who were highly ranked on the Chinese Dota ladder at the time. They initially focused on the original Dota, although they have since expanded to Dota 2. The team finished second at The International 2014.

They also have teams playing other games, including League of Legends, StarCraft II, WarCraft III, FIFA, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

9. LGD Gaming

Total Prize Money Earned: $8,721,579

Total Tournaments Played: 122

Top Games:

  • Dota 2 (China) - $5,204,365
  • Dota 2 (LGD Forever Young) - $2,943,724
  • League of Legends - $368,876

Top Players and Their Earnings:

  • Yao, Zhengzheng (Yao) - $1,176,225
  • Liang, Fa Ming (DDC) - $839,884
  • Lei, Zengrong (MMY!) - $751,563

LGD Gaming is a Chinese multi-gaming team sponsored by Guizhou Laogandie Food. The team’s base is in Hangzhou, China.

It has separate teams of players playing Dota and League of Legends. The first Dota team grew out of the team For The Dream, which LGD sponsored in 2009. That team came third in The International 2012.

LGD then created another Dota squad, which they called It disbanded in 2014, but LGD signed up a replacement squad, which they called LGD CDEC, later rebranded CDEC Gaming.

In April 2018, LGD partnered with French football giants Paris Saint-Germain to create a squad called PSG.LGD.

10. SK Telecom T1

Total Prize Money Earned: $8,572,612

Total Tournaments Played: 212

Top Games:

  • League of Legends (SKT T1) - $5,291,107
  • League of Legends (SKT T1 K) - $1,275,132
  • StarCraft 2 - $1,165,932

Top Players and Their Earnings:

  • Lee, Sang Hyeok (Faker) - $1,175,068
  • Lee, Jae Wan (Wolf) - $908,949
  • Bae, Jun Sik (Bang) - $907,269

SK Telecom T1 (SKT) is a Korean eSports team owned by and named after the South Korean telecommunications company, SK Telecom. SK Telecom founded the team in 2002, to go with teams in more traditional sports, such as basketball, baseball, football, and handball. The team has players in StarCraft: Brood War, StarCraft II, and League of Legends.

SK Telecom T1 has won the League of Legends World Championship three times, in 2013, 2015, and 2016.

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