Game On: The sheer reality of Esports players’ earnings compared to traditional athletes

Publish Date: 13/06/2024

Professional Esports players generally earn significantly less than athletes in traditional sports, according to research conducted by Gameland. When comparing average yearly incomes, Esports players earn over 50 times less than professional soccer or basketball players in Europe and over a hundred times less in the United States.

Our study also shows that the total earnings of some of the highest-paid Esports players throughout their entire careers are still approximately 15 times less than the yearly income of some of the highest-paid athletes in traditional sports.

Earnings gap

In this piece, we aim to offer a detailed comparison of the average annual salaries of professional esports players with those of professional athletes from traditional sports in Europe, the US, Canada, and Australia. This will include a breakdown of earnings across different regions and sports to provide a comprehensive overview of the financial landscape for athletes in these areas.

In European countries the average yearly salary of a professional Esport player is somewhere between €11,280 and €56,400. For comparison, professional soccer players average €1.5 to €3 million, basketball players score €400,000 to €800,000, and rugby pros tackle €200,000 to €500,000 annually.

In the US, professional Esports players earn an average of $64,168 per year. Meanwhile, professional American football players make around $2.7 million annually, basketball players bring in $7.7 million, and rugby players average $2.69 million.

In Canada, the situation is a bit different. Esports players earn more (60,000 USD) than hockey (52,000 USD) and rugby (47,327 USD) players, but less than soccer (74,000 – 370,000 USD) and basketball players (50,000 – 100,000 USD) per year.

In Australia, professional Esports athletes earn between 40,000 USD and 60,000 USD, outpacing rugby players who make 6,400 USD to 19,200 USD. Meanwhile, a professional basketball player averages 94,000 USD, and a soccer player earns $88,000 annually.

Highest paid players

When discussing those who made millions throughout their careers in esports, several names stood out. From Europe, Johan “N0tail” Sundstein from Denmark earned $7,183,917.80 USD; Jesse “JerAx” Vainikka from Finland earned $6,470,548.78 USD; and Topias “Topson” Taavitsainen, also from Finland, earned $5,698,547.65 USD, all primarily from Dota 2.

In the US, top earners include Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf with $3,156,861.72 from Fortnite, and Peter “ppd” Dager and Saahil “UNiVeRsE” Arora from Dota 2, earning $3,077,255.00 and $3,058,111.00 respectively.

In Canada, top earners are Kurtis “Aui_2000” Ling with $2,073,582.54, Artour “Arteezy” Babaev with $2,009,158.35, and Jacky “EternaLEnVy” Mao with $1,215,291.00, all from Dota 2.

From Australia, Anathan “Ana” Pham leads with $6,000,411.96, followed by Damien “kpii” Chok with $1,865,067.57, both also from Dota 2.

While these esports professionals amassed impressive earnings throughout their careers, their total incomes still pale in comparison to the annual salaries of athletes in traditional sports, who often earn hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

For comparison, the highest-paid soccer player (including salary and endorsements) in Europe is Kylian Mbappé, earning a staggering $120 million per year. In the US, the top-paid basketball player is Stephen Curry with $51.9 million annually. In Canada, the highest-paid hockey player is Connor McDavid, earning $12.5 million. Meanwhile, in Australia, the most paid football player is Morgan Schneiderlin, earning $5.6 million.

Additionally, top MMA fighters earn millions per fight. Conor McGregor has amassed $39.3 million from his fights, excluding Pay-Per-View earnings and endorsements. Khabib Nurmagomedov earned $22.9 million during his career.

Science shows that Esports professionals are real athletes

Professor Ingo Froböse began studying Esports athletes a decade ago. This made Froböse something of a pioneer, as the expert in prevention and rehabilitation at the German Sports University in Cologne became the very first scientist to conduct a study of athletes who compete in eSports.

Nobody had previously looked into the demands placed on an Esports professional, the kind of training he needs to go through to compete, or what kind of strains he is exposed to during a tournament. Froböse was quite surprised by the results.

“We were particularly impressed by both the demands placed on the motor skills and their capabilities,” Froböse said. “The Esports athletes achieve up to 400 movements on the keyboard and the mouse per minute, four times as much as the average person. The whole thing is asymmetrical, because both hands are being moved at the same time and various parts of the brain are also being used at the same time,” he added.

This is a level of strain that the scientist had never observed in any other sport, not even in table-tennis players, who require a high level of hand-eye coordination.

To find out more, the scientists at the German Sports University conducted tests aimed at determining the demands placed on the athletes’ minds, testing for the stress hormone cortisol.

“The amount of cortisol produced is about the same level as that of a race-car driver,” Froböse said.

While Esports is growing rapidly and has a promising future, it still lags behind traditional sports in financial power. The industry’s youth, smaller revenue streams, less lucrative sponsorships, and cultural factors all contribute to the earnings gap between professional Esports players and traditional sports athletes.


In this study, we conducted an analysis using available data on the average yearly incomes of professional Esports players across various regions, including Europe, the US, Canada, and Australia. These data were obtained from different financial reports of Esports organisations. Additionally, we gathered information on the average annual salaries of professional athletes in traditional sports by checking reports and announcements about their yearly and average incomes.

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