With major TV networks like ESPN and TBS broadcasting eSports on national TV, the competitive video game scene is getting to be pretty big. Millions of fans are watching thousands of tournaments every year, and the prizes for these tournaments can now be in the millions.
The best video game players can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, and some are huge celebrities. Their fast keyboard skills, next-level tactics and incredible map awareness make people love to watch them face off.
Here is a list of the most successful professional video game players to date, ranked by their total prize earnings, and the game that they play.
10. Filip “neo” Kubski (Counter-Strike: Global Offensive) – $289,702.37
Filip Kubski has competed in and won over 137 tournaments. He currently plays for the team Virtus.pro, a well-established Russian e-sports organization. In 2015, the Polack won first place in the ESL ESEA Pro League Invitational, for which he won $100,000. His total earnings for the year more than doubled that amount.
9. Damon “Karma” Barlow (Call of Duty) – $305,307.87
“Karma” has played for several MLG teams, including Fariko.Impact, compLexity Gaming, and OpTic Gaming. He is the only player who has ever won two Call of Duty World Championships.
Call of Duty is a first-person shooter, and is one of the most successful game series in history. Twelve iterations of the original game have been released, and over a dozen spin-offs have been made.
Barlow’s motto is “hate losing more than you love winning.” He is a father, with one daughter.
8. Patrik “f0rest” Lindberg (Counter-Strike)- $359,119.00
Hailing from Sweden, “f0rest” was one of the best performing players in Counter-Strike, a first-person shooter, before switching to its sequel Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
Counter-Strike was originally a fan-made modified version of the game Half-Life. Valve, the creators of Half-Life, bought the mod and released a full version of the game in 2000. Players face off in death matches between government anti-terrorism forces and terrorist militants, in maps based on locations around the world.
Lindberg was a part of BeGrip Gaming until its disbandment in 2006. He has since played for Fnatic and SK Gaming.
7. Johnathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel (Quake, Unreal Tournament, and Painkiller) – $456,089.23
“Fatal1ty” was the world’s first prominent professional gamer, and is still among the top 100 most successful. He became so well known that ASRock, a computer parts manufacturer, licensed his name to be used for many of their products.
Wendel has more titles, and has won championships in more games, than any other professional gamer. He has won tournaments in Doom 3, Alien vs. Predator 2, Unreal Tournament 2003, Quake III and Painkiller.
Before getting into gaming at age 18, Wendel had dreams of becoming a professional player in multiple real sports. Most of his tournament winnings came from one-on-one, first-person shooter games.
6. Jang “Moon” Jae Ho (Warcraft III) – $464,090.68
Going undefeated in his first season of professional play in Warcraft III (in the World eSports Games league) and his great success in tournaments made “Moon” the gaming icon he is today. Another one of the reasons Warcraft III players respect “Moon” so much is that he plays a race that is considered to be under-powered in the game, which is the “Night-Elf” race. The “Orc” race is considered to be the strongest by far.
“Moon”chose to still live with his grandmother for several years, even after becoming an international success in eSports. Many video game players live with their grandmothers, but how many of them do so as professionals?
5. Lee “Faker” Sang Hyeok (League of Legends) – $479,762.21
Hyeok is known for being an extremely aggressive “mid-lane” player (in League of Legends, the map consists of three “lanes,” the middle being the most important to either team’s success). He initially started playing ranked games, and joined a professional team, because after playing normal games for a while he could no longer find players of equal skill to his.
The CEO of Riot Games, the company that makes League of Legends, named Hyeok as the games Michael Jordan, since many of its players consider him the best player of all time. Another pro LoL player, “Cool,” once called him the “Unkillable Demon King.”
4. Jang “MC” Min Chul (Starcraft II) – $501,436.49
“MC” was the first Starcraft II player to win two GSL titles, one of the first and largest professional leagues of the game. He is well known for his cocky antics; after winning at a tournament, he usually dons a costume and teases the player that lost.
In 2012, he imitated The Undertaker during one of his celebrations, with his coffin, entrance music and all.
With the money he’s earned, “MC” has bought his parents a car and a house. In a tweet, he announced that if he ever wins the IEM world championship grand prize of $100,000, he will buy an Audi R8.
3. Lee “Jaedong” Jae Dong (Starcraft: Brood War) – $604,871.05
“Jaedong” is widely considered to be the greatest “Zerg” player in Starcraft: Brood War history (the “Zerg” are one of the three races in the game). He is also one of only a handful of Brood War players who has been able to transition to playing Starcraft II, and succeeding in tournaments.
Starcraft is a RTS (real-time strategy) game that is played, in professional play, one-on-one. Players can choose from three races, and compete on a map that is only revealed to them when they move their characters about it.
In 2006, Jae Dong won the Rookie-of-the-Year award at the Korea eSports Awards. He managed to keep the number one spot in ranked Brood War play in Korea for 16 consecutive months, an amazing feat considering how competitive the environment can be.
2. Carlos “Ocelote” Rodríguez Santiago (World of Warcraft) – $900,000
“Ocelote” currently plays League of Legends for the pro team SK gaming, but before he switched games he played World of Warcraft, and competed on the world stage at Blizzcon, in 2004. He started playing eSports professionally at the age of 14.
In the League community, “Ocelote” is notorious for his vitriolic streaks of bad sportsmanship. His accounts have been repeatedly banned, since other players can report him for using bad language and acting out. Once your account is banned, a League of Legends “Tribunal” reviews your case and decides whether or not to reinstate it.
1. Peter “ppd” Dager (Dota 2) – $1,985,992.36
Dager has won nearly two million dollars total from playing Dota 2. He earned $1,657,319.74 in 2015 alone. Since becoming captain of the very successful eSports team “Evil Geniuses,” he has risen to the top position of Dota 2 professional players, ranked by earnings.
Dota 2 is a PC game produced by the company Valve. Players face-off in teams of five, on a map that is split diagonally into three lanes, and can choose from over a hundred characters.
“ppd” is known for being very outspoken. One of his nicknames in the Dota 2 community is “Salt King,” which refers to his quick temper (“salty” is something video game players call someone who is upset), which shows that even the richest professional video game players still get mad over the games they play.