Originally the modified multiplayer mode Defense of the Ancients for the real-time strategy game Warcraft III, Dota has become a serious competitive game in its own right. In 2009, Valve—developer of the successful Half-Life, Portal and Left 4 Dead series—hired the original modder, IceFrog, to assist in creating a standalone game that would replicate the mod’s core gameplay. Dota 2 pits two teams of five players against each other in an online arena, the goal being to destroy the other team’s key building, or “Ancient.” Each player has an assortment of abilities and is aided by computer-controlled allies called “creeps.”
Though free to download and play, Dota 2 has nonetheless become a resounding critical and commercial success—the latter thanks to the game’s system of microtransactions—and it is furthermore one of the biggest esports in the world. The following list of its top ten highest earning players helps to show off Dota’s reputation in the world of competitive gaming.
9 Jiang "YYF" Cen
Team: Invictus Gaming
Earnings (as of January 2014): $275,025.66
Cen is primarily a solo and utility player, the Dota 2 Wiki naming him key to his former team LGD’s success in 2010. Cen pulled in his biggest winnings in 2012, raking in $211,613.85 across four tournaments, though his earnings tapered off the following year, pulling in only $35,026.83 from nine tournaments. Nevertheless, E-Sports Earnings lists he has already accumulated more than $14,000 just from January’s first three events.
8 Fei Chi "Ferrari_430" Luo
Team: Invictus Gaming
Luo started his professional career in 2010 as part of team Mr, though he first began to make a name for himself after signing with ToT in April of that year. Luo switched teams two more times in 2010, ending up on Deity, where his victories earned him the title of 2010’s best newcomer according to Dota 2 Wiki. He ended up on team CCM due to a massive reshuffling in the Chinese league, and not long afterward ended up as part of Invictus after CCM was purchased. With over $275,000 in earnings so far, Luo is China’s most financially successful Dota 2 player.
7 Jerry "EGM" Lundqvist
Lundqvist is one of the five members of Swedish team Alliance, arguably the most successful Dota 2 team in the world. He got his start in 2010 after signing with Druidz. Though he spent much of 2011 and 2012 moving from one team to the next, Lundqvist eventually found a successful niche for himself as part of No Tidehunter, named for one of the game’s playable heroes. This was merely the beginning, however, as he and his teammates would sweep several tournaments after No Tidehunter was incorporated into Alliance in mid-2013. Alliance eventually defeated Ukraine-based Natus Vincere at the third annual International Dota 2 Championship last July.
6 7. Henrik "AdmiralBulldog" Ahnberg
In an interview with NatusVincereTV, Ahnberg said he was introduced to the professional side of Dota through fellow player—and now occasional rival—Denil “Dendi” Ishutin. After playing as a stand-in for Natus Vincere, Ahnberg said he enjoyed the quality of competition and decided to pursue playing Dota 2 professionally, ending up on No Tidehunter alongside fellow Swedes EGM, s4, Akke and Loda, using the handle “AdmiralBulldog.” According to website E-Sports Earnings, Ahnberg has been named a champion 17 times in his career.
An 18-time Dota 2 champion, Magnusson is a member of current reigning champions Alliance. According to Dota 2 community encyclopedia Liquipedia, he is known for his solo performances as well as his use of heroes Magnus, Puck and Templar Assassin. His preference for Magnus has been a particular boon, contributing to a winning streak through early 2013. E-Sports Earnings lists the 2013 International as his biggest score yet, winning $287,440.80 from the tournament alone.
5 Joakim "Akke" Akterhall
Akterhall’s history with Dota stretches back to 2005, having been introduced to the original WC3 mod through classmate and current teammate Jonathan “Loda” Berg. He began playing professionally the next year as part of Team_Team. Akterhall joined Alliance in 2013 when his then current team, No Tidehunter, signed with the organization. Last year was Akterhall’s most successful year so far, competing in 23 tournaments and earning over $317,000—the bulk of his overall earnings thus far.
4 Jonathan "Loda" Berg
Along with Joakim Akterhall, Jonathan Berg is considered one of Dota’s biggest veterans. Originally playing under the handle “LordOfDolAmroth,” Berg began his professional Dota career in 2006, forming Team_Team with Akterhall, Erik “Bogdan” Olsson, Edvin “Kwom” Börjesson and Gustav “Renji” Bergström. Berg has a lot of clout in the Chinese Dota community, dubbed “L-God” by the Chinese during his string of successes from ’07-’08. As with Akterhall, Berg earned over $317,000 from tournament winnings last year and has already made over $11,000 from his first three tournaments in 2014.
3 Clement "Puppey" Ivanov
Team: Natus Vincere
E-Sports Earnings names Ivanov as the current captain of Natus Vincere, or Na’Vi. As "Puppey," Ivanov began to establish his reputation in 2011 during the first annual International tournament as well as the Electronic Sports World Cup, according to the Dota 2 Wiki. He is known for his skill in micromanaging, or just "micro," which emphasizes smaller gameplay details such as personal statistics, abilities and tactics. Ivanov took over as Na'Vi captain from Ivan "Artstyle" Antonov in 2011 and helped lead the team to the 2013 International, were they placed as runners-up. E-Sports Earnings states he earned $154,410.38 in 2013 alone.
2 Oleksandr "XBOCT" Dashkevych
Team: Natus Vincere
Dashkevych's history with Dota stretches back to the game's original WC3 incarnation. His start was meager, earning a mere $470.06 across two tournaments according to E-Sports Earnings, but since getting into Dota 2 Dashkevych has earned more than $435,000. He joined Na'Vi in 2010, the Dota 2 Wiki listing his primary role as a "carry." The Wiki describes carries as heroes that, while not particularly effective to start with and as a result have to be "carried" by the rest of their team, prove to have significant potential as they acquire gold and experience over the course of the game. Though he and Na'Vi have only competed in one tournament so far this year, their winnings total over $12,000 each—not a bad start.
1 Danil "Dendi" Ishutin
Team: Natus Vincere
The highest earning Dota 2 player in the world—and the fourth highest earning of any game overall, according to E-Sports Earnings—hails from Lviv, Ukraine and is likely younger than half of the people currently reading this list. Liquidpedia says the gamer started playing competitively in Internet cafes, moving from the first person shooter Counter-Strike to Warcraft III and finally the original Defense of the Ancients mod. In an interview with Team Liquid, Ishutin said he signed with the Wolker Gaming organization in 2006 at the age of 17, leading to his professional start in gaming. Moving back and forth between several teams from 2008 to 2010, Ishutin signed with Na'Vi shortly before the start of 2011, where he helped them win the International that year.