Ten years ago, if somebody told you that people would be able to make money by playing video games you probably would have laughed them out of the room. Now that isn’t just reality but a genuine career choice for those that are talented enough. Professional eSports teams can earn millions of dollars by competing in the biggest tournaments. Meanwhile, streamers on YouTube and Twitch are able to earn six figures by playing their favorite titles online to hundreds of thousands of viewers.
Even more remarkable is that many of these players are incredibly young. In fact, many of them are even teenagers thanks to the fact that video games are so popular with that demographic. The very best are able to earn more money in a year than you might see in an entire lifetime.
20 Kyle ‘Bugha’ Giersdorf
Kyle Giersdorf instantly became one of the most successful eSports competitors in the world in July, 2019. The gamer won the Fortnite World Cup at just 16 years of age, beating out another 99 players to the top prize and 40 million people who tried to qualify. His prize was $3 million, making the six hours of practice each day totally worth it.
19 Jaden Ashman
Jaden Ashman is a 15-year-old Fortnite player. He competed in the Fortnite World Cup as part of a duo in July, 2019. Although he didn’t win the competition, he did place second, earning a 50% share of the $2.25 million prize money. Ashman confirmed that he had been playing Fortnite since it first released and regularly played for eight hours a day.
18 Cho “Maru” Seong Ju
At just 13 years of age, Cho “Maru” Seong Ju was the youngest ever StarCraft II player to compete in and win a televised event. Since then he has become incredibly successful and is widely held to be one of the best StarCraft II players in the world. His total earnings from eSports tournaments is more than $700,000.
17 Dominique “SonicFox” McLean
Dominique McLean, better known as SonicFox, is a professional eSports players who specializes in fighting games. He has been competing since 2011 and has won several major championships during that time in a variety of different fighting games, including Mortal Kombat. At present, the 21-year-old has earned more than $600,000 in prize money.
16 Timothy “Bizzle” Miller
Timothy “Bizzle” Miller is one of many Fortnite players who has exploded onto the scene since the launch of the game. The now 21-year-old has been involved in competitive Fortnite for some time and has consistently been one of the game’s highest earners. Over the course of 29 tournaments, he was won more than $550,000 in prize money alone.
EthanGamer is the personality behind the Ethan Gamer TV YouTube channel. The 13-year-old plays a variety of different games. However, he is best known for his Roblox and Minecraft videos, which regularly amass millions of views. At just 13, Ethan is too young to manage his own financial affairs and relies on his parents to look after the $500,000 or so he makes a year.
14 Lil Poison
Lil Poison is best known for competing in various Halo tournaments and competitions. At the age of 21, he has retired from playing the games from that series professionally. However, the youngster rose to prominence as the youngest ever professional gamer. At the age of 6 he was already competing and has won tens of thousands of dollars in prize money in addition to corporate sponsorship deals.
13 Sumail Hassan
A professional Dota 2 player from Pakistan, Sumail Hassan is one of the most successful eSports players in the world. Playing for the Evil Geniuses team, he has won several tournaments, most notable among them being The International 2015. At the time of the win the 16-year-old broke records for reaching $1 million in career earnings at such a young age.
12 Lee “Flash” Young Ho
Although he is now 27, Lee “Flash” Young Ho first began competing as a professional in 2011 at the age of just 19. His game of choice was StarCraft: Brood War, although he has also played StarCraft II on occasion. He has won multiple tournaments and has career earnings of at least $600,000.
11 Ludwig “Zai” Wåhlberg
Ludwig “Zai” Wåhlberg is a Swedish gamer who has played competitively since he was just 14. In 2013 he moved to Dota 2 and became a dominant player on the circuit. He is widely considered to be one of the best players of the game in the world. Across a total of 86 tournaments, he has won almost $2 million in prize money.
10 Anathan “Ana” Pham
Anathan “ana” Pham is a 19-year-old competitive eSports player. The Australian is best known for playing Dota 2 and as part of the OG team that won The International 2018, along with earning prize money totaling $11 million. That brought his personal haul to around $3 million, more than enough to live comfortably.
9 Donovan 'F2Tekkz' Hunt
Donovan 'F2Tekkz' Hunt is widely regarded as one of the best FIFA 19 players in the world. The 17-year-old has won dozens of tournaments across the globe and was the number one player on FIFA 19 on the Xbox for much of the year. In total, he was won around $300,000 from competitions.
8 Griffin Spikoski
Griffin Spikoskirose to fame in 2019 in part due to his young age. The professional Fortnite player is just 14 years old but had already amassed $200,000 in prize money after performing well in eSports leagues. The teen has also earned endorsements from the likes of Samsung, adding to his already healthy money flow.
7 Lee “Life” Seung Hyun
Lee “Life” Seung Hyun began his career as a professional StarCraft II player back in 2011 when he was just 14 years old. Over the next five year he would become one of the dominant players in South Korea, regularly winning national tournaments. He accrued around $500,000 in earning by the time he was 19, but has since been banned for life and imprisoned for match-fixing.
6 Zhang "Faith_bian" Ruida
Zhang "Faith_bian" Ruida is the fourth most successful professional gamer from China and ranks at number 22 in the world in terms of prize money. He is a professional Dota 2 player who is part of the EHOME that won The International 2016 tournament. Ruida has earned more than $2 million in winnings since he began competing at the age of 17 in 2015.
5 Chu “Aventador” Zeyu
Chu “Aventador” Zeyu is a 22-year-old professional gamer from China. He plays Dota 2 and competes for Team Serenity. Playing since he was 18, he has won a number of tournaments. However, his biggest success came in 2016 at the age of 19 when he won almost $2 million in prize money.
4 Kyle "Mongraal" Jackson
Kyle "Mongraal" Jackson is another Fortnite player who has made a name for himself on the professional circuit despite his young age. The player is just 14-years-old, but has been gaming since he was 8. Jackson was approached to join a professional team in 2018 after he was spotted regularly winning matches online. He has earned a total of $410,000 from 19 tournaments.
3 Roman "RAMZES666" Kushnarev
Unlike many other professional gamers, Roman "RAMZES666" Kushnarev is a native of Russia. The 20-year-old has been gaming professionally since 2015 when he was just 15 and has steadily rose to prominence playing Dota 2. While his earnings started small, he took home more than half a million dollars in prize money in both 2017 and 2018 and has total earnings of more than $1.5 million.
2 Maroun Merhej
Maroun Merhej is a 24-year-old Lebanese player who competes professionally in Dota 2 leagues and tournaments. His five year career began in 2015 and he has since become one of the biggest names in the eSports world. By 2018, he had amassed more than $3 million in prize money alone.
1 Lasse "Matumbaman" Urpalainen
Lasse "Matumbaman" Urpalainen is a Finnish professional game who specializes in Dota 2. He currently plays for Chaos Esports Club and the 24-year-old has been competing since he was just 19 years old. In that time, he won The International 2017 and has total career earnings of more than $3.5 million.
Sources: BBC, The Guardian, ESPN, eSports Earnings.