Author: MMOsite Writer Alexander Hinkley
Competitive League of Legends is extremely popular and has especially exploded into the mainstream over the last several years. League of Legends tournaments can boast some very generous prizing with payouts ranging from a few thousand dollars all the way up to millions for the biggest championships. For example, the 2014 LoL World Championship paid out a whopping $2,130,000 in total prize money! This has inspired many hardcore League players to consider “going pro.” Those interested in eSports might be wondering just what do League of Legends pros make?
According to statistics displayed on here, Lee Sang-Hyeok, better known online as Faker, has won the most money from League of Legends tournaments. Since 2013, Faker has pulled in $311,650.34 in prize money from tournaments. That would put his earnings at about $103,883 per year. Not a bad salary just for playing video games! The highest paid American player is the infamous Dyrus (real name Marcus Hill) who has earned a respectable $143,602.78 from tournaments. Over the course of five years, this would translate to roughly $28,720 a year.
At the time of this writing, over $23.5 million dollars has been given out in prize money for League of Legends tournaments. The vast majority of those earnings come from offline/LAN tournaments ($20.7m) but there’s been plenty of money given out for online only tournaments as well ($2.7m). The 2015 World Championship in October will have over $2,000,000 in the prize pool.
But tournament winnings are just one of several revenue pipelines that pro players have coming in. Another way pro players make bank is by streaming gameplay. Streaming is actually how most players make the lion’s share of their money. Not only can they earn money from advertisements shown during their live streams but they also earn a monthly paycheck via subscribers to their channel. On Twitch, it costs $4.99 per month to subscribe to someone’s channel and the actual streamer gets $2.50 of that. This means well known pro players with thousands of subscribers can easily pull in several thousand dollars a month just from these subscription fees. For example, if a player has just two thousand subs, that’s a $5,000 check in their pocket every month! Sixty grand a year!
Twitch partners make a few bucks for every one thousand people who view an ad during the stream. I have seen different figures from different places with some articles saying its $2.00 per 1,000 and others $3.50 per 1,000. Regardless of which figure is more accurate, these revenues can add up surprisingly quickly. For example, Dyrus’s Twitch channel has a total of 150,986,712 views. If all those people were to view just ONE advertisement at some point, he will have made over half a million dollars! Unfortunately, viewers using ad block don’t count toward the ad view numbers and take revenue away from the streamer so he has likely earned less than his total view count would suggest.
On the other hand, the same viewer could also see multiple advertisements during the same stream, thus increasing the revenue as well. If a player has 20,000 viewers and plays three ads an hour, that would work out to $120 an hour using the lower figure of $2 per 1,000 ad views. Maintaining that viewership level over the course of an eight hour day would net the streamer $960 as long as none of their viewers had ad block on. Oh and let’s not forget about donations from viewers that would undoubtedly be rolling in as well. A very successful stream could conceivably pull in six figures a year from views alone. The lesson here is that if you support a player and like his or her content, make sure you turn ad block off while you watch their stream.
In addition to tournament winnings and earning from their streams’ views and subscriber fees, LCS players also earn an actual wage from Riot Games as well. Rule 2.2 of the Official 2015 LCS Rule Book states:
2.2 Player Compensation
Each team must distribute the required Minimum Player Compensation ($12,500 /€10,000 per starting player per split during the 2015 season) to its starting players, in accordance with the terms of the applicable Team Agreement. Each team must, also, distribute the coach stipend ($12,500 /€10,000 per split). If a player’s status as a starter changes during the course of a split, or the head coach is replaced or absent, said player or coach shall be entitled to a pro rata share of the Minimum Player Compensation on a per-game basis (calculated as a ratio of the number of regular - season LCS games in which the player competed as a starter, or the number of regular - season games actually coached by the head coach, divided by the total number of regular - season games played by the team during the split). Nothing in these Rules is intended in any way to limit the compensation a team pays to its players.
So in other words a player earns a base salary of $12,500 if they are a starter on their team or coach. Keep in mind that is just the basic, bare bones minimum. Many players earn much more than that. In an interview with GQ Magazine back in 2014, Michael “ODEE” O'Dell from Team Dignitas said that their American players earn a base salary of $50,000 a year and that Scarra would likely earn $200,000 that year (source).
Finally, players can also earn money through corporate sponsorships. Big name brands and websites sponsor teams that are good enough and players on these teams can typically earn thousands of dollars each year per sponsor. It’s not unusual for teams to have more than one sponsor either. Companies also routinely pay for teams to attend events wearing their branded gear which means successful pros have their entry fees, travel expenses, and living expenses all taken care of.
As you can imagine, all of these revenue streams add up to big bucks for some pro players. In 2013 it was reported on GameSpot that well-known pro Carlos "Ocelote" Rodriguez makes an incredible $950,000 a year (source). An article on Kotaku in 2014 suggested that Faker was being offered a contract by a Chinese media company that would be worth a million dollars (source). In the same article Kotaku also mentions CaoMei, another pro player who reportedly makes over $800,000 a year streaming. While cases like Ocelote’s, CaoMei’s, and Faker’s are clearly not the norm, it’s not unheard of for a successful pro player to make an average of around $70,000 - $100,000 a year through a combination of salary, streaming, sponsorships, and tournament winnings.
Being a pro gamer is hard work and requires endless hours of practice and dedication but there isn’t anybody reading this article who could say they wouldn’t want to earn a six figure income for simply playing video games. It definitely pays to be good at League of Legends. If you’re not a total scrub, that is!
Do you follow competitive League of Legends? Click here to read my interview with Impact from Team Impulse.