If you’re a serious gamer, it is highly likely that you’ve at least heard about competitive gaming. Even if you are a casual gamer, you may come across the competitive side of gaming every once in a while, be it through social media, in-game announcements, or just friends who follow the pro scene.
What is eSports?
Someone who doesn’t actively follow the esports industry is bound to have plenty of questions. Exactly what is esports? Which qualities should a game have in order to be recognized as an esport? More importantly, what does the life of a professional gamer look like? All these questions shall be answered in this article, we shall shed some light on the current state of esports, and what the future of esports looks like.
Being a professional gamer is no easy task, that much we can tell you right now. If you think owning some scrubs sitting on your couch at home makes you a skillful player, think again. To even be remotely eligible as a professional video gamer, you must be better than 99.99% of all the other people who play that game. Thousands of talented gamers choose this path and end up disappointed because they don’t make it after years of giving it their 100%.
But for the select few who make it to the big stage, the future is bright. Millions of dollars in prize money, sponsorships and ad revenue, hundreds of thousands of fans, and most importantly- the sense of pride and accomplishment that is achieved from knowing that you are among the best of the best in the entire world.
What Differentiates a Casual From a Professional Gamer?
Professional gamers are without exception, really good at the game they play. Normally, a professional gamer makes a living from one particular game title, just like a sportsperson is known for playing one sport professionally. You can’t be a professional basketball and football player at the same time unless of course, you are superhuman.
But what is the difference between casual gamers like you and me, and a top- tier pro gamer? Well, we play video games for entertainment and stress release. The pros play the very same video games as us, but they do it for a living. To them, gaming is more than just a release or for entertainment. Not to say that they don’t enjoy it, you certainly can’t become that good at something unless you are absolutely passionate about it.
What Your Daily Life Looks Like as a Pro Gamer?
If you follow the life of a pro gamer and observe how they live each day, we can guarantee that you will begin to have second thoughts about going pro in your favorite video game. For example, let’s say you like chocolate cake. But if you are forced to eat only chocolate cake for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for 10 years in a row, will you take it?
That is the life of someone who plays video games for a living. In order to be really good at something, you need to put your mind, body, and soul into it. Pro gamers reach a point where the game isn’t about fun or entertainment anymore, all that matters is winning. And that is hard life to live, the rewards are plentiful, but the sacrifices you make more than warrant it.
You might play video games when you return home from school or work and want to relax a bit with your online friends. But a pro gamer wakes up every morning, eats his breakfast, and begins practicing his game. He continues to practice in public lobbies, plays scrims with other teams, sits in front of a TV for hours watching replays of enemy teams and strategizing against them.
Are Pro Gamers Athletes?
A pro gamer does everything that a top- level athlete does- regular training, replay analysis, team practice, etc. Many of the qualities that you will find in a sportsperson, can also be found in professional gamers- resilience, determination, the ability to solve problems on the fly, quick reactions, and teamwork.
There are plenty of videos out there on the internet which covers the daily routines and lives of professional gaming superstars, and as you get to know more about them, it becomes clear why millions of fans across the world cheer for these youngsters who are basically playing video games for money.
They are no different from traditional athletes- the only real difference between a professional gamer and a sportsperson is that one plays electronically, while the other plays physically. Gaming for 10 to 12 hours continuously, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, is not easy to pull off. It requires tremendous dedication, along with a strong will to be the best.
Most professional gamers are between the age of 16 to 24 years, and spend the majority of their time indoors, playing games. Competitive gaming has been around since the 1990s, ever since the first multiplayer arcade games were introduced. But things took a real leap forward with the rise of online multiplayer on PC.
With the spread of internet, people across the world were able to challenge each other in their favorite games and test their skills against thousands of other players across the globe. Winning is what we all strive for, it is in the human nature. And people with that competitive spirit in them can empathize with professional gamers, only the stakes are much higher in competitive gaming. Hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line, along with lots of fame and sponsorships.
What Games Qualify as eSports?
Not every video game is designated the title of “esport”. Single player games (Witcher 3, Wolfenstein 2, Red Dead Redemption), sports simulators (FIFA, Don Bradman Cricket, Madden), Racing games, and many other types of games don’t qualify as “esports”. The majority of esports games fall into specific genres that include fighting games, FPSs (first-person shooters such as CS GO and Call of Duty), RTS games (StarCraft), and MOBAs (League of Legends, Dota 2).
The largest esports are without a doubt MOBAs, such as League of Legends and Dota 2. CS GO is also up there, it gets massive amounts of viewership all year, and generates tons of revenue. The worlds most popular online PC game is League of Legends, a 5 versus 5 competitive game in which players fight to destroy the opposing teams home base (or Nexus, as it is called in-game).
MOBAs are some of the most mechanically complex and deeply engaging games ever designed and are usually categorized by their steep barrier of entry. Games such as League and Dota 2 are incredibly hard to get into. Especially if you’re only familiar with shooters or fighting games. But once you begin to pour in the hours and understand the various nuances of these games, you will be greatly rewarded with a sense of accomplishment and joy that no other game can provide.
People sink thousands of hours into Dota 2 and still play at average skill levels, and the pros are known to have at least 15 or 20 thousand hours registered in-game. That is only the number of hours they spend playing the game, they spend another 15 or 20 thousand hours watching replays and live games, analyzing and theorizing about the game, etc.
Sinking 30 or 40 thousand hours of your life into one video game isn’t something a normal gamer can even imagine. Most of us probably cringe when a game tells us to play 10 or 15 hours in order to unlock a new character or weapon. For those of you that exclusively play story-driven single player games, understanding these concepts might be really hard.
But they don’t pay the top Dota 2 players of the world millions in prize money for nothing. In August of this year, the International 2017 was held in Seattle. More than 20000 people attended the KeyArena at Seattle Center to watch 18 of the best Dota 2 teams in the world battle it out for the Aegis of Champions, and a 10.8 million-dollar first prize (total prize pool was over 25 million dollars).
The event was watched online by 10, 935, 730 unique viewers, who watched it for a total time of 44, 340, 836 hours (excluding Chinese viewership). The International was streamed live on Twitch.tv and Youtube.com as well as on Valves (developer of Dota 2) own website. Team Liquid hoisted the Aegis of Champions, winning the $10.8 million prize for first place.
How Big is the Professional Gaming Industry?
You will not believe it until you see the numbers for yourself, or you could just check out this video from Riot games that gives you a small view of what esports looks like right now- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j5QahFFHv0I . There are plenty of documentaries online such as “Free to Play” and the Vice esports documentary series that give you a glimpse of this whole new world of opportunities.
Just to give you a perspective, let us take a look at 3 of the top esports games right now- LoL, Dota 2, and CS GO. League of Legends is played by more than 100 million players on a monthly basis and registers over 27 million daily players. The next largest esport Dota 2 boasts more than 13 million unique monthly players and a daily average of close to 800,000 (it hit a daily peak of 1.3 million in 2016).
Counter Strike is one of the oldest video games to still be played, it has been around since 1999. CS GO is played by nearly 10 million people monthly and registers a daily average of nearly 400,000 players worldwide with an all-time peak of 850, 485 (as obtained from steamcharts.com).
In 2015, League of Legends generated a total revenue of nearly 1.6 billion dollars. That is just one game, and it was recorded 2 years ago. League has become even bigger since then; this image is a small example of that- https://imgur.com/a/Sd6Pv . In 2016, more people watched the finals for League of Legends, than the NBA finals.
In 2013, surveys and studies estimated the global esports viewer count (people watching esports, doesn’t include all player numbers) to be around 70 million. In 2015, this number grew to 160 million. The global esports audience right now is estimated to be around 385 million people, out of which 191 million people are regular viewers, and a further 194 million are occasional viewers.
These numbers are only going to grow, and they are growing faster than anything else we have ever seen. Major shareholders and sporting clubs are taking advantage of this trend and have begun investing into esports, a few notable sportspersons who have purchased their own professional gaming teams are- Rick Fox, Mark Cuban, Gordon Hayward, Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov, Shaquille O’Neal, Jeremy Lin, Kobe Bryant, Demetrius “Mighty Mouse” Johnson, and many more.
There are also many real-world sporting clubs who have ventured into esports while buying their own professional gaming teams – Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Philadelphia 76ers, Ajax Football Club, PSV Eindhoven, Sporting Portugal, FC Schalke, FC Volga, etc.
Soon, the global esports industry will generate billions of dollars in revenue, and companies across the world want to cash in on this opportunity, whether they were previously involved in gaming or not. Professional gaming is no more limited to a group of people cheering a LAN party going on in the basement, it has now risen to the status of real sports, with hundreds of thousands of people cheering their favorite professional gamers in sports stadiums with live commentary and high levels of production that you would expect from something like the Super Bowl or FIFA world championships.
How Much Do Professional Gamers Earn?
Professional gamers make money based on the level they are competing at, i.e. does the player play in tier 1 tournaments frequently, or does he/ she play in smaller tournaments that offer lesser prize pools. It is also based on the game that he/ she is competing in, for example- a Dota 2 professional can easily make 200,000 to 300,000 dollars a year by placing top 3 at major tournaments.
A Quake pro or Smash Melee pro on the other hand, will probably make under 100,000 by placing top 3 at major tournaments across the world. However, tournament prize money isn’t the only income source for professional gamers. Some, if not most of them, receive monthly salaries. Top teams such as Liquid, EG, Navi, Optic, CLG, etc. offer salaries to players, and while details are not known to the public, it is estimated that top tier players in big name teams can make 200,000 dollars or more a year from salaries and sponsorships.
Salaries weren’t a thing in esports back in the day, and organizations were often known to not properly compensate their players, or to straight out defy the terms stated in player contracts. However, with each passing day, the number of scammers is decreasing in the esports industry, and we are getting closer and closer to becoming a legitimate career option for talented, young gamers.
Riot games, the developer of League has set up rules that dictate a minimum salary for each player who participates in the LCS (League Championship Series). Another way for pros to earn money is through live streaming- many streamers such as Doctor Disrespect, Shroud, Faker, Qtpie, etc. make upwards of a million dollars per year by streaming on the most popular game streaming site- “twitch”.
If you visit the site www.esportsearnings.com, you can see the various esports players from multiple titles along with the amount of money they have earned through prizes. This doesn’t represent their total income, rather the amount of prize money they have earned. On the top is Kuro “Kuroky” Takhasomi, the captain of the Team Liquid Dota 2 team. He has a total earning of $2,436,667.40, followed by Liquid.Miracle and Liquid.Mind_Control with $2,421,478.03 and $2,421,167.40 respectively in prize earnings.
Do You Have What It Takes To Be a Pro Gamer?
There is no set formula to becoming a professional gamer. You can’t write down the instructions to becoming a pro gamer on a piece of paper and hand it over to someone hoping that they will become a pro within “X” years of time. The path is hard, and even if you become one of the best on top of the leaderboards for your respective game, there is no guarantee that your talent will get noticed by a big team.
You might end up playing for tier 2 or tier 3 teams and battling it out in qualifiers for the next 2 or 3 years, until you finally decided to give up and pursue other career options. You might end up spending thousands of dollars from your own pocket for travel and rent as you move around the country to play in tournaments.
You will not be sponsored; no free gaming PCs or gear will be given to you unless you make it into a recognized team. You will have to slog it out for over 14 hours daily, playing games and grinding your way up the leaderboards hoping to get noticed by the big teams one day. You will stay awake at nights watching replay after replay, polishing your skills and studying your opponents.
But if you are already one of the best in the local scene, or have achieved a high skill level at an early age, then this might be the career of choice for you. We certainly don’t recommend giving up on your studies to pursue a career as a professional gamer. But worry not, collegiate esports and varsity esports are on the rise. Many big schools and colleges in North America are handing out scholarships for esports, just like they do for basketball or football.
The future is bright for professional gamers and esports enthusiasts. If you wish to make it as a pro gamer, you need to play hard, become one of the best, and then find yourself a team to practice with. Maybe one day, you will walk out onto the big stage and compete for millions of dollars in prize money while the entire crowd cheers for you.
What You Need In Order To Get Started
You have the skills, you have the determination, and you won’t stop until you hit rank 1 on the leaderboards. But you might be held back by an outdated PC, or bad gaming peripherals. Just like professional sports requires professional grade sporting gear, esports players or e-athletes require the right peripherals to get started.
A good gaming mouse and mousepad are the bare minimum, along with a nice pair of gaming headphones with a proper microphone so you can communicate with your team online without sounding like a 70s TV commercial. A gaming keyboard really helps out if you are into RTS or MOBA games, we recommend a mechanical gaming keyboard because of how responsive and reliable they are. SteelSeries, Razer, Zowie, HyperX, and Logitech are some of the top gaming gear manufacturers that you should definitely check out.
If you are playing FPS games such as Call of Duty or CS GO, then a 144 Hz gaming monitor is a must. It allows you to react faster and ensures that you have a better chance of noticing your enemies before they notice you. All major LAN tournaments provide their participants with 144 Hz or even 240 Hz monitors, along with gaming chairs from companies such as DXRacer or Maxnomic. If you want to know more about gaming chairs and why they are a must-have for serious gamers, check out our article on chairs designed just for gamers.
Of course, even if your PC and accessories are powerful, lag is a killer. So be sure you have a quality network connection, and that the network card on your computer isn’t slowing things down. We give a few examples of network cards you should consider here.
Get some real gaming gear, practice hard regularly, learn by watching replays of the best players, and who knows- maybe you will be the next big thing in esports!