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How Do Esports’ Top Earners Compare to Traditional Sports Stars in 2020?

It’s now common knowledge that being a talented esports player can lead to a life wealth and luxury. Of course, to achieve that, you need to be very, very good. But anyone ranked within the top 500 esports earners can claim to make a decent living. But it is interesting to compare earning from esports to the traditional sports industry, and some of the outcomes might surprise you.

Of course, at the very upper echelons of both disciplines, there is still a stark contrast. If you compare the Lewis Hamilton net worth to the earnings of the top esports stars like NOtail, the Formula One driver will inevitably dwarf the gamer. For context, Johan “NOtail” Sundstein had prize money earnings of $6.86 million as of 2020, whereas Hamilton’s basic annual salary from Mercedes is said to stand somewhere in the region of $50 million.

Endorsements can dwarf earnings and prize money

Moreover, it’s worth remembering that Hamilton is not the world’s highest-paid sports star – that honour goes to tennis maestro, Roger Federer. The Swiss star topped the annual list published by Forbes, with total earnings of $106.3 million in 2020. But this is where it gets interesting: Federer’s earnings came from just $6.3 million in prize money, with the other $100 million arriving from endorsements. That means NOtail and Jesse “JerAx” Vainikka ($6.47 million) both earned more in prize money than Roger Federer.

We know that some esports players will earn from endorsements, but it is not yet in the same ballpark as traditional sports stars. Still, as esports continues to go mainstream, and the players become more recognized, it’s perfectly possible that the mega endorsement deals will follow. At the moment, NOtail could walk down the street without being recognized: until that changes, the really huge endorsement deals will not likely materialize.

However, we need to provide context for this: Federer was injured for much of 2020, not playing in several tournaments where he would be almost guaranteed to collectively take home hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions. Other names on Forbes’ list, like soccer players Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, earned over $60 million in salary.

Esports has real depth in its earnings chart

But to really dive into an esports and sports players’ comparison, let’s go much further down the talent pool. Raymond Sarmiento is not a name that will be recognized by many readers, but he is currently ranked number 401 in the ATP men’s tennis rankings. Sarmiento has earnings of $94,176 from singles and doubles tournaments combined. Never troubling the top players (his career-high ranking was 287), Sarmiento shows that the outer tiers of tennis can be a hard slog. Earning just shy of $100K is fine, but he is not likely to be buying Ferraris anytime soon.

And yet, if we look at the player ranked 401 on esports earnings list, Mason “mason” Venne, we can see that he earned $330,530 from Dota 2 tournaments – almost four times as much as Sarmiento. Indeed, it’s long been remarked upon that sports like golf and tennis, which both tend to have huge earners at the top level, can be a grind at the bottom. If you are just inside the world’s top 500 in those sports, you will find it difficult to make a living. But being one of the world’s top 500 gamers can lead to a very nice salary.




ATP Tour



*all figures estimated, but correct as per sources

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