It has been a massive year for esports industry, organizations, teams and players alike, who pocketed over US $214,000,000 in combined tournament prize winnings across 4583 esports tournaments - the most ever in a single year in the history of esports.
Exactly 15 esports players became millionaires, with 316 earning no less than $100,000 and while many players can be happy with their yearly earnings, there are 10 that stood out from the rest by earning the highest pay check in 2019. Here we will look who those 10 players are and how did they become one of the best-paid esports players of 2019.
10 Shane “EpikWhale” Cotton ($1,297,366.67)
Shane “EpikWhale” Cotton is a 17-year-old American Fortnite professional player, who will finish 2019 as the 10th best-paid esports player of the year.
EpikWhale has started his career as a professional esports player in April 2019 when he joined Kungarna. While playing under Kungarna’s banner he attended Fortnite World Cup North American qualifiers, where he claimed the first spot in week 3 and pocketed $4,000. Four months later, in August, EpikWhale opted to leave the organization and joined up with NRG Esports.
The young teen has ended the year with a staggering $1,297,366.67 in prize winnings, which he earned throughout the year with his incredible performances in 16 Fortnite tournaments. While he has seen a lot of success in most of the events he attended, his biggest paycheck came from Fortnite World Cup - Solo, where he claimed a bronze medal and earned $1.2 million.
The youngster also participated at the Fortnite World Cup Finals - Duos alongside Storm, where he finished 12th and pocketed an additional $50,000.
9 Emil “nyhrox” Bergquist ($1,509,516.19)
Emil “nyhrox” Bergquist is our second Fortnite player who started his career as a professional esports player in August 2018. In his first year as a pro nyhrox earned only $3,660.29, yet he more than made up with his earnings in 2019, which saw him pocked over $1.5 million.
Just like as it was the case with EpikWhale, the majority of nyhrox's earnings came from the inaugural Fortnite World Cup tournament where he claimed the golden medal at Fortnite World Cup – Duo alongside his teammate David "Aqua" Wang.
The Cooler Esports tandem was a force to be reckoned with at the event, where they defeated their opponents to take home $1.5 million each. Their success also helped Cooler Esports end the year as the sixth-best paid esports team of the year.
8 David “Aqua” Wang ($1,790,036.55)
Nyhrox's former teammate, David “Aqua” Wang swooped into the eighth place with slightly under $1.8 million in prize winnings throughout 2019.
Just like his former teammate, the 17-year-old Austrian pro made most of his money with his first-place finish at the 2019 Fortnite World Cup - Duo, however, he earned an additional $290,000 due to his success elsewhere.
Two of his most notable achievements besides the World Cup duo title was his 94th place finish at Fortnite World Cup - Solo ($50,000) and a first-place finish at Fortnite Champion Series Season X European Finals ($160,000) where he played alongside two compatriots Klaus "stompy" Konstanzer and Thomas "Tschilinken" Hörak.
7 Harrison “psalm” Chang ($1,819,300.00)
Harrison “psalm” Chang is our fourth Fortnite player on the list, who earned just under $1.82 million with his performances throughout 2019.
Psalm, who is a member of Counter Logic Gaming made his presence in 2019 known with his second-place finish at the 2019 Fortnite World Cup - Solo where he earned $1.8 million.
Besides his incredible run at World Cup, the 24-year-old also finished 20th at Fortnite Secret Skirmish Series 2019 ($10,000) and fourth at TwitchCon 2019 - Fortnite - Wave 3 ($3,000), while the majority of the remaining earnings came from Fortnite World Cup Qualifiers.
Psalm was also previously a professional Heroes of the Storm player but opted to leave the scene to join Fortnite in September 2018. Throughout his career as a Heroes of the Storm professional player, psalm earned a total of $80,661.20, which is significantly less compared to his Fortnite earnings.
6 Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf ($3,061,716.67)
Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorfhas become an overnight sensation and one of the most iconic esports players of the year when he won the Fortnite World Cup at only 16-years of age. His achievement earned him a spot in the history books as well as $3 million in prize winnings.
For his incredible performance at the Fortnite World Cup, Bugha also became the Esports Player of the Year and Esports PC Rookie of the Year. He earned both rewards during Esports Awards ceremony, which took place earlier in November.
Besides $3 million he earned at the Fortnite World Cup Solo, Bugha also won four other smaller Fortnite tournaments and finished second at Fortnite Champion Series - Season X North America East - Week 3, where he pocketed $12,000.
By earning $3,061,716.67 in 2019, Bugha became the 12th best-paid esports player in history, which only goes to show how massive the 2019 Fortnite World Cup was.
5 Anathan "ana" Pham ($3,146,536.20)
As we ascend to the fifth spot on the list, we get greeted with the first Dota 2 player, Anathan "ana" Pham, who has finished the year with just under $3.15 million in his pockets.
This is the second year in a row when we see ana among the top five earners, thanks to his achievements with OG Dota 2 roster, which repeated their success from last year and won their second successive International title. By winning TI9, OG earned $15,620,181, which split five-ways earned each player $3.124 million.
Seeing him among the top five solely because he won one tournament, however, should not come off as a shock to anyone, considering that since 2011, a player who won The International was guaranteed to finish the year among top five earners, due to massive prize pools that have become a staple for the biggest Dota 2 tournament of the year.
By winning his second TI title, ana is now sitting at a total of $6,000,411.96 tournament winnings in his career, which puts him at the third place in all-time best-paid esports players in history.
4 Johan "N0tail" Sundstein ($3,155,536.20)
Sitting barely $9,000 above his teammate, we have the captain of OG and one of the biggest names in the Dota 2 world, Johan "N0tail" Sundstein.
The Danish Dota 2 superstar won his second TI9 title this season, which alone earned him $3.124 million. He also saw a lot of success with OG throughout 2018/19 DPC season, earning additional $31,500.
N0tail started his career as a professional Dota 2 player in March 2012 and has since then accumulated a mouth-watering $6,890,591.79, making him the highest-paid esports player in history.
It's worth noting N0tail also competed in Heroes of Newerth earlier in his career, where he won $8,151.61, which makes up just around 0.12% of his total career earnings.
The top three spots in for highest earners of 2019 are split between three OG players, who all earned $3,163,536.20, which is exactly $8,000 more compared to their captain N0tail.
The difference came as a result of N0tail's illness in June 2019, which forced him to skip EPICENTER Major 2019. At the said tournament, OG's coach Titouan "Sockshka" Merloz took over as a stand-in and helped his team finish seventh-eight which earned each player $8,000 in prize winnings.
Here are the top three breadwinners of the year:
1 Topias "Topson" Taavitsainen ($3,163,536.20)
Topias Miikka "Topson" Taavitsainen started his career as a Dota 2 pro in August 2017 when he played for SFTe-sports and later left for 5 Anchor No Captain roster. While a very talented player, his career did not take off until June 2018 when he joined OG and two months later won his first International.
Throughout his career as a professional esports player, Topson earned $5,414,446.17, making him the fifth-highest paid esports player in history at only 21-years of age.
Unlike N0tails who also played Heroes of Newerth, all of Topson's winnings came from Dota 2, including $2,000 he earned by finishing ninth-16th at World Electronic Sports Games 2017 where he represented his nation of Finland.
2 Sébastien "Ceb" Debs ($3,163,536.20)
One of the most recognisable names in Dota 2 world and by far the most successful French esports player, Sébastien "Ceb" Debs finished the year with $3,163,536.20 in tournament winnings, which brings his career total to $5,489,233.01.
With just under $5.5 million in his total career winnings, Ceb is currently ranked as the fourth-highest paid esports player in the history and the highest-paid French esports player, far above the second-placed Clément "Skite" Danglot who earned a grand total of $809,994.01 throughout his Fortnite career.
Ceb started his career as a Dota 2 pro in 2011 with Team Shakira where he played alongside his current coach Sockshka. He switched 12 teams before he joined Alliance, which was a huge stepping stone for him as a player. That being said, it was not until 2016 when he joined OG which made him into one of the biggest Dota 2 stars and is now one of the best-paid esports players in the world.
1 Jesse "JerAx" Vainikka ($3,163,536.20)
Due to OG’s success in 2019, which earned him $3,163,536.20, Jesse "JerAx" Vainikka cemented himself as one of the best-paid esports players in the world, having won a grand total of $6,470,000.02 in his seven-year-long career as a Dota 2 pro.
JerAx is besides N0tail one of the longest-standing members of OG, having joined the team at the end of August 2016. He has before played for some lesser teams, where he earned just under $60,000.
JerAx is exiting 2019 as the second-highest paid esports player in the world and the highest-paid Finnish esports player in history, earning $1.06 million more compared to his teammate Topson and $2.91 million more than third-placed Finn Lasse "Matumbaman" Urpalainen who plays for Team Secret's Dota 2 roster.
With that, we conclude the list of top 10 highest esports earners in 2019. As evident from the list, this year was dominated by Fortnite and Dota 2 players who earned by far the most tournament winnings throughout 2019. That, however, should not come off as a surprise to anyone, considering Fortnite World Cup Solo ($15,287,500.00), Fortnite World Cup Duo ($15,100,000.00) and The International 2019 ($34,330,069.00) had the largest prize pools out of all esports tournaments, with TI9 taking the spot as the event with the highest prize pool in history of esports, breaking its own record from 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.
The first player on the list of highest earners in 2019 that is not a Dota 2 or Fortnite player is Cha "Pio" Seung Hoon - a PUBG player who earned $638,903.79 throughout the year. He will enter 2020 as the 31st highest-paid esports player of the year.
The highest-earner in CS:GO was Jakey "Stewie2k" Yip, who finished the year as the 46th highest-paid esports player with $481,200.00 in tournament winnings, while the whole FunPlus Phoenix League of Legends roster ended the year with $226,455.00 in their pockets, which sits them at the 113th spot.
Alec "Arcitys" Sanderson and Tyler "eBeZy" Pharris both earned $310,114.00, making them the highest-paid CoD pro players and sits them tied at 85th spot on the combined leader board. Last but not least, all members of the San Francisco Shock roster earned $148,333.33, which is the 200th highest pay-out of the year.
Top 10 game titles in total pay-outs of 2019:
1 Fortnite: $64,422,992.50
2 Dota 2: $46,818,669.14
3 CS:GO: $21,151,976.72
4 PUBG: $12,760,267.14
5 Overwatch: $9,117,036.77
6 League of Legends: $9,023,245.80
7 CoD Black Ops 4: $6,517,557.00
8 Arena of Valor: $5,801,003.19
9 Rainbow Six Siege: $4,105,737.03
10 Hearthstone: $4,067,263.29
Top 10 countries in total pay-outs of 2019:
1 United States: $38,964,775.35 (4890 players)
2 China: $18,703,276.25 (1017 players)
3 South Korea: $16,271,028.62 (1028 players)
4 Finland: $9,740,767.84 (292 players)
5 France: $9,488,036.97 (979 players)
6 Denmark: $9,243,525.46 (379 players)
7 Canada: $7,233,233.00 (838 players)
8 Australia: $6,311,376.12 (772 players)
9 Sweden: $6,166,949.96 (432 players)
10 United Kingdom: $5,990,070.81 (685 players)