ESTNN's Matt Pryor explores the meteoric rise of esports prize pools.
The rise of esports has been one of the more intriguing topics over the past 10 years. A steadily surging increase in viewership has come hand in hand with huge prize pools, and has monetarily benefited both organizations and players alike. Last weekend's Fortnite World Cup showed onlookers what competitive gaming is capable of. It's staggering to see how far esports has come from the early days of Major League Gaming tournaments.
Way back in 2008. the MLG Las Vegas National Championship saw Halo 3 players competing for a 280K USD prize pool. In fact, the prize pool breakdown on that tournament saw four players splitting 100K USD for first place. Now, eleven years after MLG Las Vegas, placing last at the Fortnite World Cup meant that the player took home 50K USD.
Traditional vs Esports
Esports prize pools are regularly outpacing the purses of established professional sports. For example, the most prestigious professional golf tournament of the year was the 2019 Masters. The winner was Tiger Woods and he received $2M USD for his efforts. The winner of the 2019 Open Championship for professional golf was Shane Lowry, who took home $1.9M USD for first place. Switching gears, a bit, Denny Hamlin finished first at the 2019 Daytona 500 for NASCAR and won just over $1.5M USD.
Last weekend, sixteen-year-old Kyle "Bugha" Giersdorfof took first place at the Fortnite World Cup. The teen walked away with $3M USD. In other words, Giersdorfof made one and a half times what Woods made, all while playing a video game. While Epic Games, Fortnite's developer, has not announced the 2020 Fortnite World Cup, the prize pool will most likely surpass this year's $30M USD.
— Fortnite (@FortniteGame) July 28, 2019
The difference is clear and staggering. As mentioned above, esports hasn't always been this flush with cash. That said, esports is trending upwards. Esports has seen steadier growth than both professional golf and racing in this regard. In addition to a growth in viewers, esports prize pools have increased as the sport has matured. On the other hand, sports like golf and racing prizes have stayed stagnant. For example, PGA winners typically receive around $1M USD for placing first in PGA tournaments, and this has been the case since the early-to-mid 2000s. In just one year, Fortnite has managed to award upwards of $100M USD in total to professional Fortnite competitors.
Video Games aren't just a hobby, They're a Career
Fortnite is not the only competitive title that has seen massive growth. It is, however, the most notable. The battle royale game is steadily at the top in terms of viewers on Twitch. On the surface, $30M dollars is just a drop in the bucket, especially when endorsements, movie and TV crossovers and sponsorships are taken into account.
Professional esports players aren't just kids in their parent's basement anymore, either. Tyler ‘Ninja’ Blevins, one of the most-watched streamers on Twitch, is currently sponsored by Red Bull, which many fans consider a seal of approval for professional gamers. After all, famous esports players such as Dave "Walshy" Walsh and Matthew "Nadeshot" Haag were previously sponsored by the energy drink company. While the terms of Blevins' deal are not readily available, one can certainly imagine they're massive.
Between Twitch subscriptions, sponsored streams, YouTube content and brand deals, professional gamers stand to make a lot of money. There has always been a stigma that there is no future in gaming. This sentiment has been disproved several times over. Gone are the days of parents telling their children to get a real job. Tell that to Twitch personalities who average hundreds of thousands of viewers doing what they love most.
Image VIA: Epic Games, PGA, Red Bull