Most parents, when they see their child playing video games, often rebuke them that they have to write their homework, or that it is not useful to spend so much time in front of the computer. And most likely, the last thing they would think in such a situation is that their child could get rich doing similar activities. To the surprise of some mothers and fathers, and to the full horrors of grandmothers and grandfathers, however, more and more gamers around the world are making good money from computer games, and among them there are already a few millionaires (including in Bulgaria).
Welcome to the world of electronic sports, an area where video games, such as Dota 2, StarCraft, Counter-Strike and League of Legends are real racing disciplines, gamers are real stars, followed by hordes of fans, and the prize funds of the tournaments often amount to millions of dollars. All other attributes of professional sports are also not missing – coaches, team managers, sponsors and advertising contracts, sports commentators, and in some countries, such as South Korea and China, even huge tournament halls with tens of thousands of spectators. With the difference that professional gaming is growing much faster than any traditional sport, and the disciplines, the sporting “terrains”, and even the rules are actually elements of commercial products.
This topic has become relevant in recent years in connection to the impressive success of some Bulgarian players. First, Ivan “MinD_ContRoL” Ivanov became the first Bulgarian millionaire from electronic sports, although as a player from a foreign team – Team Liquid, who won the prestigious The International 2017 tournament on the Dota 2 game. More recently, the Bulgarian team Windigo Gaming won this year’s World cup on Counter-Strike: Global Offensive in China and split the first prize of USD 500,000.
Around the world, however, this electronic sport have been commercialized for more than a decade now, and Koreans, Chinese and players from some other countries have long been making a fortune with their mouse and keyboard reflexes. Sometimes, this happens even before they have completed their education and even before they come of age, and one of them, Samuil “Suma1L” Hassan Syed even became a millionaire from gaming competitions when he was only 16 years old.
The psychological barrier of USD 1 million
fortune of professional gaming has been overcome for the first time by the five Chinese players Chen “Hao” Zhihao, Jiao “Banana” Wang, Wang “SanSheng” Zhaohui, Zhang “xiao8” Ning and Zhang “Mi” Pan, who also play the Dota 2 game. With the increase of the prize money and the emergence of more professional clubs, however, the number of millionaires has grown, and the richest pro-gamer at the moment, Kuro “KuroKy” Takhasomi (a German, also a Team Liquid player), has a fortune of USD 4,165,926. According to the world rankings of EsportsEarnings.com, he is followed by eight players with a fortune of more than USD 3 million, other 12 with more than USD 2 million and 47 other players who have earned more than USD 1 million from participating in gaming tournaments. Almost all of the above play the Dota 2 video game, which is actually not a separate game, but is the so-called “Mod” (version) of another hit game – WarCraft III.
What do professional gamers
earn from? Most of their fortune comes from earned prize money from tournaments, which sometimes reach millions of dollars. Other important sources of the players’ earnings are the salaries from their clubs, as well as sponsorship contracts with companies that want to position themselves in this youth community. They are usually computer, video card and gaming peripheral manufacturers, as well as manufacturers of energy drinks and other youth products.
What makes the biggest impression in electronic sports is the opportunity for success in this fast-growing subculture. Practically anyone can become a successful player without having to invest serious resources for the purpose, having connections, being supported by big companies, having any work experience, or even having completed their education. All that is needed is to
play really well.
Restrictive factors in other areas of sports or entertainment are simply not present here. In order for a musician to become famous, they have to be noticed by a big record company. In order for a football player to succeed, they should be noticed by an emissary of a big club. In electronic sports, there are simply no such constraints and the road to significant international success and a lot of money is open.
Those who think this is easy money are wrong. Professional gamers are not just people who play for fun and make millions. “The truth is that being a professional gamer means, above all, a lot of hard work, perseverance and everyday practice, no matter if you are in the mood to play or not. What’s more, many of the contestants in these disciplines actually hate the favourite titles of thousands of youngsters just because they have to play them all the time while perfecting each strategy and method,” says Emil “Beast” Dimitrov, a long-time manager of electronic sports teams, tournament organizer and former coach of the WarCraft III national team, as well as the national team of Pro Evolution Soccer in Bulgaria.
Another characteristic element in this segment is the transience of the disciplines. For example, games such as WarCraft III (in which, by the way, Bulgaria has a world champion) have not been played for a long time, StarCraft and StarCraft II have also faded away in most of the countries outside of South Korea, replaced by titles (disciplines), such as Dota 2 and League of Legends, and soon by Fortnite. Practically, every new title introduced by one of the big companies has the potential to become the next promising pro-game discipline and to attract players. And so, while some still think that video-games are a childish activity, and others reply that kicking a leather ball on grass does not seem to be more serious, a new sport makes its way to the attention of the general public. Since its emergence, it has been fully commercialized and based on digital technology, and now has its superstars, successful stories and role models that motivate thousands of young people to choose an unusual career path.