Video gameplay has attracted negative attention in some parts of our culture. It has been seen by some as unproductive, time-wasting, and preventing people from going outside.
This has changed a lot in recent years, though. Video game players have turned pro, taking part in competitive leagues and tournaments. These esports events often have large pots of prize money that is handed out to the participants, depending on their final position. Are you ready to enter the world where top players can potentially earn millions of dollars?
The Early Days of the Professional Esports Player
Video game competitions are called esports and have grown into a billion-dollar industry in just a few years. Some of the esports tournaments and leagues that we know today began in the early 2000s and have developed strong followings.
These include multi-discipline competitions like Major League Gaming, the Intel Extreme Masters, and the World Cyber Games. A range of titles are played by their participants, including Dota 2, Hearthstone, CrossFire, FIFA, World of Tanks, and Super Smash Bros.
If a game is popular, it’s likely to have an esports competition that uses it too, although some titles are more present than others. For example, Hearthstone, Fornite, and iRacing are commonly featured in competitions.
It is only within the last decade or so that we have seen esports grow into a professional discipline. Like all sports, as the number of spectators has increased, businesses have become interested in sponsoring events to get their brand in front of excited fans. This has driven up the professionalism and commercialism of esports and led to large prize funds.
While in the first few iterations of Major League Gaming, the World Cyber Games, and the Intel Extreme Masters, competitors shared prize purses of a few hundred thousand dollars among their competitors, but this has grown to millions in 2020.
The International (Dota 2) tournament awards more than $30 million to its competitors, while it has been estimated that global prize money now equates to over $700 million each year.
Thiese huge payouts spawned some wealthy esports gamers. The Danish player Johan Sundstein, who goes by the name N0tail when is thought to have earned almost $7 million from esports. He earned nearly half of that just in 2019, bringing in more than $3 million of winnings.
Additionally, professional esports players can boost their earnings by broadcasting their gaming on streaming platforms like Twitch. A report by the Hollywood Reporter claimed that some are making as much as $15,000 per hour doing this.
This money is generated through donations, paid channel subscriptions and advertising, and sponsorship deals, similar to how YouTubers make money.
Anyone Can Get Involved
Unlike many traditional professional sports, there are a lot of esports tournaments where members of the public can qualify for a place. This is most common with esports that are organized by traditional sports leagues, that help run the marketing for the video games and the sport itself.
Although competition for a place is fierce, it is a genuine route into professional video game playing. So anyone who wants to have a career in esports may wish to consider one of these games.
Launched in 2018, the NBA 2K League is the official NBA esports league. It has teams that are affiliated with the teams in the real NBA, although the divisions remain independent of each other. Therefore NBA championship outcomes or betting odds are not affected by the performance of teams in the 2K League and vice versa.
Players can take part in the NBA 2K League Qualifier to earn a place in its draft. Those that get drafted go on to represent their team in the main league, with live events taking place across the US.
The 2019 qualifier rules required players to win at least 50 games and maintain a win percentage of at least 50% in online games during the qualifying period. Therefore, if they played 120 games, they would have to have won at least 60 of them.
They also had to complete an online application form, which was designed to test their understanding of basketball and the NBA 2K game, as well as their commitment to fair and respectful competition.
The draft then took place in four rounds, with a total of 75 players being picked by the teams. In 2019, teams didn’t take up the option, but they also can forfeit a draft selection to retain a player from the previous season.
Racing simulation video games are perhaps the most realistic of esports. While the NBA 2K game has ballers controlled by joysticks, the Codemasters Formula 1 games are usually controlled using force feedback steering wheels and pedals that make racing as close as possible to the real thing.
This can be seen in Nissan’s GT Academy that takes the best players of the Gran Turismo video game and turns them into professional race drivers. Past winners of this competition include Jann Mardenborough, who has been successful in Super GT and Formula 3.
While the Formula 1 game doesn’t offer the chance to compete against Lewis Hamilton in real life, it does give you the chance to take part in the F1 Esports Series. Like the NBA 2K League, teams are affiliated with the official Formula 1 teams and players can be drafted into a driving spot through qualification.
There are multiple qualification routes with a time trial contest, the “challenger series,” and a “playoff,” all adding contenders to the draft event. Each team ends up with a total of three drivers, one for Xbox, PlayStation, and PC versions of the game.
The Dream Job?
For many people, playing video games for a living is a dream. Until recently, it wasn’t something that many could believe would happen. However, with competitions like these that are open to the public, it’s possible for truly talented video game players to earn a job as a video game player.
Competition is strong, though, and as the NBA 2K League has demonstrated, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be kept for future seasons. Instead, players will need to use the fame their position attracts to build more sustainable income sources, either through sponsored video game playing or entering into other tournaments.