A new study suggests that professional gamers competing in eSports are now earning more than some top athletes in traditional sports.
There has been a recent downturn in the viewership of major sporting championships such as the NFL, Premier League and Winter Olympics, meaning the popularity of traditional sports may be on the decline.
Meanwhile eSports is going from strength to strength: viewers in 2017 outnumbered those watching the NHL ice hockey league and NBA basketball leagues in the US.
Major brands have begun to take notice, with tech and media companies alike starting to invest in eSports. In 2015, Amazon acquired live streaming platform Twitch for $970m and has fervently promoted eSports as the main stable of its platform ever since.
According to Betway Insider, which carried out the study, fans will spend around 11bn hours watching eSports by 2020, with more than 70m watching major finals through the likes of Twitch – more than the finals of the NBA and America’s MLB baseball league.
The report cites predictions from gaming intelligence company Newzoo, which expects the revenue generated from eSports will hit £1.2 billion by 2020, with viewing figures totalling around 600 million.
The world’s fastest-growing traditional sport is cage fighting, with growth mirroring that of eSports. However UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) fighters are paid less than their eSports counterparts.
Betway Insider took the ten highest-earning competitors from the UFC and eSports and created their average yearly earnings based on how long they had been in the sport and the prize money they have won.
There are eight professional gamers who have earned an average of $600,000 per year since beginning their career whilst only two UFC fighters have earned the same.
‘Miracle’, the moniker of one of eSports’ most well-known players, has earned just over $1 million per year since becoming a professional player – more than top female fighter Ronda Rousey, former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva and the current second-ranked heavyweight Alistair Overeem.
In fact the professional gamer, who found fame competing in ‘DOTA 2’, earns more yearly than any UFC fighter other than the now infamous Conor McGregor, who made his boxing debut last year in a creditable loss to legendary unbeaten fighter Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Prize money for eSports also outweighs many traditional sports. One of the most popular events, ‘DOTA 2: The International 2017’, boasted an overall prize pool of $17.5m, making it the highest ever offered in the history of eSports.
This outweighs the combined prize pool of other major sporting events such as the Tour de France, Cricket World Cup and The Open golf.
However it falls far short of football’s Champions League, which is valued at £965m.