When the esports industry first took off, people laughed it off, not thinking gamers could make a living by playing video games. Those people were wrong. The top esports stars make millions of dollars. Last year, the esports industry as a whole surpassed $1 billion in revenue.
Global audiences reached nearly 450 million, with projections of more than 600 million by the end of this year. So you can see why the best players make as much as they do. One of the industry’s biggest stars is Johan “N0tail” Sundstein, a Denmark native who began his pro esports career as a teenager. Here is his story.
Johan “N0tail” Sundstein’s esports career
Sundstein began his esports career in 2010, when he was still a teenager. He even left high school early to fully devote himself to esports so he could become as good as possible. At 15, Sundstein became part of a trio that played in online Heroes of Newerth tournaments, earning first-place victories in four consecutive DreamHack events.
When interest in that game began to wane, Sundstein switched to playing Dota 2 in 2012. His team won The International tournament in both 2018 and 2019, becoming the first repeat winners in the event’s history.
How much has Sundstein made in esports?
Sundstein began his career by making just over $1,700 in 2010. He didn’t cross the $20,000 mark in a year until 2013, when he had $24,661 in earnings. Sundstein more than tripled that in 2014, with nearly $80,000 in winnings.
In 2015, he cracked the six-figure barrier when his earnings jumped up to $349,255. Sundstein made more than $583,000 in 2016, but his earnings fell the following year to $402,000. He made the biggest money jump of his career in 2018, when Sundstein’s earnings topped $2.28 million, which represents a third of his career earnings to date.
Things were even better in 2019, when his earnings for the year totaled more than $3.15 million. Through 2019, the Danish 20-something has made $6.8 million in his esports career. At 26 years old, he doesn’t appear to be ready to stop anytime soon.
This total makes him the biggest money winner in esports history through last year, thanks in large part to his team’s victories at The International the last two years. If he continues to do well at that event, his earnings will continue rising considerably.
Dota 2’s impact on esports
Dota 2 has become one of the most lucrative games in the industry. It offered a prize pool of $25 million at The International in 2019, which is more money than what is offered to teams in the UEFA Europa League. It has become so big that the top 11 money earners in esports history are Dota 2 players, which has helped the massive growth that esports has experienced in recent years.
By June 2017, players in Dota 2 tournaments had earned more than $100 million in prizes, which made it the highest-earning esports game at the time. The delta between Dota 2 and its nearest competition was more than $60 million. One reason why the prize pool for Dota 2 events is so big is because it is crowdfunded by the players.
The game has an in-game battle pass that players can buy, and when they purchase it or other loot boxes, 25% of the revenue from those in-game purchases goes into the prize pool. With such big prizes for Dota 2, it brings enhanced interest to the industry as a whole — both among potential players and viewers.