Who Won the Most Money in Esports in 2017?

Jeremy Ray
Games PC Gaming
Games PC Gaming

Another year has gone past, and esports has continued to grow. Years ago, the best you could hope to win was a CPU fan at your local LAN competition. Now esports is the latest buzzword that every sports franchise and investor wants a piece of. Esports brands are being bought up like waterfront real estate, and the the rising tide is lifting all boats.

Thanks to esportsearnings.com, we can easily grab the top earnings of the year and sort them by players, teams, and countries.

But if we were to sort the results by game, there’d be no competition. Thanks to its crowdfunded prize pools, no game comes close to offering as much cash as DOTA 2. The data is somewhat skewed as a result. But credit where it’s due — DOTA 2 offers way more money than any other esport.

The Top Players

Topping the list of esports players in 2017 is Salehi “Kuroky” Takhasomi. He’s been participating in The International since it started in 2011, when he crashed out of the group stage with GosuGamers.net.

The Iranian-born, German raised player has had a career full of ups and downs. Team Liquid wasn’t having much luck until The International 2017, when it finally found its momentum. Kuroky led the team to a grand final victory and $10.8 million USD prize, making himself the highest earning esports player ever.

He narrowly edges in front of his teammates because of his participation in The International 2017 All-Star Match, awarding an additional $20,000.

You can see Kuroky at the top in the graph below, with him and his teammates exceeding the $2.4 million USD mark. Those close to the bottom brought in around $400,000.

Just how much more do the top DOTA 2 players make? You have to go down to the 30th position on the top players chart to find one who doesn’t play DOTA 2.

Well done to TY, the plucky little Starcraft 2 player who slotted himself into the top 30. Right at the bottom there. C-c-combo breaker!

If it looks rather like the top 15 are organised into neat little groups of five, that’s no mistake. The International 2017 last year is to blame, with all of the best teams picking up that juicy, crowdfunded coin.

It’s rare to see any team stay at the absolute pinnacle of any esport (let alone DOTA 2). Every year this list is populated with youthful insta-millionaires who haven’t made anything like this kind of cash before, and likely won’t again.

The Top Teams

Unsurprisingly, Team Liquid has a big share of the pie due to its DOTA 2 success, and a lot of the usual suspects are there.

These other teams are more diverse in their proficiencies. Virtus.pro experienced lots of success in Counter-Strike: GO, as did Envyus and Faze. As expected, Optic went large in Call of Duty.

The majority of Samsung’s winnings came from dominance in South Korea’s League of Legends scene.

The Top Countries

The old battle lines are as prominent as ever.

While China tops the list here on the strength of DOTA 2 and League of Legends winnings, countries like Denmark, Sweden and Finland consistently punch above their weight in FPS games.

Click the “Pro Players” tab above to see what each country is offering up in terms of competitors. The small populations of the European countries weighed against their success in FPS is nothing short of impressive.

Much like the Olympics, China and the United States are at the top and with their population sizes and resources, they’d want to be.

What About the Other Games?

Of the top 10 games to compete in, DOTA 2 offers more than the handful below it. Four of the top ten games are from Blizzard, and two are from Valve.

Thanks to some doubling down on esports investment from Blizzard, Heroes of the Storm has shot up to fourth place. Expect Overwatch to be a lot higher next year.

Esports prizes by game 2017
Statistics provided by esportsearnings.com

Despite undoubtedly being the phenomenon of 2017, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds didn’t make it into the top ten with just over $800,000 in winnings. That game is almost certain to increase next year as well.

Counter-Strike: GO‘s popularity and organic growth sees far more players compete, mostly due to a hands-off approach from Valve.

Of course, comparing the different games is a bit like apples and oranges. Each game has a wildly different competitive scene — Riot’s iron grip and salaried players versus CSGO‘s third-party tournament scene, for example.

Much of the modern esports player’s earnings doesn’t actually come from tournament prizes. These days, it’s more about building a personal brand on Twitch and Youtube. But it’s still fun to celebrate the year’s winners.

Jeremy Ray
Managing Editor at FANDOM. Decade-long games critic and esports aficionado. Started in competitive Counter-Strike, then moved into broadcast, online, print and interpretative pantomime. You merely adopted the lag. I was born in it.
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