Warning: Some of the video games listed below are not suitable for younger viewers. Please use caution and check each game’s ESRB rating before allowing children to play it, especially those rated M for Mature. M-rated video games may contain content that is inappropriate for children and/or unlabeled content that exposes younger viewers to explicit messages and themes.
The world of gaming has exploded over the past two decades and has come an impressively long way since the early days of Oregon Trail and Solitaire. Competitive gaming has completely reshaped the face of modern video-gaming, turning a solo activity into a massive online movement, connecting players from pole to pole.
Climbing the leaderboards means a lot more than it did in years prior. Instead of simply earning street cred at a local arcade, dominating players who have mastered their game of choice can turn a gamer’s skill into a seriously lucrative career. The dawn of the eSports boom has opened up a brand new world for gamers across the globe. Streaming service providers and live competition events have transformed casual gamers into online sensations - rewarding those long hours of gameplay with handsome salaries and brand endorsements.
Today, gamers of all ages are putting their skills to the test in hopes of one day dominating the leaderboards. You may earn a spot on a world-renowned eSports league team and, if you’re skilled enough, get a windfall of cash. As reachable a dream as professional gaming may seem, there is plenty to consider before setting your sights on this career.
What are eSports?
eSports are professional, competitive video-gaming competitions. At its core, it is players competing against one another. In order for a video game to qualify as eSports-eligible, it must have a strong competitive element, a sizeable player base, and substantial funding.
Typically eSports athletes compete on teams, but there are a number of player versus player (PvP) games where athletes go head to head. Professional gamers take to streaming platforms like YouTube and Twitch to broadcast their world-leading skills to eager learners and fascinated spectators.
What are the most popular eSports games?
There are thousands of video games on the market, but only a select few dominate the world of eSports gaming. For aspiring eSports professionals, check out these five games.
1. Dota 2 by Valve Corporation
Genre: Multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA)
Premise: Two teams of five players go head to head in this player versus player combat game. Both teams occupy and defend their own base, protecting their “Ancient.” Each player controls a powerful hero and is responsible for collecting experience points and items to best challenge the opposing team’s battalion. The first team to successfully invade and destroy the other team’s Ancient wins.
Top teams: Team Secret, Vici Gaming, Team Liquid
2. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive by Valve Corporation
Genre: Multiplayer first-person shooter
Premise: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, or CS: GO, pits two teams of five against each other in a best-of-30 round match. The end-goal objective is for one team to eliminate the other while completing a slew of separate tasks. Players must purchase weapons, armor, offensive and defensive kits, and manage their gameplay economy skillfully to secure their chance at victory. The first team to 16 round wins in either Bomb Defusal or Hostage Rescue mode takes home the W.
Top teams: Team Liquid, Vitality, Astralis
3. League of Legends by Riot Games
Genre: Multiplayer online battle arena
Premise: In matches that last anywhere between 20 to 50 minutes, League of Legends players divide into two teams of five, taking on the role of champions with unique strengths and abilities. Going head to head, each team sets their sights on the opposition’s Nexus, the structure that lives at the heart of their base. The first team to destroy the enemy Nexus wins.
Top teams: FunPlus Phoenix, G2 Esports, Invictus Gaming LoL
4. Fortnite by Epic Games
Genre: Battle royale
The premise and objective of Fortnite Battle Royale
is simple: the last competitor standing is the victor
. Up to 100 challengers square off against each other, collecting weapons and defenses to protect themselves and increase kill-count. Players must be swift, sneaky, and skillful at building impenetrable forts should they hope to win.
Top teams: FaZe Clan, Ghost Gaming, Team Liquid
5. Overwatch by Blizzard Entertainment
Genre: Multiplayer first-person shooter
divides players into two teams of six heroes. There are three game types: escort and hybrid maps, control maps, and assault maps. In escort and hybrid matches, the attacking team aims to escort a payload to a specific destination. Control maps match function on a best-of-five system, so the first team to score three points by achieving a 100% tally on the map objective wins. Assault maps divide two teams into offense and defense. The team with the higher number of captured objectives wins all.
Top teams: Eagle Gaming, RunAway, Lucky Future Zenith
How do eSports teams make money?
According to a 2019 Global eSports Market Report conducted by Newzoo, 2019 marks the first year that eSports revenue will surpass the $1 billion threshold . The report found that nearly 82% of the total market sources back to endemic and non-endemic brand investments. These include sponsorships, advertising, media rights, and merchandising.
Brands from every sector and industry, from fast food to athletic wear, have entered the world of eSports. Huge international brands pour millions into professional gaming, staking their claim in the growing industry. Some brands put their investment money toward sponsoring events and leagues while others choose to sponsor individual gamers.
Brand sponsorships make up the majority of revenue generated by eSports. Big names like Intel, Red Bull, Coca-Cola, and T-Mobile continue to capitalize on the burgeoning potential of the video game industry.
While sponsorships are the integral money-makers backing the industry’s revenue, continued ad presence solidifies that relationship. eSports organizations are responsible for creating content viewers want to see. This includes advertisements shown during televised events, Twitch streams, and all other applicable stream forms.
Anytime a sponsored team competes in a live-streamed event, the ad revenue rolls right in. Audiences flocking to online platforms like YouTube and Twitch to watch eSport events provides seriously lucrative potential for advertisers.
Newzoo’s Global eSports Market Report calculated that media rights make up nearly 20% of all eSports revenue. By the year 2021, Newzoo estimates revenue generation to amount to almost $400 million .
The same way television networks stake their broadcasting claim on certain sporting events, eSports franchises have recently been the subject of the same bidding. Generally speaking, all revenue generated through media rights contracts and deals go directly to the game developer and/or third-party competition organizers.
Merchandising and ticket sales are two of the biggest money-makers in traditional sports and are quickly becoming a promising source of revenue for eSports. The number of fans and gamers tuning into live gameplay streams and in-person competitions has seen steady growth that shows plenty of promise. Take the Overwatch League, for example. Not only are gamers willing to pay high entry fees to play, but fans are also dishing out to simply be in the same venue and watch.
What does it take to join an eSports league?
While there are many working parts to the eSports sphere, the gamer path is by far the most attractive to aspiring players. Though climbing the ranks of your favorite games may seem simple and contingent on plenty of practice and strategic experimentation, there are plenty of other steps involved to turn your eSports league dream into a fruitful reality.
So, what does it take to join a professional eSports league? We’ve broken it down into eight essential steps.
Step 1. Choose one game
While it’s true that there are several eSports games out there where opportunity awaits, it’s better to hone your skills on one game rather than spread yourself thin, trying to master many.
Picking your game means figuring out what games you enjoy most, what games are compatible with the gaming systems you own, and what genre you can most confidently compete in. Are you better on a team or as a solo pioneer? Are you a strategic quick-thinker or a cunning survivalist? Try your hand at a few popular games, especially those that are free to play
, before settling on the one that will pave your career path.
Step 2. Pick a platform
Modern games are available on a number of platforms, but it’s up to you as the gamer to decide which platform is the best and most sensible for you. If you’re a PC gamer, will you opt for a laptop or a desktop setup? For console loyalists, do you prefer Xbox or PlayStation? Selecting one platform and sticking to it ensures that you learn the ins and out of your controls.
For PC gamers, you may consider upgrading to a gaming computer
that comes equipped with gameplay ready specs. The faster the CPU, the more impressive the GPU, and the more capable the RAM, the better.
Step 3. Study techniques and tactics
Though every game has an objective, there is often more than one way to end up victorious. Studying different techniques and tactics is a great place to begin honing your skills. Becoming a professional gamer, after all, is about gameplay mastery.
Start by watching video tutorials or live streams online and learning from seasoned gamers on Twitch or YouTube. Expanding your gameplay knowledge only works to your benefit, and the school of tips and tricks is just a search bar click away.
Step 4. Build a network
Once you’ve become a bit more confident in your gameplay abilities, consider venturing into the world of networking. Building a strong network of friends that play the same game and compete at a similar level gives you a sweet first taste of an eSports team membership. But where can you begin?
Dive into specialized forums, social networks, and in-game chats to start branching out and building a solid group of aspiring pro-gamers.
Step 5. Practice, practice, practice
They say practice makes perfect, and video games are no exception. In order to be able to compete with the world’s best players, you’ll need to put in your 10,000 hours. Be sure to diversify your practice time by competing against players whose skill levels are higher than your own. You’ll be amazed by how much you can learn from going toe-to-toe against a more seasoned enemy.
Step 6. Join a team
If your game of choice is team-based, playing with an established group of players is a must. By playing regularly with the same group of competitors, you’ll familiarize yourself with their strategies and tactics. A single player can’t win a team-based game, so it’s crucial to have a solid battalion if pro-level success is what you’re aiming for.
Step 7. Compete online and in-person
You’ve finally started to see your name in the top ranks and your username has earned a regular spot on the leaderboard. Now it’s time to take your skills to a tournament. Going head to head against some of the best in the world is sure to put your name on the map and give you a leg up in your blossoming career.
Step 8. Grow your online presence
You’ve learned from the pros and adapted your own strategies and tactics. Now people want to know how. Take to online streaming platforms
and social media sites as a great first step when growing your online presence. If your in-game skills are worthy of worldwide recognition, it’ll take no time for your fanbase to skyrocket and eSport league team offers to rush in.
Always keep in mind that the success of your online presence is contingent upon your online efforts. Staying active on your lineup of social media platforms means checking in daily, posting and streaming frequently, and interacting with fans as frequently as possible.
What are the best eSports teams today?
Once you’ve graduated from a casual gamer to a leaderboard boss, the last step toward solidifying your career is joining one of the world’s best eSports teams. Check out these ten teams that are true gaming forces to be reckoned with.
So, get your game on - there’s no time like the present. The world of eSports is fast-growing and full of serious opportunity. With a clear-cut understanding of what it takes to be a professional gamer and join an eSports league, you’re well equipped with all of the information needed to turn your favorite immersive hobby into a money-making career.