eSports earnings: how to make money from eSports


- Grant Whittington

With eSports continuing to grow in popularity, the number of professional pro-league players increasing and tournament prize pools bigger than ever, there’s never been a better time to start making money from eSports.

Our new interactive guide How to Become an eSports Champion charts the highest-earning players, teams and countries, along with the highest-paying games, events and genres, to make predictions about the future of eSports.

Becoming an eSports champion doesn’t happen overnight. If you’re looking for a career in eSports expect fierce competition, long hours and years of hard work to make it to the top. Our handy guide looks at what it really takes to become the next MVP.

Pro tip: The first thing you need to do is decide whether you want to compete or entertain. Pro-league players need razor sharp focus, a strategic mind and endless patience, while entertainers need a charismatic personality, captivating stage presence and relationship-building skills that help them maintain partnerships.

Route one: Pro Streamer

Professional streaming is fiercely competitive, needing a lot of time, dedication and hard work to succeed. However, if you’re willing to put the effort in, it can be an enjoyable and rewarding career. For this reason, many professional streamers encourage beginners to see streaming as a hobby rather than a get-rich-quick-scheme when they first start out. Not every streamer makes enough money to go full time, but if you dream of gaming streams, here’s what it takes…

1. Dive in and start streaming
If you want to stream professionally there’s no better way to get started than to get stuck in as soon as possible. Streaming can be costly; you’ll need audio equipment including headphones and microphones, as well as visual equipment like a webcam. You’ll also need to find a platform to stream from. Most streamers use video platforms such as YouTube and specialist streaming platforms like Twitch and Mixer.

2. Build your online presence
To be able to attract advertisers and generate an income from sponsorships, you need an audience. Since there are hundreds of streamers constantly creating content, you need to build up your online presence to stand out from the crowd and start attracting viewers. This will take time and patience, but setting up social media accounts that link to your stream and regularly sharing clips and content is a good way to start.

3. Carve out your niche
The most successful streamers put out unique content that appeals to their target audience, so you need to establish your niche and sell yourself! Think about what makes you different – it could be an aspect of your personality, your gaming style or the type of content that you’re interested in making. Find your USP and shape your channel accordingly.

4. Have your donate button set up on your channel
Video platforms like Twitch allow you to add a donate button to your stream so your subscribers can send you money to support your content. This can then be reinvested into your channel, contributing to the cost of equipment and maintenance. Having donate buttons set up doesn’t cost the streamer anything and is a great way for subscribers to directly support their favourite creators.

5. Maintain the day job and stream in your spare time
Like other creative careers such as acting or writing, it will take time before your channel becomes successful. Most streamers start by streaming alongside their day job and then quit when they make enough money to support themselves full time.

6. Make friends and build a community
Making friends with other streamers is a great way to pick up tips and collaborate on your channels. Building a community with other creators and your subscribers enhances the streaming experience and will keep your audience coming back for more.

7. Sign up to GameWisp
Designed to run alongside Twitch, GameWisp allows you to add a paywall in front of your content so you can make more money. Many professional streamers use it as an extra way to generate revenue. Twitch Partner Zach Arenson (Goobers515) even confirmed with a Gizmodo journalist that he uses GameWisp, which is similar to Patreon by allowing creators to run a subscription content service.

8. Build a network of advertisers
Once you start building your subscription base, you’ll likely get requests from companies looking to advertise their product through sponsorship. Building a network of relevant and trusted advertisers allows you to make some extra money and establish your profile in the streaming community. Affiliate links are also common. These mean you receive commission if one of your subscribers clicks a link, usually in a video description box, and purchases a product from the online store.

9. Consider merchandise and paid events
Once you start racking up your subscriber count, you can explore other avenues of monetisation. Many streamers create and distribute their own merchandise, while other popular streamers may do paid events.

10. Monetise your Twitch and YouTube
As your popularity grows, you may be able to become a Twitch Partner. This allows you to make money and earn commission from gaining new subscribers on the platform. Many YouTube streamers also join the YouTube Partner Program, where they can make money by allowing certain adverts in their videos.

11. Continue to create high-quality content
No matter how large your subscriber base gets, it’s important to focus on creating high-quality content that stays true to your brand. This will allow you to attract more viewers, expand your subscriber base and – in turn – attract better advertisers.

Route two: Pro Gamer

If you’re pretty slick with a console pad, or mouse and keyboard, then you may want to consider earning money through professional gaming. Becoming a pro-gamer takes a lot of dedication, hard work and discipline, but it is possible. Here’s how to get started…

1. Choose your gaming platform
PC gamers are notorious for being more “hardcore” than console gamers, as PC gaming is much harder to master and it usually costs more to set up properly. Usually, pro-league teams have separate players for console and PC platforms, so it’s up to you which path you choose.

2. Explore different games and genres
To succeed you need to find out what type of game you’re good at, so explore different genres until you find what you excel at. It’s rare for pro-league players to specialise in multiple genres and games.

3. Devote your free time to playing
A common misconception is the amount of time a player needs to practice to truly make it as a major league gamer. One to two hours a day simply won’t cut it – many pro-league players practice for eight hours a day, so be prepared to sink a lot of time into honing your craft.

4. Research tactics and tricks and practice
Many gamers learn by watching other pro-league players. Watch your idols on their streaming channels and in tournaments, taking note of their tactics and tricks. There are a plethora of videos online that teach you how to implement different tricks. It’s also worth creating a custom level or world on your favourite game and practising these tricks yourself.

5. Build a network of players
Many eSports are now team-based, so it’s important to practice with other gamers. Gather your friends (or join up with random gamers online), create your own network and play multiplayer games online. This is an excellent way of practising team strategies and communications, as well as seeing if you naturally fall into an offensive, supportive or defensive role.

6. Join a gaming league
Once you feel that your skills are up to par, it’s time to try a gaming league. Research local leagues to start with and join a local competitive team. This will give you a vital competitive gaming experience and allow you to further refine your skills.

7. Consider streaming
It’s great if you can join an existing eSports team, however, teams may not be recruiting. If it’s not possible to join a team, streaming online can be a good way to raise your profile and get scouted. Keep checking in with eSports teams to see if there’s room for one more.

8. Compete in online tournaments
Before heading to a highly competitive LAN, it’s good to get some practice in first. Many online tournaments now offer cash prizes, as well as invaluable experience and practice with skilled players, so grab your network of players and enter in as many events as you can.

9. Attend a LAN
Once you’re regularly winning online tournaments, it’s time to try the big leagues. Research LANs in the country and start entering with your team. While it may be hard at first, practice makes perfect and the more experience you get, the better you will become.

10. Start gathering sponsors
Once you’ve started to make a name for yourself as a pro-league gamer, it’s time to get sponsors. Pro-league players regularly get approached with partnership opportunities from notable brands, so keep your eyes and ears open. Be sure you have yours or your management’s preferred contact details publicly available.

11. Build up your online presence
Even if you’re a pro-league player, it’s important to keep building your online presence to expand your following and attract new advertisers. It’s not uncommon for pro-league players to be active on Twitch as well as YouTube, so consider streaming on multiple platforms.

To check out the highest-paying events and games, check out our interactive guide on  How to Become an eSports Champion!

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