The list of 2020’s top eSports players by total prize winnings took a vastly different shape from the norm.
According to the research data analyzed and published by Safe Betting Sites, chess Grandmaster Sven Magnus Carlsen clinched the top spot. Currently considered the leading chess pro globally, Carlsen took home a total of $499,420. The 30-year old Norwegian has a peak classical rating of 2882, the highest rating on record.
American Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura was the second chess player on the top 10 list. Ranked eighth globally, he took home $289,810. On the list of top 50 highest earners in eSports 2020, there were a total of four Chess 24 players.
Though it is controversial to some, the classification of chess and other board games as an eSport is now a done deal. Over the summer, chess experienced a sudden surge on Twitch, inextricably linking the two worlds.
Nakamura is currently among the top chess streamers on Twitch, known for initiating the chess craze in summer 2020.
Top 50 Players Earnings Plummeted by 80% YoY in 2020
The appearance of board games on the list is not the only differentiating factor between the 2020 list and those of previous years.
According to data published by Unikrn, the earnings of the top 50 eSports players plummeted by a massive 80% in 2020. The figure fell from $55 million in 2019 to a mere $11 million.
Total eSports prize pool winnings in 2019 amounted to $240 million, sinking to $92 million in 2020. This resulted from the cancellation of major events as well as the reduction of prize pools on a good number of games.
In previous years, the five top spots typically go to the players making up the winning team at Dota 2’s The International. Due to the cancellation of the event, the highest winning DOTA 2 team players in 2020 ranked 23rd with $203,588 in total winnings.
Comparatively, the top players globally in 2019, who came from the winning DOTA 2 team, took home a neat $3.16 million each according to eSports Observer. To place the 2020 prize pool decline in perspective, a total of nine players on the top 10 list earned a cumulative $3.1 million.
Fortnite was among the top victims of budgetary cuts in 2020, shedding nearly 90% year-over-year (YoY). In total, the game offered $7,884,451 in prize money during the year. In contrast, its total prize pool for 2019 amounted to $71,598,129.
On the other hand, CS:GO was one of the top money drivers in 2020, with a cumulative prize pool of $15.8 million. 34 CS:GO players took home more than $100,000 each despite the absence of large prize pool events like the ESL One Rio Major and its $2 million prize pot.
In terms of countries, the US unsurprisingly raked in the highest earnings. There was a total of $21.2 million in winnings split among 4,291 players.
Seven teenagers made it to the top 50 list, earning a cumulative $1.7 million. Overall, young players featured prominently with the average age of the top 50 players being 22.7 years.
Top 10 Teams in 2020 Made $13.25 Million, $2.58 Million Less than 2019’s Top Team
Looking at the top teams by prize pool in 2020, the loss of potential prize pool winnings similarly comes to the fore.
Based on data from eSports Observer, the top team of the year was Dallas Empire. As of December 14, the team had won a collective $1.80 million.
Dallas Empire secured the top spot in 2020 courtesy of Activision Blizzard’s Call of Duty League. After defeating Atlanta FaZe, the team made $1.79 million from that championship.
It was the first time that a single match in Call of Duty led a team to clinch the top spot in eSports prize pool rankings.
When compared to the 2019 list, Dallas Empire’s winnings would have placed it at position 22. Thanks to DOTA 2 winnings, the top team in 2019, OG, took home $15.84 million according to Statista.
The cumulative winnings of the top 10 teams in 2020 were not even close to the top team’s winnings in 2019. Their collective winnings amounting to $13.25 million would need a cool $2.58 million top up to reach OG’s 2019 prize pot.
San Francisco Shock ranked second thanks to a $1.55 million win from Activision’s Overwatch League. In total, they won $1.56 million during the year.
Team Liquid came in third with $1.46 million, and a more diversified prize pot. Their highest winnings included $414,000 from DOTA 2, $292,000 from CS:GO and $95,000 from Starcraft II. In 2019, they had clinched the second spot with $9.46 million.