What does it take to become a pro-gamer?

Esports are bigger and more popular than ever before. But what does it take to become a pro-gamer and how do esports compare with traditional sports?

08 Sep 2020

The world of esports has grown at the speed of the latest Intel® processor over recent years, with a career in professional gaming now capable of earning the elite players millions of dollars in winnings and sponsorship deals. But with competition so tough, what does it take to become a gaming superstar? We took a deep dive into the world of esports to learn more about the top gamers and the industry they’ve made a career from.

Meet the gamers

To discover who’s leading the way in esports, we had a look at the 100 top ranking male and female players of 2020. Leading the way, Johan Sundstein aka ‘N0tail’ has won a colossal $6.9 million in total from esports. Among the female players, Sasha Hostyn aka ‘Scarlett’ is the biggest winner, with $358k in prize money to her name – just a fraction of the winnings of her male counterpart. In fact, there isn’t a single female among the top 100 esports players, suggesting more could be done to boost inclusivity in the industry. 

“It’s hard to predict the future, but the culture around gaming is definitely changing to become more inclusive and as the next generation of players comes through, I believe we’ll see more women among their ranks,” says esports host, Frankie Ward.

This said, with players hailing from all around the world, esports is very much an international playing field, with the most male players coming from China and the most females from the United States. And they’re a young bunch. The average age of the top pro-gamers is just 24 for male players and 27 for female, with some as young as 16.  This demonstrates fast progression in the sport and opportunities for success from a young age.

Which game is the most lucrative?

In competitive esports, not all games come equal. According to our research on the top 100 games and their prize pools, the biggest prizes are generally assigned to games that fall under the genre of ‘Multiplayer Online Battle Arena’. Dota 2 is the biggest money maker, with an overall prize pool of $223.3 million, split across all tournaments. That said, ‘First Person Shooter’ is the genre most frequent to appear among the top 100 esports games, with 31% of the titles falling under this category.

How to go professional

It takes far more than the occasional Sunday afternoon gaming marathon to make it big in esports. Training routines are intense, and diets are strict.

“Esports teams are beginning to bring their routines in line with more traditional sports,” explains Frankie Ward. “Counter-Strike team Astralis, for example, has a coach, sports psychologist, and a physiotherapist. They also have a nutritionist and a sleep doctor that they can access, should they need extra help.”

Aoife Wilson, Head of Video at Eurogamer adds “As someone working in the gaming industry, the advice I would give to gamers who want to go professional is to be just that - professional. The most successful professional gamers I’ve met are incredibly focused, confident, and have a deep understanding for how their entire culture works. Not only that - they are excellent communicators.”

It’s also important to have some good kit that will maximise your performance. Here’s what the experts recommend:

  • You want a PC that can react as quickly as you do - with an Intel® Core™ i7 CPU or higher, you’ll be esports ready, and can even record and stream your gameplay at the same time – essential for building up your following – Frankie Ward

  • High refresh rate monitors can offer a much smoother experience with less input lag, and most professional players will tell you that a reliable and responsive mechanical keyboard is an absolute must. – Aoife Wilson

  • As a streamer, it is very important to maintain high gaming frames per second, while maintaining a high encoding quality for your viewers. For me, the Intel® “K” series range is perfect as I’m able to overclock my cores to give my system the boost I need to produce a high-quality stream. - Chris Ball aka ‘Sacriel’

Esports in 2020

With the world facing an international lockdown for much of 2020 thus far, esports have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, like many industries. But, while live events have been cancelled, esports have been able to continue virtually, which has boosted engagement by 20% on streaming platforms such as Twitch, YouTube Gaming and Facebook Gaming.

“There has definitely been an increased viewership seen across Twitch. Many people are citing the streams they watch as part of their coping mechanism for being stuck inside all day [during lockdown],” says Twitch streamer, Chris Ball aka ‘Sacriel’.As the technical limits on game engines get pushed further and further back with breakthroughs in computing prowess I think esports and streaming are going to become more mainstream and I look forward to what the new technology brings us.”

The industry, which is currently worth a hot $1.1 billion in 2020, is projected to be worth $1.8 billion by 2022 – though this may be understated on reflection of current events turning many to the digital world for their sporting fix.

Reckon you’ve got what it takes to go professional? If you get your practice hours in, it’s very possible you could be the next big esports player or have another career in the industry. All you need is the right gaming room set up, and the commitment to dream. With so much gaming tech to choose from, you could opt for the latest Intel® gaming PC for something that is pre-built and ready to go, or you could build your own custom PC starting with an Intel® processor. The latest 10th Gen Intel® Core™ powered gaming laptops and gaming desktops offer you elite real-world performance with an optimal balance of frequency, cores and threads giving you high frames per second and smooth gameplay straight out of the box. The gaming world is your oyster.


The gamers

Data on the top gamers, including their age, nationality, winnings, and team, as well as data on top teams and countries was sourced from esports Learnings. Age and earnings data on the top 100 athletes was sourced from Forbes.

How to go pro

Data on the players’ top games was sourced from esports Learnings.

The esports industry

Data on the top games, and yearly player and tournament numbers was sourced from esports Learnings. Revenue and audience data was sourced from Newzoo. Tournament data was sourced from The Loadout. Data about esports in 2020 is from We Forum, Sports Pro Media and Statista. UK stats are from YouGov.

Prizes & sponsorship

Prize pool and earnings data was sourced from esports Learnings. Data on the top winners ever is from Lineups. Information on sponsorships was sourced from opendorse.


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