In the world of professional video games, victory is not the only goal. For example, Tynler Ninja Blevins, an outstanding Fortnite player, earned $ 17 million last year. This allowed him to take the first Forbes highest-paid gamer rating in the world, but less than $ 100,000 in revenue from 28-year-old Detroit natives. Ninja didn’t even claim victory at the first Fortnite World Cup, which was held at the Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York in July 2019 with a grand prize of $ 3 million (Kyle Bugha Girsdorf, a 16-year-old from Pennsylvania).
All revenues in the ranking are for the period from January 1, 2019 to January 1, 2020. Amounts – before taxes, as well as fees of agents, managers and lawyers. The assessment is based on data from SocialBlade, TwitchTracker, Captiv8 and Pollstar, as well as conversations with industry sources. Forbes defines a gamer as a person who earns income by playing games both as part of competitions and on a daily basis.
The best players increasingly prefer the role of opinion leaders to participation in tournaments. They earn millions thanks to a huge base of subscribers who provide them with advertising contracts, fees and new sponsors. Ninja has 2.8 million subscribers on Mixer, the recently created Microsoft gaming platform, which Forbes estimates will spend $ 30 million on development over three years – all for the sake of enticing stars from Twitch’s main competitor (owned by Amazon), who lost Blevins in August. The accustomed gamer also has 22.7 million followers on YouTube and 14.9 million on Instagram. In total, the ten players with the highest incomes have 270 million subscribers on YouTube, Twitch and Mixer, and their total earnings for the year amounted to $ 121 million.
The next step for gamers is to become famous outside the industry. Ninja, who has been professionally playing in various disciplines since at least 2009, is already moving towards this goal. His portrait was on banks with energy thanks to a contract with Red Bull. Adidas has Ninja sneakers. Last year, a gamer appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, and also acted as a guest vocalist on Fox Masked Singer. Ninja Merch – from comics to branded headbands – can be purchased at Walmart and Target.
At the same time, Ninja is only one of the hundreds of opinion leaders in the young video game and stream industry that brands like Monster Energy, Postmates and State Farm are willing to pay for the opportunity to reach the elusive millennial audience. According to eMarketer estimates, in 2019, the cost of sponsorship and advertising in the industry will amount to $ 3.3 billion.
The largest streamers earn by attracting money directly from subscribers who can “tip” using one-time payments or pay for a premium subscription, the revenue from which players share with platforms such as Twitch and Mixer. At the peak of his career, Blevins earned more than $ 500,000 dollars a month, earning a percentage of Twitch’s revenue from a subscription.
Three months after Ninja signed with Mixer, Michael Shroud Grzesik, a former professional Counter-Strike: Global Offensive player who ended his career in 2018 at the age of 23, followed suit. Both gamers made full use of Microsoft’s desperate desire to make Mixer a popular platform, which, according to analysts from StreamElements and Arsenal.gg, is still behind Facebook, YouTube and Twitch in the total number of hours of game broadcasts.
The world of professional games still lives by the law of the Wild West. No government agency monitors compliance with laws on streaming sites, and not always those who make themselves the loudest offer highly intelligent content. So, Felix PewDiePie Kjellberg (No. 2 in the ranking, income: $ 15 million) lost his contracts due to anti-Semitic and racist videos. However, his audience remained on the side of the Swedish gamer, and he is still the YouTube blogger with the highest number of subscribers.
If you leave scandals aside, now is the time to make money. Mixer’s announcement of a deal with Ninja was reminiscent of press conferences about joining a star athlete as a free agent to a major league and ushered in an expensive talent hunt. Platforms, including Facebook, YouTube and Caffeine, have since made all new exclusive deals with players like Jeremy Disguised Toast Wang, Jack CouRage Dunlop and Rachel Valkyrae Hofstetter.
Forbes estimates that Mixer will pay Grzesik $ 20 million in three years, although 7 million of his Twitch subscribers have turned into less than 1 million on the new platform. And this amount does not take into account royalties from publishers like Electronic Arts and Activision Blizzard, who pay for Grhesik to play their games during broadcasts.
Blevins today is switching to a paid game model. In February, he earned $ 1 million for playing Apex Legends, a rival Fortnite game, for several hours.