For most video game enthusiasts, earning a living as a professional esports player sounds like a dream come true.
Is there any wage disparity in esports?
Top gamers can win thousands of dollars each year playing in some of the world’s most popular and lucrative esports competitions.
Frontier recently broke down the earnings of esports gamers, reporting on the annual winnings of the top 100 male and female gamers.
This study highlights these players’ success and reveals a significant earnings disparity between the sexes in an industry that’s supposed to be based on merit alone.
Frontier discovered that the top male gamers earned over 1,000% more than the top female gamers in the past year.
On average, men won over $457,000 while women made almost $40,000 — a difference of about $417,000 in annual earnings.
The Frontier study also determined the most lucrative games for esports competitors.
On average, men earned the most while playing the following:
- Shadowverse $819,034
- Dota 2 $596,245
- PUBG: Battlegrounds $484,322
- PUBG: Battlegrounds Mobile $437,264
- Counter-Strike Global Offensive $400,030
- Arena of Valor $399,120
- Fortnite $334,229
- Call of Duty: Vanguard $322,361
- Rocket League $272,510
- Apex Legends $267,222
On the other hand, women earned the highest average pay while competing against others in the following:
- StarCraft II $263,149
- PUBG: Battlegrounds Mobile $80,869
- Overwatch $77,799
- Street Fighter V $65,367
- Hearthstone $51,368
- Dead or Alive 4 $41,667
- Teamfight Tactics $33,513
- Rocket League $31,967
- Apex Legends $30,242
- Attack on Titan Tribute Game $30,100
Seven of the highest-paying games were also the ones that recently offered the largest esports prize pools in the world.
According to Statista, players could win the most while competing in Dota 2, with a prize pool of $32.85 million in 2022.
Arena of Valor ranked second at $32.73 million, and PUBG: Battlegrounds Mobile ranked third at $23.42 million.
Frontier also gathered information about top-earning esports gamers’ ages and nationalities to better understand who they are.
They concluded that the top 100 gamers were between the ages of 17 and 32, but millennial gamers earned 60% more than Gen Zers overall.
Millennials were born from 1980 to 1994 and grew up during the age of the video game boom.
The study also found that female gamers were older; their average age was 27, while male gamers averaged 22.
American women also dominated the top 100 female esports competitors, making up 40% of them and achieving the highest annual earnings (over $1.4 million) of the 10 nationalities represented.
As for the men, only 11% of the top esports gamers were American.
Chinese men were the big winners in this category, raking in over $12 million in the past year.
In comparison, American men’s earnings took second place at just under $5 million.
But even though this is much lower than the other top male earners, American men still made 250% more than the best female players in the world.
So, these findings beg the question: why the gap in pay between male and female esports gamers, and what can close it?
One explanation could be that women compete in less lucrative competitions, though there was some overlap between Frontier’s and Statista’s lists of highest-paying games.
Another reason pointed out by a recent report on why female pro gamers earn millions less than men is that the esports industry struggles greatly with misogyny (prejudice against women).
But before powering down your hopes of making a living from gaming, this might refill your HP bar.
Platforms like the USEF, America’s official esports governing organization, are on a mission to even out the earning disparity in the esports playing field and create more equal opportunities for all gamers.
Celebrities like Olivia Munn are also doing their part to promote equality in esports.
The actress, gamer, and former host of the gaming show “Attack of the Show!” was featured in Mediaplanet’s Empowering Women in Gaming magazine, a campaign encouraging increasing diversity in gaming and lowering barriers for women in esports.
Regarding wage disparity in esports, there’s no quick cheat code to create equality.
It will take conscientious work from all gamers, platforms, and esports organizations to give all participants equal stats.
But hopefully, with effort and time, this gap will close in the gaming industry.