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grid layout of profile pictures of the Top 5 Highest-Earning Esports Players

It was not too long ago that gamers were playing against their friends for nothing more than bragging rights or a few drinks. Gamers would either play alone in single player or with friends who would come over to share the joy of a video game. It wasn’t long, however, before the future caught up with us. In 1991 the internet was made publicly available, and the world of video games was never the same since. Players went from defeating artificial intelligence to genuine intelligence. You no longer played to be the best in your friend group, but the best in the world. It took many thousands of years before sports began to be high-paying occupations, but it took mere decades for video games. Before the turn of the century, tournaments would offer prize pools of tens of thousands of dollars – which, back then, was considered incredible. Little did the world know what was coming…

The Humble Beginnings

Over the first decade of the 21st-century esports rose rapidly – but quietly. Only gamers knew about the scene, with it being far from mainstream back then. The biggest tournaments had prize pools of several hundred thousand dollars, but it was still only the beginning. It during the early 2010s however, that the world of esports burst onto the main stage, largely in part due to Valve’s The International, the DotA 2 tournament that shocked millions of people around the world as it was the first tournament to not only have a prize pool in the 7 digits but was offering $1 Million USD for first place alone. From there, the numbers skyrocketed, with more players, teams, games, events, fans, spectators, sponsors and prize money than anyone believed possible. The world was forced to notice, as video games and esports boomed in a way no industry has ever done so before, with it singlehandedly being the largest entertainment industry in the world. It is important to remember how far we’ve come and that this would never have been possible without the players that created the interest in esports – and so here are the 5 players who have earned the most prize money throughout their careers.

Name: Saahil Arora
Gamer Tag: UNiVeRsE
DOB/Age: October 11, 1989 (age 28)
Game: Dota 2
Notable Teams: Fnatic, Evil Geniuses, Team Secret
Total Earnings: $2,996,603.47

UNiVeRsE is one of the oldest currently active players, having played alongside legends such as Fear since his earliest days. He is currently one of only 4 other players, including KuroKy, Puppey and DDC to have played at every International from 2011 to 2018. He made his first TI debut under the banner of Online Kingdom, and has since played for Team Dignitas, Team Secret, Evil Geniuses and currently Fnatic. It’s also worth noting that he won The International in 2015, taking home a share in over $6.6 Million USD, and has come third twice, with top 8 or top 12 placings in other years. The length of time in which UNiVeRsE has remained a top-tier play is incredible, especially considering the numerous changes made to the game over time. He is considered one of, and at times, the best offlaner in the game known for his unfaltering consistency and clutch plays when it really matters. He has placed first at 12 premier events and second, third or fourth at another 30, making him a true veteran of the scene.

Name: Lasse Urpalainen
DOB/Age: March 3, 1995
Game: Dota 2
Notable Teams: Team Liquid
 Total Earnings: $3,080,665.64

MATUMBAMAN began his professional career in 2014, immediately impressing fans and players alike with his exceptional mechanical ability. Once in the scene, he joined various small teams and even tried out unsuccessfully for Fnatic before finally joining a roster with the legendary veteran player KuroKy. The team was quickly picked up by Team Liquid and has largely remained the same with few changes, making it one of the most solid rosters as its current iteration has been together for roughly 20 months. MATUMBAMAN is one of the three members that have been on the roster for almost 3 years, together with MinD_ContRoL and KuroKy. The last two years have been full of successes for him, placing first at 4 premier tournaments and second at another four premier tournaments. Following a lackluster 7-8th place at The International 2016, he came back stronger than ever by sweeping away the competition to win The International 2017 and a share in the first prize of just under $11 Million USD.

Name: Ivan Ivanov
Gamer Tag: MinD_ContRoL
DOB/Age: January 20, 1995
Game: Dota 2
Notable Teams: Team Liquid
Total Earnings: $3,080,961.36

MinD_ContRoL also began his professional career in 2014 as part of many small teams. Despite many of his teams facing constant roster changes he still managed to find success at many small tournaments but only really burst out onto the scene once he teamed up with MATUMBAMAN and KuroKy and became part of what would later become Team Liquid as once of its first members. He has stayed on the team with them since late 2015, a welcome change to the roster insecurity of his previous teams. He has placed top 4 in 19 premier tournaments including first place in the China Dota2 SuperMajor, EPICENTER 2016 and 2017, StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 2, StarLadder i-League StarSeries Season 3 and his greatest achievement to date, The International 2017, where fans were dazzled by his stellar performance on many offlane heroes throughout the tournament.

Name: Amer Barqawi
Gamer Tag:  Miracle
DOB/Age: June 20, 1997
Game: Dota 2
Notable Team: Team Liquid
Total Earnings: $3,313,886.88

Miracle- entered the scene playing for a small team in early 2015, but his time there ended just 4 months later. While he looked for a new team, he began to make a name for himself by rapidly climbing the leaderboards until he became the No. 1 ranked player in the world. Shortly after he joined OG and began a seemingly unstoppable streak for the team, where they won the Frankfurt Major, the Manila Major, ESL One Frankfurt 2016 and placed top 4 at 6 other events in the leadup to The International 2016. It was here where they only managed to reach top 12 in a huge upset of an elimination. Following this, he left for Team Liquid to join MATUMBAMAN, MinD_ContRoL and KuroKy to begin another chapter in his career where he went on to win The International 2017, becoming one of only 3 players to have won 2 Valve majors and an International, along with S4 and Puppey.

Name: Kuro Takhasomi
Gamer Tag: KuroKy
DOB/Age: October 28, 1992
Game: Dota 2
Notable Teams: Team Liquid, Team Secret, Natus Vincere, Mousesports, Virtus Pro
Total Earnings: $3,740,477.75

KuroKy is now arguably the greatest DotA 2 player the world has ever seen, with innumerable titles and achievements under his belt. He grew up with a disability with his legs, leading him to video games at an early age. KuroKy began playing in the original DotA game, a mod of Warcraft which was remade into the current DotA 2 by Valve in 2011. He began playing professionally in 2007, over a decade ago, initially in German teams before joining international teams. He became one of the most famous players at the time and played among players who were revered as being the forefathers of the high-level DotA, with many of them having a lasting effect on how the game is played today, more than 15 years on from the earliest professional games. KuroKy at one point considered quitting DotA due to a slump in his career but managed to put himself back on track shortly before The International in 2011, where he placed in the bottom 4. Following another bottom 4 finish in 2012, KuroKy came the closest he had ever come to his dreams with a second-place finish in 2013 under Natus Vincere, together with Puppey. After 3 top 8 finishes in a row, it had begun to seem like he would never achieve the goal he had dreamt of for almost a decade, being the best in the world. Then, in 2017, he led Team Liquid as captain to a long-awaited victory at The International 2017 and became the highest earning esports player of all time after 10 years of ups and downs and even almost quitting his dream at one point. It is moments like these that show the power of perseverance in achieving success, and KuroKy’s success has made history for DotA 2 fans and esports fans alike.

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