30 Esports Teams That Prove There’s Money in Gaming
Some of our parents told us we’d never amount to anything by staring at a video game all day, but these clubs have proven them wrong. Esports is a massive business in 2021, and just like their on-field counterparts, esports teams have rosters of players in each game and can make millions in corporate sponsorship money. Also like traditional sports teams, there are legacy clubs that have millions of fans and can sell out arenas during ordinary times.
Some major events, like the annual international tournament for each game, give out more than $10 million in prize money for the winning club. Second place can earn more than $5 million, and clubs can bankroll their entire seasons off success at these singular events.
Esports are the wave of the future, but there are teams that were ahead of the curve — even dating as far back as the turn of the century. They have earned lucrative payouts; however, some have also fallen on hard times and folded. These are the 30 most successful esports teams in terms of prize money earned.
Location: Seoul, South Korea
Key partners: Samsung Electronics
Earnings: $5.31 million
* All earnings data for the ranking comes from EsportsEarnings.com.
Bottom Line: Samsung
Samsung had a successful run with three teams — Blue, White and Galaxy — that twice reached the World Championship final.
However, the teams were ravaged by transfers, as players sought more money, and the gaming organization folded in 2017.
29. NRG Esports
Location: Los Angeles, California
Key partners: Turtle Beach, Levi’s, Roccat, The General, Hot Pockets, Army National Guard, Purple
Earnings: $5.52 million
Bottom Line: NRG Esports
NRG Gaming was founded by Mark Mastrov and Andy Miller, the owners of the Sacramento Kings, and has boasted a roster of high-profile investors, including Shaquille O’Neal, Alex Rodriguez and Tiesto.
They have rosters on every major video game, including Call of Duty, Fortnite, Overwatch and many others.
Key partners: Vodafone Germany, ROCKSTAR Energy Drink, Snipes, Razer, Nitrado, noblechairs
Earnings: $5.59 million
Bottom Line: mousesports
mousesports is one of the longest-standing teams in Europe and is a member of the G7 organization that includes some of the most prestigious teams in the world.
Mouz has been carried by its Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (GS:GO) team, which has accounted for more than $3 million, more than 55 percent, of its prize money.
27. Royal Never Give Up
Key partners: HP, Logitech, DouyuTV, KFC, Axe, Yili Guliduo Milk
Earnings: $5.68 million
Bottom Line: Royal Never Give Up
Royal Never Give Up has been carried by its League of Legends and Dota 2 teams, which have accounted for more than 75 percent of the club’s earnings.
The League of Legends team has won five championships since 2015.
Location: Playa Vista, California; Seoul, South Korea; Shanghai, China
Key partners: Bumble
Earnings: $5.77 million
Bottom Line: Gen.G
The Gen.G PlayerUnknown’s Battleground team has been one of the best in esports, earning the global championship in 2019 and adding a third-place finish at the 2021 event in March.
Gen.G also has a strong Heroes of the Storm team that earned $700,000 in winnings thanks to four, first-place finishes at events in 2018.
Key partners: Monster Energy, Twitch, GG.Bet
Earnings: $5.86 million
Bottom Line: Alliance
Alliance appears on here thanks largely to its Dota 2 team, which has taken home about 83 percent of the team’s prize money.
The Dota 2 team won the International in 2013 and more than $1.4 million in prize money.
Location: South Korea
Key partners: Samsung
Earnings: $6.22 million
Bottom Line: MVP
MVP has earned the majority of its money, more than $3.3 million, on the back of its Dota 2 team. However, that club is no longer active as it disbanded in 2017.
Its most successful active club is now its CS:GO team, which has earned nearly $400,000 since 2017.
23. Ninjas in Pyjamas
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Key partners: Betway, Samsung
Earnings: $6.39 million
Bottom Line: Ninjas in Pyjamas
Ninjas in Pyjamas may be best known for its Counter-Strike teams, which has secured more than $3 million in prize money in nearly a decade of competition, but their other rostered teams aren’t exactly slouches.
Dota 2 has made more than $1 million in prize money, including a pair of first-place finishes at events in 2019, and its Rainbow Six team won $1 million by claiming the 2021 Six Invitational in Paris, France, in May 2021.
22. SK Gaming
Key partners: Deutsche Telekom, Raxer, Sennheiser, Mountain Dew, Toshiba, Kingston Technology
Earnings: $6.56 million
Bottom Line: SK Gaming
The longest-standing team on the list, SK Gaming has endured its share of turmoil through nearly 25 years of gaming. Yet they still endure largely thanks to their dominant Counter-Strike teams, which includes the original game and CS-GO.
Those clubs have earned more than 56 percent of the team’s prize money, and the Global Operative team earned more than $1.5 million in 2017 alone.
21. Team Envy
Location: Dallas, Texas
Key partners: Jack in the Box
Earnings: $6.97 million
Bottom Line: Team Envy
Team Envy was named the 2016 esports team of the year at the Esports Industry Awards, largely due to its win at the Call of Duty XP Championship that year.
Not to be outdone, the team’s CS-GO team took a first-place finish at the World Electronic Sports Games that year.
20. Team SoloMid
Location: Los Angeles, California
Key partners: GEICO, Grubhub, Mountain Dew Game Fuel, Logitech, Twitch, Lenovo
Earnings: $7.16 million
Bottom Line: Team SoloMid
Team SoloMid is one of the most popular U.S.-based esports teams, with 11 different gaming rosters, including a Magic: The Gathering team.
Team SoloMid has been paced by its League of Legends and Fortnite teams, who have combined to earn roughly 51 percent of their career prize money.
19. OpTic Gaming
Location: Frisco, Texas
Key partners: Red Bull
Earnings: $7.90 million
Bottom Line: OpTic Gaming
OpTic’s earnings are led by its Call of Duty team, which has been dubbed the greatest of all time.
But OpTic is also balanced, with five different teams chipping in more than $700,000 in earnings, and has twice been named the esports team of the year at the Game Awards.
18. G2 Esports
Location: Berlin, Germany
Key partners: Adidas, AIMLAB, AOC, AORUS, BMW, Hidac Technology, Lenovo, Logitech, MasterCard, nicecactus, Paysafecard, Phillips, Pringles, Red Bull, SecretLab, Twitch
Earnings: $8.25 million
Bottom Line: G2 Esports
Some clubs make money thanks to dominant teams in one singular game. Yet G2 has one of the most balanced organizations in the gaming sphere.
No one team has earned more than 30 percent of G2’s earnings, and the team’s earned more than $1 million in prize money via its CS-GO, League of Legends and Rainbow Six squads, which is why G2 earns the reputation as one of the greatest esports teams.
Key partners: Unibet, Turtle Beach, Secretlab, OMEN by HP, Logitech G, Hummel
Earnings: $9.01 million
Bottom Line: Astralis
Most clubs live on their Dota 2 team. Conversely, Astralis has made the bulk of its earnings on the back of its CS-GO squad, which has secured all but $12,500 of its earnings as of June 2021.
Six different CS-GO team players have earned more than $1 million for the team, led by who’s known as dupreeh. He has made $1.77 million as of June 2021.
16. Paris St. Germain-Esports
Location: Paris, France
Key partners: Betway
Earnings: $9.63 million
Bottom Line: Paris St. Germain-Esports
Some might recognize the team with the identical name as the legendary France-based soccer club — yes, they are related — but the PSG esports team has made most of its money from its Dota 2 team, which has earned 97 percent of the team’s earnings.
That includes the more than $5 million taken home after its second-place finish at the 2018 International and more than $3 million from a third-place finish at the 2019 event.
15. Wings Gaming
Key partners: None
Earnings: $9.74 million
Bottom Line: Wings Gaming
Wings Gaming was carried almost entirely by its Dota 2 team, which earned more than 99 percent of the club’s earnings.
Yet the Wings organization was like a comet in that it folded in 2017, just three years after its founding.
14. FaZe Gaming
Location: New York and Los Angeles, California
Key partners: G Fuel, Scuf Gaming, SteelSeries, Nissan, HTC Gaming, Wix, Manchester City, CTRL, Verizon
Earnings: $9.89 million
Bottom Line: FaZe Gaming
FaZe had a meteoric rise from trick-shot videos on YouTube to one of the most successful esports teams in history.
FaZe, though founded by three Call of Duty players, has become a well-rounded organization, earning more than $1.5 million in four different video games.
13. SK TeleCom T1
Location: South Korea
Key partners: SK Telecom, Nike, DouTu, Twitch, Secretlab, KLEVV, ONE Store, BMW, Samsung, Hana Bank, Kuasihou, Yibo Sports, Red Bull
Earnings: $10.1 million
Bottom Line: SK TeleCom T1
SK Telecom has been carried by its League of Legends team, which has won nine Korean championships and three world championships.
It’s made nearly 70 percent of the team’s earnings since 2013.
12. Cloud 9
Location: Santa Monica, California
Key partners: AT&T, BMW, EPOS, HyperX, Kaiser Permanente, Microsoft, Puma, Red Bull, Secretlab, Twitch
Earnings: $10.3 million
Bottom Line: Cloud 9
Cloud9 boasts one of the most balanced clubs in esports, with three of its gaming squads earning more than $1 million in prize money.
Cloud9 boasts an arsenal of investors, including Glassdoor founder Robert Hohman, Reddit founder Alex Ohanian and former MLB outfielder Hunter Pence.
11. LGD Gaming
Key partners: LG, ThunderRobot
Earnings: $11.4 million
Bottom Line: LGD Gaming
LGD is one of China’s longest-standing esports teams and has flourished because of the club’s Dota 2 team.
It has earned more than 88 percent of the team’s total winnings and earned a partnership with PSG.
10. Invictus Gaming
Key partners: Betway, Chevrolet, Secretlab
Earnings: $12 million
Bottom Line: Invictus Gaming
Invictus was an outlier among the gaming community due to its lack of corporate sponsors and was solely funded by founder Wang SISi-Cong. The team has since added partnerships with Betway, Chevy and Secretlab.
Invictus has ridden the success of its Dota 2 and League of Legends teams, which have accounted for more than 80 percent of their earnings.
9. Team Secret
Key partners: MetaThreads, NVIDIA, GG.BET
Earnings: $12.3 million
Bottom Line: Team Secret
Like most clubs on this list, Team Secret has been carried by its Dota 2 team, which has accrued more than 94 percent of the club’s prize money over seven years.
Clement Ivanov, also known as Puppey, has earned more than $2.3 million alone.
8. Natus Vincere
Location: Kiev, Ukraine
Key partners: Monster Energy, Logitech, Phillips, Tinkoff Bank, Raid: Shadows Legend, AndaSeat, GG.BET
Earnings: $12.7 million
Bottom Line: Natus Vincere
Na’Vi has been a revelation particularly since they hail from Ukraine. They had a dominant run from 2010-13, winning 27 tournaments including a $1 million purse from the 2011 International in Cologne, Germany.
They followed that with consecutive second-place finishes at the International tournaments in 2012 and 2013.
7. Vici Gaming
Key partners: HyperX, Biostar, HTC
Earnings: $13.5 million
Bottom Line: Vici Gaming
Vici is known mostly for its Dota 2 team, which finished second at the 2014 International, earning more than $1.4 million.
It followed that with a fourth-place finish at the 2015 tournament and a purse of more than $1.5 million.
Key partners: Secretlab, Sennheiser Gaming
Earnings: $14.2 million
Bottom Line: Newbee
Newbee burst onto the scene by winning the 2014 International tournament and more than $5 million in prize money in their inaugural year. They followed that with a second-place finish and almost $4 million in prize money at the 2017 tournament.
Newbee has not been without controversy, though, as their Dota 2 team members were banned after a match-fixing investigation in 2020.
Key partners: Parimatch, HyperX, Haval, Halls
Earnings: $15.8 million
Bottom Line: Virtus.pro
Virtus.pro is one of the oldest Russian esports teams and likely will not be going anywhere soon after receiving a $100 million investment from Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov.
Their success has come largely in the games Counter-Strike and Dota 2, the latter of which they’ve won a record five major championships since 2014.
Location: London, England; Berlin, Germany; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Key partners: AMD, Anda Seat, BMW, Fnatic Gear, Hisense, Jack Link’s, Letou, Monster Energy, OnePlus, Parimatch, PCSPECIALIST, Twitch
Earnings: $16.1 million
Bottom Line: Fnatic
Fnatic has an exceptional record of success across gaming spheres, with seven League of Legends European championships to their name and the 2011 League of Legends world championship.
They are especially successful in the game, Counter-Strike, winning three Global Offensive Majors, in 2013 and two in 2015.
3. Evil Geniuses
Location: Seattle, Washington
Key partners: Monster Energy, Xfinity, Razer Inc., AORUS, AMD, Twitch
Earnings: $24.5 million
Bottom Line: Evil Geniuses
Evil Geniuses actually started in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1997 and became an elite club thanks largely to their fast-speed internet in an age of 56K and dial-up.
Evil Geniuses joined the G7 in 2008 and is the longest-standing U.S. team in that club.
Key partners: FUN88, BMW, SteelSeries, Socios.com, Secretlab, DM Script
Earnings: $34.4 million
Bottom Line: OG
OG is the youngest team in the top 10, and they are one of the most unlikely success stories in gaming over the past five years. OG went from the qualifying tournament to the International Championship 2018, stunning the field while staving off elimination several times, and then won the championship again.
Those two titles netted OG more than $20 million in prize money, and they’re poised to take over the top spot soon.
1. Team Liquid
Location: Ultricht, Netherlands
Key partners: Allenware, Honda, IMC Trading, HyperX, Jersey Mike’s Subs, Marvel, Monster Energy, Secretlab, SAP SE, Twitch
Earnings: $37.2 million
Bottom Line: Team Liquid
Liquid combines the prestige of a long-standing organization, competing in an eye-popping 1,962 events, with an army of high-profile investors, including Magic Johnson, Tony Robbins and Washington, D.C., sports owner Ted Leonsis.
So, it's no surprise that they are the gold standard, winning the bulk of their prize money during the 2017 International Championship, with five players taking home $11 million.