The world’s best player in the world’s most popular game, professional League of Legends eSports star Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok has become the first player to boast career earnings of over $1 million. After leading SK Telecom T1 to their second Mid-Season Invitational title, Faker’s split of the tournament prize pool took his overall tournament winnings to a grand total of $1,047,606.26.
Over the course of the South Korean’s decorated career, Faker’s biggest payday came from SKT’s win at the 2016 League of Legends World Championships. When spreading out his earnings across his unprescedented 35 tournament wins however, Faker’s average takings from a tournament win has been around $30,000. Though he has tallied career earnings of over $1 million, for the greatest player to have ever played eSport’s biggest title, the numbers are perhaps slightly underwhelming.
The 21-year-old South Korean will be looking to continue League of Legends natural order by winning the 2017 World Championships, taking his earnings for the year to around $1.5 million. The next highest earnings for League of Legends eSports are Faker’s former teammate Bae “Bengi” Seong Ung at $810,683.00, followed SKT’s current support Lee “Wolf” Jae Wan at $785,528.41.
To have a player surpass the $1 million mark in tournament earnings could be considered a major milestone for the League of Legends pro scene, yet by comparison to smaller eSports titles, Riot Games should be doing more to boost player earnings. By comparison, Dota 2 puts League of Legends’ player earnings to shame.
Dota 2 is the most lucrative title in the eSports industry, with the top five earners on the entire list competing in Dota 2; four of them being members of the team that won The International back in 2015.
From one single tournament win, the players from Evil Geniuses surpassed the amount that Faker has made in his entire career so far – that said, no tournament has since matched the prize pool of the 2015 International.
While Faker is setting records within the League of Legends scene, his success is relative when compared to how much more money a pro can make playing Dota 2 instead. League and Dota 2 both grew out of the Defense of the Ancients mod for Warcraft III, yet Valve — the publisher behind Dota 2 — has grown its competitive scene with fan-funded prize pools worth tens of millions of dollars. From just a handful of major tournament wins, 18-year-old Syed Sumail Hassan from Pakistan has already won $2.46 million.
Riot Games are now waking up to the value of community-funded prize pools. For the recent Mid-Season Invitational based in Brazil, teams competed for a total pool of $1.69m, $1.4 million of which was raised by the community from the purchases of Conqueror Karma and Conqueror ward skins. SKT took home $676,000 for their first place finish.
Though the overall prize pool for a League of Legends event increased, Riot’s own contribution actively decreased from 400k to the top four teams (MSI 2016) to 250k divided by all teams in 2017. Though Faker’s achievements are not to be disregarded, when compared to the industries other titles, it’s clear the talented South Korean could have earned so much more playing Dota 2.