Make no mistake, 2015 has been a record year for eSports in almost every aspect. Viewing figure records have been smashed on multiple occasions, investment in teams has hit an all-time high and perhaps most importantly prize pools have skyrocketed. Again.
In August, the International 5 became the biggest eSports prize pool in history with $18,429,613 to divvy up, most pooled from crowdfunding. The Dota Asia Championships and the Frankfurt Major both gave away around $3 million and Smite’s World Championships became the biggest ever non-Dota 2 event with $2,612,259.00 in prize money. Of course somebody has to win all this money, so let's take a look at which organisations have performed the most in 2015, according to esportsearnings.com.
10. Cloud9 - $1,461,315.12
Unlike almost every other team on this list, the majority of Cloud 9’s earnings this year hasn't come from Dota (Though their Dota squad did bring in a fair amount over the first half of the year, including $221,155 for finishing 9-12th at TI5 along with many other top five finishes in smaller events). Elsewhere, the organisation that seems to have a team in almost every eSport enjoyed success in CS:GO throughout June and July, as they reached multiple finals in top tier events. Their LoL squad had an interesting 2015 and eventually managed to make it to Worlds after an impressive run, while the Heroes of the Storm team managed to become world champions and claim $200,000 at Blizzcon. The organisation also won smaller amounts in Hearthstone, Smite and Smash Bros.
9. SK Telecom T1- $1,531,484.02
Unsurprisingly, the League of Legends 2015 world champions make the list: SK Telecom T1 had a dominant year in South Korea, and managed to come out as convincing champions at Worlds just a few months ago despite a promising EU run from Origen. Placing first at worlds granted them $1,000,000 with the rest coming from first place finishes in the LCK, as well as SKT1's winnings in StarCraft 2. [Update: A previous version of this story said that SK T1 compete in League of Legends exclusively. This has been corrected.]
8. EHOME - $1,565,688.11
One of the biggest names in the Dota scene finally returned at the start of 2015. Picking up some of the best eastern talent the new EHOME squad was formed and almost immediately thrown into the fighting pit of the Dota Asia Championships. A fairly disappointing 9-12th place finish was all they could muster but they showed promise and after a few other decent placings it was at TI5 where they finally managed to nab some big money ($1,197,925) with a 5-6th place finish. Add in a fourth place finish at The Frankfurt Major and their earnings start to add up.
7. COGnitive Gaming - $1,768,958.39
Almost all of COGnitive’s winnings this year came from the Smite World Championships back in January. Following the old tickets in the raffle adage, the organisation had not one but two teams in the competition that had a prize pool of over $2.6 million, and both of them ended up in the top three. COGnitive Prime managed to take first place, and $1,306,130, after one of the best finals of the year, while their sister squad COGnitive Red took third and $391,839. Outside of Smite, the organisation has also seen some minor successes in both Heroes of the Storm and Super Smash Bros, which have slightly boosted their winnings.
6. Virtus.Pro - $2,131,185.40
Virtus.Pro is one of only a handful of teams that can genuinely claim to have one of the top teams in the world in both of Valve’s major eSports. In 2015 the Virtus.Pro Counter Strike squad was consistently one of the top four teams in almost every top tier tournament. They took home $100,000 at the ESL ESEA Pro League Invitational in Dubai as well as bringing in thousands from two top four performances at the first two majors of the year. It was of course the Dota 2 squad that brought in the majority of the winnings after a 5-6th place finish at TI5, which gave them $1,197,925.
5. Team Secret - $2,231,114.09
The Dota 2 super team that was supposed to win everything this year actually ended up winning very little by way of major tournaments, though they did always place highly. The majority of their money, as with most high-level Dota teams, came from Valve-sponsored events. Third place at the Dota Asia Championships gave them $275,177, finishing seventh at TI5 granted them $829,333 and coming second at the Frankfurt major gave them $405,000. Elsewhere Secret managed to win a lot of the bigger third party tournaments of the year, five earning them over $100,000 each.
4. Vici Gaming - $2,581,954.91
Fourth place at The International 5 was enough to grant Vici Gaming a place on this list alone, giving them $1,566,517.105. Add in the other tournaments they played in this year, including second place at the Dota Asia Championships and their prize money really starts to add up. The Dota squad was the main source of income for the organisation but their LoL squads and Hearthstone players also managed to bring in a few thousand dollars in prize money to make them the fourth highest earning eSports organisation of the year.
3. LGD Gaming $3,045,517.23
Having one of the most successful League of Legends teams during the start of the year meant that LGD is one of the few teams on this list to draw a decent chunk of its income come from League (Riot typically offers lower prize pots but a much more consistent salary to LCS players). That being said, it was of course a third place finish at The International that granted them the majority of their money – $2,211,554 to be precise. The rest of their winnings mostly comes from mid table finishes in the two other million dollar plus Dota events this year as well as victory in some top tier third party events.
2. CDEC Gaming - $3,229,600.78
The Dota 2 team that shocked the entire world by scraping in at the wildcard event to reach the final is in second place after scooping $2,856,590 at The International 5. Without their amazing TI5 run, CDEC would be nowhere near the top 10 as their only other winnings have come from second place finishes at smaller events. Having no other teams under the CDEC name shows that one good run at The International can easily set all the players for life – and that in the crowdfunded economy of pro Dota, that it’s feast or famine. Their place on this list may also be bittersweet to third place finishers LGD, as until late 2014 the CDEC team was part of the LGD organisation.
1. Evil Geniuses - $8,952,675.05
Sitting head and shoulders above the rest of the pack is Evil Geniuses. Surprisingly, their win at TI5 alone would have been enough to cement first place on this list, after receiving $6,634,661. However EG also managed to win $1,284,158 at the Dota Asia Championships for coming first. A string of other victories in high profile Dota tournaments is where most of the organisation’s winnings have come from this year. However it isn't just Dota EG have seen success in: their roster of fighting game players has brought in more than a few thousand dollars, as has their StarCraft II talent. Add in their Halo squad, arguably the best in the world this year, and you start to see just how dominant EG have been, and how their earnings could help them build on a stellar 2015 next year.
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