Top-performing eSports organizations earn more money than some soccer, NBA or cricket teams.
As the industry developed at a rapid pace, this isn’t only a hobby anymore. A few years ago, you would see parents fighting with their children about too much time spent in front of the computer.
Nowadays, those children might be wealthy professional eSports players, pursuing their careers and making a living in the gaming industry. Yet, neither are they software developers, project managers, or marketing assistants. These guys (and girls) are professional players, streamers and superstars in society.
Here, we are going to cover the stories of the best-performing eSports teams in the world.
As you could expect, not all of them started as superstars. Their beginnings were fierce, both on a personal and organizational level.
However, some were luckier than others, so they are now featured and widely known. However, the same as in regular sports – those who don’t give 120% usually don’t succeed. Good enough usually isn’t that good in the competitive field. Here, you have to be the best, or you are invisible.
This is the success story of those who gave more than 120%. This is the success story of some of the greatest eSports organizations of all time.
1. Team Liquid – The Beginnings of a Multimillion-Dollar Franchise
Looking from today’s perspective, Team Liquid is a widely famous eSports organization. They’ve got teams in League of Legends, CS: GO, Fortnite, PUBG, Rocket League, StarCraft II, Super Smash Bros., Rainbow Six and a couple more. Also, they are earning millions in prize money from the world’s biggest eSports tournaments.
Speaking of popularity, only the 2017’s The International finale had over 400,000 views, where Team Liquid crushed the Chinese team Newbee.
Additionally, numerous investors are wagering their stakes on Team Liquid. These include iconic NBA player Magic Johnson and famous entrepreneur Steve Case.
However, their beginnings weren’t as enthusiastic as you might assume. Back in 2000, Team Liquid founder Victor Goossens had something completely different on his mind.
The European Disconnection from the eSports World
In contrast to many other famous sports teams, Liquid didn’t start as an actual team nor a sports organization.
Back in the day, StarCraft was on the top charts of competitive gaming. However, this was way different than nowadays. The scene was present only in South Korea, while the rest of the world based their gaming on single-player titles.
As an extreme enthusiast, Victor started TeamLiquid.net – a forum and a community site for StarCraft fans around the globe. This was an opportunity for players to exchange ideas and speak about the game. They could also connect with each other and share information about competitions, matches and tournaments.
Goossens was one of the best StarCraft players back in the day, and he wanted to climb the competitive ladder.
Unfortunately, from the Netherlands, his home country, he could only compete in some lower-scale StarCraft tournaments. Not only could he not compete, but it was hard to get information about what was going on in the pro scene.
According to him, only local televisions streamed those matches. Obviously, it was impossible to watch Korean local television from Europe.
The way to connect with the scene was through fans and contributors. Luckily, many players and gamers from South Korea were active contributors on TeamLiquid.net, so the information found its way.
The Early Times of Team Liquid’s Founder and the First Professional eSports Team
As a rising talent and highly motivated player, Goossens decided to move to South Korea and turn gaming into a full-time occupation.
Unfortunately, even with the game going through an expansion, tournaments were paying only up to $100 for winners. As the salary wasn’t enough for a living, he decided to go back to the Netherlands and continue earning as a professional poker player.
Luckily, he was still running a site during that time, yet without the help of several volunteers, even that could probably come up short.
A major breakthrough happened in 2010 when Blizzard Entertainment released Starcraft II, a sequel to the game from the beginning of the century.
Since grand tournaments had “amazing” prize pools measured in tens of thousands of dollars, it was time to assemble a professional team. It was time to recruit new members for Team Liquid.
Merging with Team Curse and Global Domination
Team Liquid started with decent success in Starcraft. But financially, that wasn’t enough to survive.
For instance, Goossens took a lucrative prize of €100 for first place at the Steelseries Benelux StarCraft II tournament. His colleague had a bit more luck, with $6,250 earned from Major League Gaming in Dallas.
As the figures were too low, it was time to expand into other eSports titles. In 2012, TL recruited a few professional Dota 2 players. Yet, the biggest breakthrough of all happened in 2015.
In 2015, Team Liquid agreed to merge with the famous organization Team Curse. With that move, they bought tickets for LoL, Super Smash Bros., Street Fighter and more. Also, Goossens was no longer a sole owner: he became co-CEO together with the founder of Team Curse, Steve “LiQuiD112″ Arhancet.
Every subsequent move led Team Liquid into more glory, profit and popularity. As they’ve been bought by high baller gaming company aXiomatic, their figures raised to millions of dollars.
In 2017, Team Liquid was recognized as the highest-earning eSports team in gaming history. Even nowadays, three years afterward, they are still at the top of the charts.
Team Liquid’s official earnings through tournaments are estimated at over $35 million at this moment. However, according to Victor’s words, the majority of profit comes through sponsorships with Honda, Marvel, Secretlab, Twitch, Monster Energy, Alienware and HyperX.
2. Cloud9 – The eSports Organization With a Strong Business Profile
Compared to Team Liquid, the origins of Cloud9 are mainly based on pure business.
It all started with Orbit Gaming, whose roster switched to C9 in November 2012, after Lone Star Clash.
The switch happened when Canadian media company and StarCraft II team Quantic Gaming decided to spread onto other eSports titles. However, that era was somewhat turbulent. Since the owner of QG, Simon Boudreault, had organizational and financial problems with his company, the organization started falling apart.
Besides Simon’s strong will to invest in inheritance from his father’s death, running a professional eSports organization was challenging. Additionally, some players and employees spoke about missing payments from Simon.
When they dissolved the company, former Team SoloMid manager and entrepreneur Jack Etienne bought the roster for only $15,000. A few years and events later, C9 was spreading onto more titles. They were present in Smite, Super Smash Bros., CS: GO, Halo, and more.
Cloud9’s Acquisition of CS: GO Team compLexity Gaming
From the strategic move made in CS: GO, we are now sure about Jack Etienne’s expertise and the feeling for the industry.
Back in 2014, during EMS One: Katowice, Jack was blown away with the roster from compLexity gaming. As soon as he saw their performance and cooperation, he wanted to take over that team.
Luckily for him, that was the time when the contract with compLexity was about to end. He made an intelligent move, offering the roster better working conditions. The proposal was too good to miss, and the entire roster took the colors of Cloud9.
Cloud9 CS: GO Roster’s Trial Run
The first big challenge under the name of Cloud9 was ESL One in Cologne in 2014. The team was in the top 8 in the previous competition, and they automatically had their spots secured in the Legends stage.
The group stage was a relatively easy job, and they placed into the Playoffs without losses. The biggest challenge came with the tournament’s favorite, Ninjas in Pyjamas. As they were in the Quarterfinals, they needed to show an A-game.
The first map was a success for C9, beating NiP with 16-8. Although Nuke was safe ground for NiP, Cloud9 went into the decisive win.
The second map was pretty balanced, yet in the end, NiP took the lead, winning the entire match with a score of 16-14. Since the result was 1-1, the following map was crucial. Unfortunately, the third map was unsuccessful for C9, as they lost with the same score from the previous round.
The Authentic Cloud9 Regime
The success behind Cloud9 isn’t connected with the great selection of players only.
Together with his wife, Paullie Etienne, Jack is famous for his rigorous regime regarding players’ lifestyles. In other words, the training plan and program aren’t any different from a pro football player’s regime.
For example, some of their rosters are under “internet curfew.” The internet is cut every night at 2:15 for them to have a decent rest for the following day.
Additionally, there is a range of athlete’s benefits for their youngsters. If one ends up in Cloud9, they will get numerous benefits beyond the great responsibility. For example, each of their players has an individual meal plan, a team of trainers, and private healthcare/retirement plans.
3. FaZe Clan – The Best of Entertainment in the eSports Industry
Perhaps the most exciting story on the list comes from this American FPS-oriented organization. Nowadays, you might be familiar with their Call of Duty, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Rainbow Six or PUBG rosters.
Or you’ve heard about some of the numerous controversies connected with this catchy name. Starting in 2015, there were certain speculations and legal issues with team FaZe.
Yet the heat was high in 2019 when the famous Fortnite player Turner “Tfue” Tenney sued FaZe for taking over 80% of his revenue from sponsors. The situation was getting more and more complicated, as both sides were opening one lawsuit after another. Furthermore, there was an ongoing lawsuit both in New York and California.
Yet as the conclusion, they settled the lawsuits, perhaps with a mutual agreement.
However, none of these is as impressive as the real start of FaZe back in 2010.
FaZe Sniping – YouTubers with a bright future in the world of eSports
The big debut happened on May 30, 2010. That was the time when the idea and the YouTube channel were born.
Even before the idea of a professional team, three founding players created a YouTube clan named FaZe Sniping.
The idea was to create and publish videos with astonishing trickshotting in Call Of Duty. The FaZe Sniping content was evolving with time, leading to general lifestyle content.
As their recordings were fascinating, they gained tremendous popularity back in the day. The content was a combination of the previously mentioned hardcore yet fun gaming and trickshotting, together with lifestyle, vlogger-like videos.
In the following years, the YouTube channel gained tremendous popularity, opening the opportunity for a team to develop. As expected, with newly acquired resources and popularity, the team started opening franchises in other competitive titles.
FaZe Clan in the CS: GO world
Although the core of FaZe has always been Call of Duty, they made notable success in other shooters as well. One of their best performing rosters was in CS: GO.
Even from the start in 2016, FaZe was considered as a Tier 1 Counter-Strike team. The first roster that played under their name were former G2 players. They played in most top-league tournaments, and their first big event was DreamHack Open Leipzig 2016.
During that tournament, they started well, yet the vicious Na’Vi destroyed them without any chances for a comeback. Besides their failure in the match, they proved to beat already stable, top-performing teams at that time.
FaZe Clan All-Stars Team
Since the guys behind the entire idea weren’t satisfied with the team’s performance, they decided to make significant changes. Additionally, frequent roster changes aren’t a strange factor for FaZe.
The first significant improvement started with the famous karrigan from Astralis. At that time, he was definitely among the smartest CS: GO players in the world. With such a guy on the roster, they were ready to go big.
However, they didn’t settle down the roster like that. A breakthrough happened when they included three additional, huge names from the industry.
In August 2017, FaZe signed contracts with Nikola “NiKo” Kovač, Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer Gustafsson and Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovács. Those were contenders for the world’s best player titles and some of the most promising names in CS: GO. Some even consider this roster as the best CS: GO formation of all time.
Accordingly, this was a real era of dominance for the FaZe Clan. Just in the first year after assembling the crew, they won 3 titles and were in 7 finals, out of the total ten international tournaments where they were present.
Consequently, the flawless victory happened at ESL New York 2017. The all-star team won a tournament without losing a single map whatsoever. Moreover, only one opponent managed to go over the number 10 on the scoreboard during the entire event.
Finally, as their most tremendous success, they finally beat their old rival, Team Liquid.
Tournament after tournament, major after major, FaZe Clan remains among the best teams in CS: GO, even nowadays. As most of their all-star roster is still under contract, there’s no reason for them to give a bad performance.
Top 10 eSports Teams of all Times – as Measured in Tournament Earnings
In 2020, the gaming industry boosted profits through in-game purchases and subscription plans by over 21% compared to the same period in the previous year.
Also, some of the biggest names in gaming are pairing up with major hardware manufacturers, event organizations, big guys from the entertainment industry, business, etc.
Additionally, there is a considerable number of singers, actors, entrepreneurs and successful guys from Silicon Valley who want to take part in eSports. This seems to be a lucrative field and a prospering opportunity for the future.
Therefore, picking the top 3, 5, or 10 teams in the entire eSports industry is definitely a challenging task. In fact, it is almost impossible.
That’s just because the total profit goes far beyond the official events. According to pro players and organization managers, the majority of profits comes through sponsorships.
However, in this list, we’ll focus only on official tournament earnings. So here goes the list of top 10 eSports organisations, sorted by prize money earnings on official events:
- Team Liquid $35,701,224
- OG $33,943,233
- Evil Geniuses $24,263,698
- Fnatic $15,729,227
- Virtus.pr $14,415,574
- Newbee $14,225,385
- Vici Gaming $13,084,345
- Team Secret $12,076,278
- Invictus Gaming $11,669,190
- Natus Vincere $11,279,585
Besides Team Liquid as the proud #1 spot holder, the other two teams we spoke about didn’t make it to the top 10.
Cloud9 is in 12th place with $9,926,035 earned, and with slightly lower earnings at $9,203,168, FaZe Clan is in 16th place.
Very few know that the first teams in the eSports field were born around the 80s or even 70s. However, big names started spreading in the last ten years.
In this guide, we took as an example three of the teams that made history. What’s interesting about them is that they all come from entirely different backgrounds. That’s for sure an additional factor and the reason why we, together with millions of enthusiasts around the world, love eSports.
This is definitely not the same area as traditional sports. In gaming, you don’t have training schools and camps for youngsters like in football or basketball. There’s no Real Madrid or Manchester United.
However, as the industry is taking a big share in the overall market, it looks like eSports will become just like that one day.
Yet until we see that happening, there will be many enthusiasts turning into professional teams, just like the FaZe Clan’s breakthrough.
Additionally, there will be a handful of scouts with sharp eyes and a feel for entrepreneurship. They will come at the right time and raise the falling teams from ashes. And yes, we’re referring to Jack Etienne and the story about Cloud9.
And in the end, there will be millions of enthusiasts with great ideas. Most of them will start as non-profit organizations. The final goal won’t be money or fame. The plan will be the spread of influence and passion for the game. And from that enthusiastic standpoint, the energy and willpower will find a way to the no.1 spot.