ALGS 2022 Championship stage.
Image via Joe Brady

ALGS veteran warns of “harsh reality” of what pro esports salaries look like

There's only so much room at the top, and it's not always comfortable.

Pro players at the top tier of the major esports seem to have it pretty good, with most able to live comfortably between their salaries, winnings, and other sources of revenue. But one Apex Legends pro wants any aspiring players to be realistic about what many consider a dream job.

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Pro player Will “TeQ” Starck says that over four years, he has made “around $70K” from playing Apex Legends professionally, between team contracts, tournament winnings, and streaming revenue. As TeQ notes though, this averages at roughly $1,500 a month, which he says would put him near the US poverty line (which is currently $15K a year for an individual) if playing Apex was his only job.

TSM celebrates the 2023 ALGS Championship on stage.
Winning means more than a trophy. It means stability. Image by Joe Brady.

TeQ, who is also a full-time aerospace engineer according to his Twitch page, never qualified for any major Apex LAN events, but he has still been a consistent presence in the North American ALGS Pro League for several years, and was contracted by two major organizations at some point, with FURIA as a player and with Sentinels as a coach (albeit for a short period, and it’s unclear if TeQ was ever formally signed by Sentinels). But even as a consistent presence in a top regional league, he averaged less than $20K in income a year from just playing Apex.

While he considered leaving his full-time job, TeQ says he’s glad he stayed, and warned others of how hard it can be if the grind doesn’t pay off. “When time has gone by and you do not realistically have much to show for it, it can be difficult to play catch up in the real world,” he wrote. “I try to stay connected with former pros and a lot of them are struggling with finding not only jobs, but long lasting careers that can give them any sort of financial stability.”

Even reaching that highest tier of a major esport doesn’t come with any guarantees. Despite winning a world championship in VALORANT, Evil Geniuses says it was unable to continue paying the entire roster at their salaries going into 2024, forcing the organization to move most of the players to new teams. According to the VCT rulebook, the minimum player salary is $50,000 per year, below the cost of living in Los Angeles where they play.

Esports and streaming are very alike in that a few people make a lot of money, a few more make some money, but most people trying to get to that top tier struggle just to make enough to get buy. This doesn’t mean you should give up on your dream, but as TeQ says, “there comes a time where you have to be realistic with your dreams.”


Update April 12 11:35am CT: The original version of this article cited reports that Evil Geniuses forced pay cuts on members of its VALORANT roster. Evil Geniuses states these reports are untrue.


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Author
Scott Robertson
VALORANT lead staff writer, also covering CS:GO, FPS games, other titles, and the wider esports industry. Watching and writing esports since 2014. Previously wrote for Dexerto, Upcomer, Splyce, and somehow MySpace. Jack of all games, master of none.