China Economics: Player Salaries

To the far east, is one of the fastest growing eSportmarkets globally. The figures are out out, and people hear about million dollar contracts for LOL/DOTA2 players to play competitive games.

Photo via Stephanie Lindgren


To the far east, is one of the fastest growing eSport markets globally. The figures are out out, and people hear about million dollar contracts for LOL/DOTA2 players to play competitive games. In fact, a lot of these players are making 10x, 100x more than what prize money and the like are offering. In a world where so little information comes out, how do these players actually make their money and survive?

First of all, most players live in team houses where all their needs are catered for. 

Secondly, all competitive gamers in China work full time, just as any other employee would.

A quick breakdown of income for most players.

  • Signing bonus, when transferring clubs
  • Monthly salary
  • Individual streaming contracts
  • Prizepool

Signing Bonus ($$)

So you want to sign Uzi, Burning or some other famous player to your team. Well you’re going to have to fork up between 100K RMB – 3M RMB depending on the player. That’s on top of any contract buy-out fees required if the player is already at another Club.

In China, there’s always going to be a rich guy willing to give a player a signing bonus, and the only question is how much? Top Tier players should expect 1M RMB+ or at least 160,000USD just to move to another club.

Depending on the Club, the player might receive all that money upfront, the day he/she arrives, or the value is amortised across a period of 12 – 24 months based upon the contract length. There are obvious pros and cons to both however, I want to make this article as neutral as possible so I won’t be going into that.

Monthly Salary ($)

So if you’re just entering the eSport market, maybe still playing the TGA tournaments, expect to pay between 2K – 4K RMB a month per player. Of course you’ll be covering their living expense (team house) and equipment, but overall the barrier to entry is quite low. Rumour has it that academy Korean players moving to china can expect 10K RMB a month, but I believe that’s just outliers.

In terms of T1 players, the general market rate is between 10K RMB – 30K RMB based on star power, and previous results. 

Streaming Contracts ($$$)

Ah, streaming contracts, the bane of eSports Club’s existence. Unlike the west, Chinese streaming platforms will give players an upfront salary to stream on the platform. Basically, “stream 40 hours = $$$”. Doesn’t matter about viewers, doesn’t matter about numbers. As long as you stream, you get your money. 

For top tier chinese players, this can amount to sums of over 1M RMB a year of extra income. Platforms in attempt to woo the very best/famous players have offered contracts of over 1M USD a year to stream for X amount of hours a month. 

Prizepool ($ – $$$)

Finally, prizepool sharing. Depending on the game, namely DOTA2, the prizepools can be very lucrative for players. Last year, Newbee’s players each walked away with a cool 1 Milliion USD (minus tax) after TI4. Top tier clubs may or may not do revenue sharing with the players, but typically values between 0% and 20% are seen. 


As more eyes turn towards eSports, players are getting richer and richer. They’re also finding more and more avenues to earn money including things like sponsorship revenue sharing and spokesperson fees. Last year a certain player was doing spokesperson fees for close to 1.5Million USD / year thanks to his talented business team.

I imagine a tier 1 player’s annual take home package should be around 1 – 2Million RMB + extras which works out to be about 200K USD just to play the game. 

Edit: Just to clarify, when I use “just to play the game” it means income strictly associated with being a player. A lot of players have additional incomes outside of playing such as online stores, appearance fees, spokesperson fees.

In any case, hopefully this sheds more light into the cryptic world of the far east. 

China eSport Insider signing off…

Photo credits: JOSHUA BESSEX/SEATTLEPI.COM & Daderot