Many students and aspiring professionals have asked me if esports is a good career path.
Is esports a good career? Esports currently has limited career development opportunities. However, the total number of jobs in esports grew by 87% in 2019 and the industry’s total revenue is increasing by 23% annually on average. For these reasons, you can expect esports to grow in opportunities, demands and salaries exceptionally until about 2025.
This article focuses on general careers in esports and excludes specifically acting as a professional player or content creator. We will look at the contrast between an esports job and a normal career, and the pros and cons of working in esports.
Comparing a Career in Esports vs Traditional Industries
Working in esports is not exceptionally different than most traditional industries. That said, there are some key distinctions in the culture, the type of workload, the opportunities and the benefits.
In this section, we will go through all those different elements. As a quick overview, these are the following elements that make esports different from traditional industries:
- Working in esports provides the opportunities to work with players, content creators, streamers and celebrities
- Esports due to its international and fast-paced nature may require certain employees, specifically working for esports teams, to work overnight or be required at work at completely random times
- Individuals working in esports almost always need to keep up with esports news, updates, developments and new business practices as the industry rapidly develops and matures
- Esports has a select number of industry-specific jobs such as esports team owners, esports analysts, esports tournament organizers, etc
- The number of told esports career positions currently are of a lower quantity than most other traditional industry
Let’s dive more into each of these points below!
Engagement with Players, Content Creators and Celebrities
One of the greatest unique selling propositions esports as an industry has to recruit prospective esports professionals is the fact that they get to work with, for or are an authority to esports players, content creators, streamers and general celebrities.
This is very unique in esports and depending on your specific job requirements, some individuals work with these subsets of people on a daily basis.
Esports team managers have to work with their contracted players and content creators on a weekly or sometimes daily basis. Not to mention they need to have continual conversations with new esports players and content creators to see if they can recruit them for their team.
Tournament organizers need to manage participating players and roles as low as bracket managers even get the opportunity to speak directly with these players.
For example, I got the opportunity to act as a bracket manager for Redmercy’s esports team during the SKL League of Legends Canadian Nationals (I ended up even speaking to one of the players on Discord). The image you see below is one I took while joining as a spectator to their lobby.
If I was working professionally as a tournament organizer, I’d get other cool opportunities like that as I run tournaments. I had a colleague of mine who had that very opportunity during some of Redbull’s tournaments as a contracted TO for them.
Overnight Work and Working at Random Hours
The esports industry for better or for worst is an online-based industry. As a result, opportunities and business moves are taking place 24 hours a day.
For organizations to compete, they sometimes need to have employees during work at unfavorable hours like during the night even after working a normal day shift when opportunities arise.
For example, I have this colleague who acted as a team operations manager and they occasionally get a call from their boss in the middle of the night because their boss wants to lock down a certain player before other teams get to them.
In more traditional industries, this is never really the case because it doesn’t matter when you work on your production line or write that line of code, as long as it’s done that’s all that matters. In esports, however, everything is a competition.
Esports teams are fighting for viewers over other esports teams and trying to acquire the best players. Tournament organizers are also fighting for viewers and trying to establish themselves as the best to benefit their game and brand.
Keeping Up-to-Date on All Esports Developments
Speaking of working outside of work, esports as an industry is moving exceptionally fast and with 20 different things happening at once. As the industry thrives off of drama, excitement and viewership, esports professionals need to keep up with all the changes.
Easily my current favorite podcast for keeping up with the esports industry is The Esports Minute, providing daily 2 minute updates on major esports news. It becomes super easy for someone busy like myself who doesn’t follow esports otherwise to sit down for 2 minutes (I watch in 2x speed, so more like 1 minute) and catch up on what’s big. I also weekly would listen to the list of other podcasts I’m listening to, all mentioned on the resources page of the site.
Computer scientists think they have it bad with keeping up with changes to their industry, since esports is blowing up, laws and regulating bodies are just recently entering the scene and new esports titles are growing and dying, professionals need to keep up and keep themselves on their toes.
Unlike most traditional industries, esports has a handful of industry-specific jobs that aren’t easily transferred over from other industries other than the sports industry.
These include jobs such as esports team owners, esports analysts, esports tournament organizers and many more.
Credit to Nico Besombes.
That all said, esports also has a slew of traditional job positions and there is nothing wrong with taking those. In fact, there are more overall traditional job opportunities than industry-specific jobs.
Pros of Working in Esports
Now that you know the dichotomy between esports and traditional sports, we can now start to look at the pros and cons of esports careers.
Firstly, let’s start off with the pros.
Opportunity to Speak or Work With Your Favorite Streamers and Content Creators
We already touched on this before, but the biggest reason I’ve heard why people want to work in esports is the ability to work with their favorite content creator.
This sounds like such a cool prospect and I’ll admit, it’s fairly cool to work with different content creators. When I was working in Lazarus Esports, I had the opportunity to speak with a number of different content creators and it honestly was cool.
Apart Of an Organization in an Industry You Love and Enjoy
Many people spend countless hours each day gaming and watching their favorite tournament streams. Some people obsess over different players and teams. Now imagine your pass-time coinciding with your work-life.
That’s what getting a job in esports really is. Although it still is work, you are still filling out paperwork and still need to clock in your hours, you know deep down that this is a contribution to the overall industry.
Any one of these parties contributes to esports. Credit to Harry Alford.
What’s more exciting is when you are working for an esports team or tournament-organizing service and you are watching a tournament unfold. You know you created that, either from the player side or the TOing side.
It’s just super exciting to be in, undoubtedly.
Career and Industry Scalability Opportunities
As we mentioned, the industry averages a 30% growth rate annually. The growth rate is slowing down each year, but that’s only because a 30% growth rate on a billion-dollar industry is insane.
The industry still is leaving a lot of money on the table from monetization, VR esports, new game genres and much more. As a result, there’s still a lot more someone can earn from a career as their company starts to scale and make more money.
And as the industry further grows, the best skills will be paid a significant amount. By continuously learning and growing in specific skills in esports, you can climb the latter and hopefully in the near future make a fairly decent income.
Entrepreneurial and Consulting Opportunities
Lastly, as you develop your portfolio in esports and understand how the industry works, you can look into entrepreneurial or consulting endeavors.
Esports is full of consulting and entrepreneurial opportunities, especially as it’s growing the way it is and everyone is talking about the industry.
As it grows, new problems need to be solved, new expertise needs to come in and new services need to be created.
Cons of Working in Esports
Now that we discussed the pros of working on esports, I’d be doing an injustice by not covering the cons.
So where we have it, here are the real cons the esports industry is experiencing that make it unattractive to get a job in esports.
Lacklustre Number of Jobs
Right off the bat, the elephant in the room is the number of jobs. As we mentioned, the number of jobs is growing at an exponential rate, but currently the numbers aren’t very favorable.
This also matters based on where you live. For example, if you are in Canada and don’t live in Vancouver, Toronto or Quebec City, your chances of finding readily available esports jobs are exceptionally low.
Esports is very different from an ecosystem standpoint than sports. We have platforms like Twitch for content creation, platforms like Battlefy for tournament organizing, services like ESL for tournament organizing and they all rely on games.
These games are all owned by for-profit companies and they own all the rights to all the assets.
These organizations that own all the rights also have the ability to turn companies like Battlefy or Twitch out of business if they starve them from using any IP whatsoever.
Will that happen? Possibly. All these companies want the most amount of profit possible. If by constraining who gets access to the IP, the game publishers can make more money, they will do that.
Only time will tell what will happen in the near future.
Automation of Jobs
As technology grows and esports becomes more sophisticated, jobs especially easier jobs such as esports tournament organizing (non-tier-1 and non-event-organizing) and esports analysts may start to become more and more automated to the point where fewer and fewer employees will be needed for those positions.
Typically these types of jobs will still need a few people filling in the shoes, such as a single esports analyst, but it’s not going to be the numbers we see now.
Current Salaries for Non-Tier 1 Positions
All the money in esports is in the tier 1 scene. Currently, if you are working anywhere outside the tier 1 brackets or benefiting directly from tier 1 metrics, you likely aren’t making an amazing amount of money.
Exceptions would be services and tools that cater to fans. And this isn’t a golden rule, there are a lot of companies that are doing well and paying well outside tier-1 esports. But the general rule of thumb is that all the money is in tier 1 and your future goals for employment would be to work in tier 1 esports.
As you can see, esports careers really depend on the amount of risk you want to take as the industry progresses and grows.