Becoming a professional gamer and getting paid for competing in esports competitions… It’s what dreams are made of.
However, it’s not as easy as spending a few hours playing one of your favorite video games each day and waiting for the money to start rolling in.
Professional gaming is extremely challenging and it’s a rough road to the top. Without discipline and a lot of practice, the chance of you going pro is small.
Out of the millions of people that play League of Legends, Dota2, CS:GO, Valorant, and various other popular esports games, there will be only a small percentage of gamers that can play games professionally.
Nonetheless, you may be feeling extremely motivated to find out how to become a professional gamer even if the odds for it are stacked against you.
Why do you want to become a professional gamer?
Find your answer and it will help you get through the rigorous training needed to reach your goal.
Definition of a professional gamer
Professional gamers, also called esports players are people who play video games full-time and get income from the organization (team) as compensation.
The income often consists of the revenue streams from monthly salary payments, sponsorship, and potential tournament prize money when competing in esports tournaments around the world.
Many such tournaments like Intel Extreme Masters offer massive cash prizes for the winners and can make up a large percentage of a professional gamer’s income.
How do you become a professional gamer? The top 10 best advice
Pick the right game and stick to it
The first step you need to take when trying to become a professional gamer is to pick the right game.
To become a pro gamer, you need to focus on one game for years to ensure you become good enough to compete professionally.
Something that’s worth considering too is whether the game you pick already has a lot of esports competitions or whether it’s still up and coming. Picking a newer game like Valorant or Apex Legends that are just starting to offer professional competitions could give you a better chance of succeeding.
Games like League of Legends, Starcraft 2, and CS:GO have been around for a long time, so the competition is intense. There are many players who have been competing professionally for years, which will make it more difficult for you to make it to the top.
Be smart about what game you choose to give yourself the best chance of succeeding.
Get the right gear – it makes a huge difference on a top-level
Training with the same gear that you will be using in a few years when you’re competing professionally is important.
Not only will the right gear help you get an advantage over others, but it also helps you get the best experience possible while playing games.
A few milliseconds can be the difference between thousands of dollars and nothing at all.
Although your gear may seem less important when you first start out, as you become better, you’ll start to see a big difference between players with the right gear and players who are still using the standard controllers and keyboards that came with their device.
For more, read out review about what are the best gaming mice.
Adjust configs and graphic settings on your gaming setup
Many of the games played on a pro-level offer a lot of customization options.
Top-level pros are constantly experimenting with their in-game resolution, crosshairs, and video settings among other things.
Thankfully, a lot of the experimental work done by professional gamers can be copied by finding their config files online. So for example, if you want to check out how CS:GO professional s1mple plays, you can easily go ahead and download his settings from prosettings.net with just a few clicks.
But do not rely solely on pro settings! It’s important to find settings that work best for you and your PC setup, so you need to keep trying out new things.
Practice, practice, practice!
So, you’ve picked your game and have the right gear and settings to compete with. Great!
Now it’s time to start practicing.
Deliberate practice (with emphasis on deliberate) is what’s going to help you improve quickly and effectively. It’s not just about playing for 6-8 hours each day, but about training for 6-8 hours each day.
Set goals for yourself, map out what you need to do and how you need to perform to be able to compete professionally.
Draw up a training schedule and get to work!
The more you play, especially the more you play against players better than you, the better you’ll get. However, there’s one more aspect of deliberate practice we decided to cover separately and it brings us to the next point…
Continuously study the game by watching others
Study professional players, their techniques, and how they get their edge.
Don’t focus on just one either, make sure you watch various professional players to ensure you get a good understanding of the different things you can do to get an edge over your future competitors.
Study the game too!
The more you know about the game, the movement patterns, the timings, and every other aspect of the game, the better your chances of being able to compete.
Every little bit of information could give you an edge, so it’s important to understand you’re playing games to compete and not playing for fun. Study the game and players as best you can.
The more you know about professional gaming practices, the better your chances.
Connect with other players on communication and esports platforms
You need people around you to train with, to give you feedback, and support you on your journey.
If you can find other people who want to become professional gamers too, even better! Even if they’re not quite on your level yet, it can be far more valuable to have someone around you that takes the game just as seriously as you do than having someone who’s better than you but only plays for fun.
Apps like Discord as well as various streaming sites are great for networking with other gamers.
Playing online is also a great way of finding others who take the game more seriously. Don’t hesitate to add a nice teammate you find from a practice game to your friend’s list. Next time you see the person online, send an invite to play together again!
Improving your network will not only help you to train and get feedback, but it can also open doors to professional opportunities later down the line. If a friend of yours goes pro, you now have a pro friend that can help make introductions or help teach you best practices.
It’s not always the best players that end up making it. Sometimes, those with a better network get there quicker! And as addition, being a part of a community will keep you more motivated.
Join a team and start competing in small tournaments
You don’t have to be a professional gamer to join a team and attend local gaming events.
In fact, all the pros you know today have started their career by grinding local small tournaments in their gaming community and events online.
This is what now one of the most well-known CS:GO pro ropz said in an HLTV interview back in 2017 when joining his first professional team Mousesports.
I believe FPL was made to discover new talents, so as a system it is working great. I am not the first person to get such opportunities through FPL, there have been many others.
Being in a team of other players who are as focused as you in competitive gaming is one of the best things you can do as up and coming player.
Diversify your income streams
Even if you know your dream is to compete in esports, it can be helpful to create some alternate streams of income for yourself.
The fact of the matter is, that only the very top professional gamers live solely off their winnings and salaries.
Esportsearnings.com’s Top 100 Highest Overall Earnings list reveals that there have been only about a hundred players across all the different esports titles who’ve been able to reach 1 million dollars in total tournament earnings. The list does not, of course, reveal players’ full earnings, as while presenting different esports organizations players do have money flowing in from different sources such as:
- Monthly salary from the esports organization.
- Tournament winnings.
- Sponsorship deals.
- Streaming or Youtube ad revenue.
You as a potential up-and-coming future esports star can get involved in streaming, start a YouTube channel, and start looking for other creative ways you can monetize your gaming. This will help provide you with more stable earnings, but also comes with some added benefits too.
YouTube as a social channel and various streaming sites are great for engaging with fans. If you manage to get a few thousand regular viewers, you’ve started growing your network and exposure exponentially, as well as earned a few bucks in the process.
To get more ideas on how to diversify your income streams, it’s worth checking out our blog post on How to find a job in esports.
Become mentally strong and avoid tilt
Your mental stability is an important part of professional gaming. Avoiding tilt is important since no one performs well when frustrated.
However, conquering fear and improving your performance when under pressure are also important factors to your success.
Meditating can be a great way of getting to know yourself and improving your mental control, but there are plenty of other methods used by professional gamers to achieve this. Having proper nutrition, good social life, and exercise will improve mental focus and can help prevent burnout.
Practicing in high-pressure environments can also be a great test.
See what works for others and then find out what works best for you to get the best results.
Stay physically active when AFK
You might feel extremely excited and motivated to put in +10 hour game sessions day after day. But by doing so, you can be sure that it will take a toll on your overall physical well-being.
Mental and physical stability comes hand-in-hand, so it’s highly recommended to balance your life with general physical and fitness activities.
Doing weightlifting and cardio, together with a healthy nutrition plan will do wonders for your overall health. Physical activity will also help with preventing back and neck injuries, among other potential problems.
More on how to improve your mental performance in our article “How to Improve Mental Performance as a Gamer“
How much you can earn as a professional gamer?
In esports organizations, pro gamer salary can vary from 2,500 to +30,000EUR per month.
But because the income of players in the gaming industry comes from many different income streams, the difference in how much a gamer earns varies from one person to another.
British CS:GO pro player smooya revealed some of the salaries of CS:GO players in his stream:
There’s like 10 players who make 40,000EUR, and the next bracket of players make around 15,000-20,000EUR a month. NiKo and s1mple, they make more than 50,000EUR a month. But they deserve it.
As a pro gamer, the most valuable asset you can have is your personal brand.
When a pro player is widely recognized, it’s much easier to attract money from sponsors and skyrocket the earnings.
How many hours do pro gamers play?
A study from Limelight revealed that average gamers play video games between 6 and 7 hours per week.
Professional gamers, on the other hand, are playing to make a living so such a small amount of hours is not enough. Pro players play anywhere between 6 to 8 hours per day to keep themselves competitive on the professional scene.
Anywhere between six to eight hours a day. That’s what it takes if you even want a prayer of being a pro
How many professional gamers are there?
Esportsresults.com estimates that there are about 1000-1500 active full-time pro esports players, and about 20,000 semi-professionals right now. In addition, there have been several thousands of pro players who have retired and pursued their careers elsewhere.
Esportsearnings.com is tracking on their website the top 500 earning pro gamers from the last 365 days and also keep a yearly breakdown of the top players. The highest earners on this running 365-day list have been winning millions of dollars, and the ones in the bottom are well over 60,000USD.
It’s easier to find out how many players there are in total when checking the total amount of active players per game. These numbers contain both the professional and recreational player amounts.
What is a professional gamer’s career length?
In most cases, esports professionals are starting their careers young and retire in their late 20s.
Washington Post wrote a lengthy article, highlighting some of the reasons for such early retirement.
But when you’re in your 30s and 40s, you’ve got more real life responsibilities. You may have a family, you may have a kid, you may have stuff going on in your life. … I still love games, I still play games, but it’s not a priority for me
One big factor for jumping out from the competitive scene is the money to be made from streaming and video platforms. NA CS:GO/Valorant pro tarik being one of the latest examples, where he decided to turn down his promising Valorant gaming career and pursue streaming full time.
The amount of money pro streamers make can easily outweigh monthly salaries when being a part of an esports organization.
Should you be a professional gamer or a streamer?
Before planning your gaming career you must know what is the difference between being a professional esports player and a professional streamer.
Streamers do live broadcasts or upload videos to platforms like YouTube or Twitch for the growth of the audience of the channel. Instead of earning a steady income through sponsorship or team sponsorship, streamers make money via stream subscriptions, viewer donations, and ad revenue.
When being a streamer, you have exclusive control and flexibility to create your personal schedule. On the other hand, the viewers do expect you to have a somewhat regular streaming schedule.
A streamer career is a better option for gamers who prefer to avoid hectic tournament schedules and traveling, focus on creating content, and enjoy gaming in the comfort of their own homes.
There are a lot of things to consider when trying to become a pro gamer. It’s not all about the hours you put in, but also the quality of your practice sessions, your mental strength, and various other important factors.
Hopefully, this article has helped you get a better idea of what it takes to become a professional gamer, as well as what you can do to improve your chances of doing so. GL & HF!