The $600,000 mark has been broken.
The first player in Counter-Strike history to reach $600,000 in prize money earnings is 29-year-old Filip "NEO" Kubski according to esportsearnings.com. He was pushed over the hefty number after Virtus.pro -- the No. 3-ranked team in the WWG CS:GO Team Rankings -- claimed first place finish at DreamHack Masters Las Vegas where it bested No. 2 SK Gaming.
DreamHack Masters was NEO's 167th event in the Counter-Strike series.
While Virtus.pro holds the top five spots, SK's Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo holds spot No. 6 with $445,084.76 total earned in prize money throughout his career.
The players of Virtus.pro from most to least in prize money earnings:
Filip "NEO" Kubski: $600,569.85
Wiktor "TaZ" Wojtas: $596,809.85
Jarosław "pashaBiceps" Jarząbkowski: $498,944.67
Paweł "byali" Bieliński: $449,072.49
Janusz "Snax" Pogorzelski: $445,412.05
Total roster earnings throughout Counter-Strike careers: $2,590,808.91
$2.5 million dollars is a lot of money, but let's also take into account these players generally have other forms of income. The addition of respectable salaries for a majority of pro teams, sponsorship money, sticker profits, streaming, and more could probably push that number to $3 million or more for the Polish team. Not too bad for some guys playing video games, right?
How far has esports come in terms of its viability has a career? Let's take a look at how much NEO made in his professional debut, earning prize money in 2004. NEO brought in a grand total of $2,661.91 in prize money in 2004. His total in 2016? $190,277.64. Two months into 2017 and the Polish star has netted $110,000.00, on a solid path to break last year's record.
The Polish legends highest career earnings prior to Counter-Strike: Global Offensives release came in 2007 when he brought in $27,391.09.
Comparing 2004 to 2016 would see NEO make $187,615.73 more in prize money alone. Add in that players received a miniscule salary if any at all up until recently along with lower sponsorship money, and no streaming platforms and we have seen competitive gaming go from a hobby that could add pennies in the grand scheme of things even if you were a legend to paying more than triple what that of the average freshly out of college student with a bachelor's degree in engineering makes in a year ($64,891 in 2016 according to Time.com).
Before you run and tell mom and dad you want to be a professional Counter-Strike player, remember that not everyone who sets out to become the next Christiano Ronaldo does so. A real close look and a reality check is needed before you choose to pursue the same path as NEO and a backup plan is never out of consideration. Much like that of traditional sports, there will come a time when your vision, reflexes, and hand-eye coordination does not keep up with the level required to compete at the top level and you must be smart to plan accordingly.
Now, go tell mom and dad they don't have to drive you to that baseball practice anymore, you're better at Counter-Strike anyway.
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