Meet Carlos "Ocelote" Rodriguez, a 23-year-old professional League of Legends player from Spain. He's closely identified with European team SK Gaming, where he's been a member since 2010 and currently serves as captain.
Ocelote plays middle lane for SK, a role often deemed the most important in League of Legends, where teams try to shove down defensive towers in three different lanes, the middle being a key focal point.
And he makes an obscene amount of money.
Ocelote was recently interviewed by Spanish newspaper ABC where he spoke candidly about his pay over the past year.
"I do not know if I should say. Well, do me a favor and put it in a way that does not seem arrogant, because really I'm not... because only the merchandising income is half a million euros a year easy. That's like 70 percent of the total, since I have to add my salary I earn in tournaments, the streaming of my games and what I get from personal sponsors. In total I earn between €600,000 and €700,000 annually. But now is the time to save and help the family."
That translates to between $820,000 and $950,000.
Ocelote isn't exactly ordinary. He's been described jokingly as the "David Beckham of eSports," a not entirely inaccurate description. He's built himself into a brand, which allows him to make so much off of merchandise at his online shop. Well-spoken, good-looking, he's a prominent face and voice for eSports and beloved by fans in Europe and around the world.
Still, he and his team SK Gaming hardly dominate the competitive world. They're very good, sure. But in season three of the League of Legends World Championship, they failed to qualify for the world stage, losing to European rivals Gambit Gaming and Evil Geniuses.
Clearly, you don't even need to be the best player or on the best team to make serious money in eSports (though it's worth pointing out that League of Legends is by far the most profitable game in the industry). It takes a strong personal brand and good business sense to maximize on your own popularity. Ocelote seems to have found the perfect balance, where he's able to bring money from merchandising, sponsorship, gameplay streaming, and actual winnings—the last of which probably accounts for the smallest percentage of the total.
For now, Ocelote might be the exception and not the rule. But as eSports continues its extraordinary growth, how long until we see someone who really is making David Beckham-type money?
Screengrab via IntelExtremeMasters/YouTube