What is an eSports Gamer’s Career Length? [and Why do Most Retire Early?]

Why do eSports Player retire so early?

There is a growing consensus in recent times eSports is also a sport and like other sports, eSports players are athletes. As a result it’s necessary to compare the careers of eSports gamers with other sporting athletes and one of the first questions which is asked as a result is about the length of an eSports player’s career and the reasons behind its short career. That and more information around what can eSports players do once the gaming aspect is over in our educative piece below.


eSports offers a viable career path, especially for young people. Just like any other professional career, eSports also requires people to devote their time to it.

However, many people have held the belief eSports is not constructive, is a waste of time, and not valuable to the players’ career development.

The negative connotation associated with ‘video-gaming’ has held people back but with the eSports industry beginning to gain traction in recent times, there is something that is beginning to grow to be a bother; the short career-lengths of eSports gamers.

How long is an eSports gamer’s career length? Retiring in the mid-20s is the norm in eSports and this has been the routine for some time. That means an eSports player has just about six to eight years in the game, and that’s if such player recognized and join a professional team at an early age.

Everybody would think that eSports, a game played behind computers rather than on the pitch or court, would naturally empower for a long period and make a fruitful career.

However, unfortunately, this is not the case. There have been cases of star eSports gamers having finished up quite early. An American StarCraft professional known as Nick Taber, retired from eSports at age 20. Matthew “Burns” Potthoff retired at a tender age of 24.

Though there are others like Daigo Umehara, who are over 38 and still playing, most eSports professionals fade away once they get to their mid-20s.

With an average retirement age of 25, eSports seems pretty unsustainable, and leave players wondering what they can do following such a short gaming career.

Before we get to that however, it’s important to look into why eSports gamers retire at 25 years.

Why Do Gamers Retire at a Young Age?

There are multiple reasons why eSports gamers retire very early and do not have lengthy careers like other sporting professionals. They are:

  • Injuries like nerve-related ones, carpal tunnel, concussions among others
  • Stress-related issues
  • Financial reasons for the non-tier one players
  • High-demanding sport
  • Changing games
  • Lack of personal life

The long answer is there are several reasons why eSports doesn’t make a long career.

Stress-Related Issues in eSports are Many.
Stress-Related Issues in eSports are Many. Photo Credit: Matthew Henry on Unsplash

One of them is related to medical reasons. eSports is associated with devastating injuries, which include nerve damage, Achilles ruptures, Carpal Tunnel, concussions and repetitive stress among others, that bring a permanent stop to any a promising athlete.

For instance, Fear, a former Dota 2 professional, couldn’t participate in the 2014 international championship because he had a form of tennis elbow.

The second reason is financial. Most eSports players don’t make much money as only top gamers make big money. eSports is similar to the movie industry, where only the top 1% of the actors earns good money and the other 99% earning little.

As this trend continues, some players would realize that they may never become a top player and earn big but can make huge money outside of eSports. Hence, their retirement from eSports.

eSports is a game, yet it’s a job that demands dedication and devotion. To master a game and become a pro, most players play the same game every day for over 12 hours on a consistent basis.

For one, this can get anybody bored quickly, especially as they aren’t playing for fun but playing to win. Secondly, that also shows gamers have to endure a lot of stress to win before they can get paid.

Much like other non-sports professions boredom and stress can push over the edge and force them to resign.

Even when they have won and earned solid contracts, they stand the risk of losing that should their performance slips or a better player is found to replace them.

There is another reason; eSports games change.

Yes! New games surface after a few years, making older games stop getting media coverage or even redundant.

This causes the tournament prize money for older games to drop. As a result, gamers who were pro in the older games begin to earn lesser and may be forced to back out to seek a more lucrative career.

Sometimes, there may not be any more demand for older games and tournaments may cease to exist, also forcing players of older games, who have no assurance of being good at newer games, out of the industry.

Finally, eSports is very demanding as explained above and rarely leave an avenue for players to leave a normal, personal life. At some point, a player would want exactly that; go on dates, get married, have kids, and in general have the free time to do something on one’s own.

All these reasons make it tough for eSports players to sustain a longish career at most times.

Another pertinent question that may surface is when do eSports players go professional when they have just an average retirement age of 25?

When do eSports Players Go Professional?

As stated above, any player who has the mind of retiring early must also join a professional team at an early age. It is estimated that eSports players usually go professional between ages 16 and 18, and retire between ages 22 and 24.

Some recent studies on Starcraft and League of Legends showed that gamers were mostly between the ages of 17 and 19 and had been gaming for two to six years already. This shows that it takes at least a year or two to become a pro and eSports players go professional when they are between 16 and 19 years.

From these studies, it can be deduced that an eSports gamer’s career length is about five to 10 years on average and an eSports gamer can do a game or two by game career length for the top games. Though, one of the studies showed that the average career length for players is five years.

However, Starcraft and League of Legends seem to have lower average ages and shorter careers length than other eSports like CS:GO, FGC, and Dota, who have professional gamers who have been gamers for a long time.

As eSports players have a very short time to become a pro, they require substantial hours of practice. This takes us to the next consideration.

What are the Hours of Practice for eSports Games?

eSports players are required to put in many long hours of practice to become a pro, sometimes even 12-16 hours; this shows how the world of eSports is both mentally and physically demanding.

To remain a professional gamer, top gamers, who are mostly in their teens, had to play for at least 12 to 14 hours daily for six days weekly, according to Richard Lewis. This makes eSports gamers burn out even faster than athletes.

With an average eSports gaming career lasting between four to five years and gamers having just an average retirement age of 25, it is important to note that these “mid-twenties” must find new ways of making ends meet.

What do eSports Players do After They Retire?

Hanging up the Joystick comes early for eSports players
Hanging up the Joystick comes early for eSports players. Photo Credit: Nikita Kachanovsky on Unsplash

Foremost, there are several other career paths for former pro gamers who want to remain in the gaming line. For instance, top eSports gamers can become analysts or coaches at eSports teams or even the most exciting of them all, shoutcasters.

Former eSports gamers can also end up becoming organizers of eSports events.

Another lucrative avenue for former eSports, especially those with a solid and huge fan base, is to become a “live-streamer.” Live-streamers are gamers who broadcast their gameplays online via streaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube.

Note that being a streamer can also be tough as a streamer has to play well and give entertaining commentary as he plays. Some of the other job roles which can be considered by retired eSports players are mentioned here.

Is eSports a Good or Viable Career Worth Considering?

Yes, eSports gaming is a viable career as long as you have a proper plan for it. As eSports gaming is growing in popularity, it is creating some more viable careers.

There are several careers in the eSports industry and even more careers are emerging as eSports is becoming more popular. We have written an exhaustive guide on more than 20 career options (here) related to eSports which are available that should allow fans of eSports to not get dissuaded by the aforementioned issues.

Some of these include:

  • Professional Players (obviously!)
  • Hosting or Shoutcasting
  • Coaching
  • Content Creation
  • Marketing
  • Live-streaming
  • Social Media Managing and a few others.

Professional gaming is the most lucrative career in eSports, followed by live-streaming.

However, planning is essential to excess in the eSports industry. Planning involves setting the amount of time to spend on practice and playing, the number of years to spend in the industry, and thinking about life after eSports.

Most gamers who failed to plan ended up failing (running into bankruptcy) and blamed their failure on the inefficiencies in eSports rather than on their failure to plan.

Seth Suncho

A former gamer, I now try to help those looking to make it in the field of gaming and eSports.

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