If we’re talking salaries for players, what’s sustainable?

6 min read

Yesterday, Goliath Gaming came forward as a new South African Multi-gaming Organization. We’re used to seeing these sorts of things pop and up, and sometimes disappear, but what set Goliath Gaming apart was the legal arrangements involved with the players and the promise of a salary for members of their Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive teams. This means a number of things for esports in South Africa, and brings about an important question as to what is a “sustainable” salary for teams?


For clarity, sustainable would be being able to afford rent (living alone or with someone), paying bills, buying food, etc. Basically, everything you’d expect from a normal paying job with the hopes or not ending up homeless. Now, no figures for the Goliath Gaming teams have been made public, so for the sake of this peace let’s look at what would be a sustainable salary for a person in an esports team.

Rent is often a variant of where you’re situated. For example, Cape Town is hellishly expensive in the City Centre, while moving out to ‘burbs you’d pay a lot less for a flat/small apartment. The same would apply to Johannesburg where rent is slightly cheaper in the nicer areas, but again out in the neighbourhoods you’d pay around the same in Cape Town. Rent is a tough one because the place you live is often dictated by how much you earn, so as a safe bet let’s allocate around R3500 per month for rent, if you’re sharing with someone else. Some of the other important bills would of course be electricity (R500), internet (R500 if you’re sharing). Other utilities may come to around an extra R500 and then there’s food which will also vary depending on how much you’re willing to spend, but can be cut down to about R2000 a month. So we’re already at around R7000, and that’s just your basic expenses at estimated values. You’d still need medical aid, and all that so your final cost of living might come to about R10 000 per month, and that’s not including fun money.

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Let’s not forget the average gamer’s battlestation.

That would be a flat salary per month, and my estimates put it at around R10 000 per month. The important factor to take into mind is the model of payment the MGO is using. Some examples are MGOs taking 100% of the prize winnings, taking their percentage off the top and paying the winnings out each month in equal instalments to the teams. This would mean you’d get a basic (of R10 000) and earn whatever prize winnings you made from respective tournaments in that month. The only forseeable issue with this method is what if the Dota 2 team is losing everything, while the CS:GO team is winning? Dota 2 gets no money. And, that’s why that model is extremely risky. The second option is giving the teams their prize money after taking your cut and then they do with it what they please.

Last year I wrote an article about Bravado Gaming who had already made around R100 000 from CS:GO in 2016, each. If they had used a salary system that would mean each player would be making around the minimum of R10 000 per month, but they won pretty much everything. Bravado, despite being one of the bigger organizations in the country, have not given their players salaries. Instead the players earn the money they win – which works if you keep winning.

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Why is it important to discuss the sustainability of player salaries? Well,  Goliath Gaming is now publicly setting an example in which other teams might follow. They’re going to be under heavy scrutiny in the upcoming months as other players and teams watch them closely. If they struggle and don’t put up good results, other teams may turn around and say “why aren’t we getting paid?” If they do put up results other teams are going to turn around and say “look, they’re being paid to play and look how good they are.” Whichever the situation it’s safe to say that Goliath Gaming is going to be in the spotlight and under heavy observation from a number of organisations. The fact of the matter is we’re reaching that stage now where salaries need to be on the table, even if they’re small. Anything at this point is a good start for our growing industry.

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Last Updated: June 20, 2017

Kyle Wolmarans

Critical Hit’s esports guy. I talk about esports and drink whiskey. I also write and cast for elsewhere – but my work here is independent of that.

  • Galbedir

    As a Capetonian…R3500pm for rent? *throws head back* Hahahahahahahaha!!!!!

    • HvR

      I do not even think you can rent a wendy house in someone’s backyard for that.

      Know a single room granny flat in the northern burbs is going for R5000 already; can probably add another R2000 for a bachelor pad.

    • Alien Emperor Trevor

      To be fair, he did say if you’re sharing.

    • As somebody in JHB, even with sharing R3500 is on the minimum end.

      • miaau

        I rent out a small Granny flat for R4500 (includes Electrification), really not a big one at all.

        In Pretoria, but fairly close to Tuks.

  • HvR

    If would take a wild guess Goliath is going to offer close to basic minimum wage plus expenses and prize winnings minus a management fee.

  • Alien Emperor Trevor

    And don’t forget, that’s AFTER tax. If you’re earning your living this way, the tax man is also due his cut. You also didn’t include any kind of transportation costs.

    • Craig “CrAiGiSh” Dodd

      I hate the tax man so much …

  • Chuckles von Clausewitz III

    Can you even survive on R10 000 a month… ? Sheesh!

    (*Yes, salty SJWs of the internet, I am aware that the vast majority of South Africans do just that, some even “survive” on less than R2500 a month; but we’re not talking about the impoverished masses, we’re talking about middle-class GAMERS, with middle-class appetites and needs)

    • miaau

      Yes, it is possible. I know two people in my family doing it. It is not easy, but is possible, in Pretoria, in the suburbs. The biggest trick is learning how to stretch it properly AND rent is the biggest single expense.

      Also, they have cars that are paid off, which is, I think, pretty much what makes this possible.

  • Zoe Hawkins

    R2000 for food? what world are you living in? Maybe if you want to live on chips and get scurvy or something…

    • miaau

      Yeah…. Chap in my granny flat, alone, spends about that a month on food. He buys meals from the local shop, been shopping with him a few times (drive to work together sometimes). He literally counts meals as he shops and he keeps to around R2000. He eats healthy but simple.

      My wife and I? HAH, we try this as well…….more like 4 times that some months.

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