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Published: April 29, 2024

Written by: Barney

StarCraft is one of the earliest esports that was played competitively and for real prize money on a grand scale. By grand, we mean national TV series that followed the tournaments, early-day broadcasting over the Internet, and a global interest in the South Korean StarCraft scene. Today, we take a look at StarCraft II, the successor of the original game and the top earning StarCraft 2 players of all time.

The scales are changing all the time, but there are some players who have established themselves as some of the best out there, and you will definitely be keen to find out more about them. Let’s get started with our rather lengthy list!

List of Top Earning StarCraft 2 Players (2023)

  1. Joona “Serral” Sotal – $1.23 million
  2. Cho “Maru” Sung Choo – $1.21 million
  3. Lee “Rogue” Byung Ryul – $1 million
  4. Park “Dark” Ryung Woo – $1 million
  5. Lee “Innovation” Shin Hyung – $813,000
  6. Jun “TY” Tae Yang – $699,058
  7. Joo “Zest” Sung Wook – $694,571
  8. Kim “sOs” Yoo Jin – $664,669

#1 Joona “Serral” Sotal

Serral is one of the most successful StarCraft 2 players of all time. He has been working actively to expand his reach in the competitive community and has been competing since he was 14 years old. In fact, it was back when he was 14 that he won his first money playing the game – $200. It certainly wasn’t much, but it would eventually lead to the $1.23 million he has won to date, according to his Liquipedia profile.

Serral has been competing more or less for the past 11 years in StarCraft – and specifically StarCraft II – and he has done very well for himself indeed. He started somewhat modestly in 2013 and 2014, when he was finding his bearings, but you could tell even back then that the player was definitely going to be one of the best StarCraft II players – and yes, in terms of earnings, too.

So, today, he is at the very top of the pecking order in pure money value. His breakaway year though was 2018 when he ended up winning $478,538 from playing StarCraft, accounting for close to 40% of his entire career earnings (this figure would need to be slightly updated this year, but it’s fairly accurate).

He did very well in 2019 as well and had somewhat subdued performance in both $92,541 and $71,852. Then again, he managed to pick up in 2022 with $223,175. So far in 2023, at the time of writing at least, he has participated in four events. He has won $77,717 from them.

We feel fairly confident, looking at Serral play in 2023, that the player is going to be doing well throughout the year as well. The fact that a Finnish player has earned more than any South Korean player in StarCraft II is quite impressive, and Serral is truly a unique talent in the competitive community.

#2 Cho “Maru” Sung Choo

Maru is currently number two in terms of earnings, and he stands at $1.21 million. Admittedly, the player has not had the same success in a single year as Serral did. His best year to date is $370,117 back in 2018. Maru has also been competing longer than Serral, starting all the way back in 2010 when he won $442 playing the game that year.

He has since picked up. In 2017 he won $127,951, then in 2019, he added another $113,891 to his name. Maru has been more consistent in winning smaller amounts, but 2023 seems to be a really good year for the player so far. He has competed in seven events up until now this year, and he has amassed $76,454 in winnings. Since we are writing this in August, it’s quite impressive where Maru can get next, and we will definitely be updating his profile at the end of the year. Who knows, Serral may not be the top earning StarCraft II player at the end of the year.

#3 Lee “Rogue” Byung Ryul

Rogue is another impressive player who has been dormant in 2023. Still, the player ended up winning more than $1 million in career winnings, which makes him one of the most important players out there as of right now. He started competing in 2013 and won almost $4,000 playing in four events, which is quite amazing all things considered.

Then, he ended up winning another $13,263 in 2014 from 10 events. His best year to date is 2017, when he ended up scooping $321,146 from 22 events. 2018 was similarly good to him when he won $230,785 from 38 events. He tried his best in 2019 as well, but ended up winning only $64,546.

In 2020, he broke out again, winning $207,788, an impressive amount all things considered. In 2021 and 2022, the player added about the same amounts, $86,666 and $88,696 respectively to his name, and he has not competed since. He may be taking a short break or reconsidering his career in StarCraft II.

From where we stand, we can see that the player has been putting in a lot of hard work into his professional career, and he may be one of the most common faces in competitive events over the past few years. A well-deserved rest is certainly due.

#4 Park “Dark” Ryung Woo

Dark has recently cracked the one-million-threshold. Dark has so far won just a little over $1 million in his career and $63,535 in 2023 from 29 events. Dark is hungry to play, and he is definitely not giving up.

We predict that when we are updating our list of top earning StarCraft II players Dark will have added to the one-million purse and this is actually good news for the competitive scene. Dark is definitely burning fast and burning bright though. He played in 57 competitive events in 2022 alone, earning him some $88,909 at the time. His best year to date is 2019, though when he managed to pull in $295,487 and that is an impressive result. It was one of the years when he played the fewest events – 14.

Coincidentally, he earned a big sum from 14 events in 2016, winning $189,748. His other big year was 2018 when he played in 34 events and won $150,406. Of course, the StarCraft II community has been changing very rapidly. Many players got inspired by Dark and others, and they have been looking to hone their own talent and bring them to the fore.

Players who are looking to really take off and reach new heights are determined and committed to make the most out of the experience which is precisely why there are some players who need to play more these days as the field of worthwhile competitors has increased tremendously.

#5 Lee “Innovation” Shin Hyung

As you have probably noticed, there is a somewhat gap in the competitive StarCraft II community. In terms of who the top earning players in StarCraft II are, only a handful have made it past the one-million mark. This is important because innovation is one of the highest earning players in StarCraft II but he has earned “only” $813,000. He only won $1,069 in 2023 at the time of writing, playing in a single event. Yet, the player has had his good years, too.

In 2013, he made early day success, winning $118,332.15 and really motivating himself to pursue his career. So, he did, and was able to achieve quite a few results over the years. In 2014, he managed to add another $95,917 and in 2015, he ended up claiming another $73,940. In 2016, he then brought in another $32,848, and in 2017, the year favored him to the point he got $149,548.

He did compete in 57 events that year, though, his second busiest year all things considered. Then, in 2019, he ended up winning $177,860 – which was his best. He competed in 64 events – his busiest year to date, but only won $66,995. As you can see, there is a fine line between playing in events and winning from events – some years are just “off years” even for the best earning StarCraft II players.

#6 Jun “TY” Tae Yang

TY is a known name in the competitive StarCraft II scene, and for a good reason. He has been around for many years now and doing fairly well. Admittedly, the player took a few years to really find his way around the game. Since 2008 he has building up his legacy. His first year and attempts at competitive StarCraft II weren’t anything to write home about.

The player ended up winning nothing at all. He doubled down in 2009 and won $1,613. Then, in 2010, TY ended up winning his first more significant amount – around $4,526, which gave him the courage to keep trying. He tried in 2011 again, but the years through 2013 included were somewhat subdued in terms of performance. The player was not participating in too many events at the time, though, bidding his time instead.

In 2015, though, it became apparent that TY is determined to go one way – up. And he did! In 2017, the player really took off, managing to secure $374,000 of prize money in a single year. That was an exceptional experience across the board and one that truly stuck with him. TY obviously has a lot more growing up to do, but he is doing well all the same!

#7 Joo “Zest” Sung Wook

Zest has won $694,571 from a total of 487 tournaments, so that is quite a bit of play time under his belt and as you can expect – he has been very determined to make the most out of his career. He competed in 2022 and won $33,329 from 39 events and participated in the crazy number of 158 events in 2021 alone! He won $92,160 at the time, pushing his overall winnings by a fair bit and deservedly so.

Now, Zest is definitely a player that deserves to be named on this list by virtue of the sheer winnings he has amassed. In 2020, he played 106 events. In 2019, the player won $41,251. Zest is one of the early-day pros also, as he was able to win $141,681. His early-day success quickly put his name on the map and he has been interested to live up to his reputation – he has in part succeeded.

#8 Kim “sOs” Yoo Jin

Sos is one of the best player sin StarCraft II. He has earned more than $664,669 from 104 tournaments and he was active between 2011 and 2021. He hasn’t competed in the game since, but even when he did, he maintained a fairly low profile.

He is one of the players who didn’t really have to play that much to win a fair bit of money. His best years were the period between 2013 and 2015, and he won prize pools amounting to $151,268, $139,332, and $123,778 in each of the three years respectively. In 2016 and 2016, the player slowed down his roll a bit and won around $47,728 in the first and $32,887 in the following year.

In 2018, he clinched $103,938 from 8 events, an impressive overall performance and one worth noting. Sos has not competed much after that time, but he is still one of the best-earning players in StarCraft II regardless!

Final Word on Top Earning StarCraft II Players

So, the question is – are StarCraft II players some of the top earning esports players in general? Well, they definitely earn well, but being good at StarCraft II is not an easy thing. The prize pools are definitely smaller than in other games, such as Dota 2 or even Counter-Strike Global Offensive.

In many cases, StarCraft II players have to train long and hard to just get the basic mechanics of the game – because of how complex StarCraft II truly is. There is nothing surprising in this and it’s truly a normal thing that you can expect from any competitive game that is played on the highest level.

Even though it’s harder to become a millionaire playing competitive StarCraft II, the top-earning players in the game have shown that it’s possible to earn a fair bit. Besides, many of the players these days are well-paid when you think about it – so there’s nothing to really worry about.

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