We’ve written about eSports here on .ME blog a few times now, and it’s surely not a coincidence that we’re often coming back to this topic and revisiting it from different angles.
You see, if you look at around 15 years back there wasn’t an electronic sports scene in the way we have it today. There were people playing games, sure, but up until the mainstream availability of the super fast broadband internet, gamers needed to make do with what they had. LAN parties were all the rage back then, and playing games were viewed more as a hobby than a real, honest profession. All of that started rapidly changing in the new millennium, and even though there were improvements in the quality of online gaming since 2000, the largest explosion of popularity is happening right now. Let’s just say that the prize money in the popular eSports game Defense of the Ancients has increased from $5 million in 2010 to more than $30 million in 2014. That’s sure a lot of award money for playing games, right?
Now that you know a few facts about electronic sports that you can brag with, we’d like to talk about the actual gamers, players or electronic athletes, whatever you’d like to call them. The most paid professional gamers today, such as Peter Dager, earn millions of dollars with their teams, which makes them stand toe to toe with other professional athletes when it comes to earnings. The problem with professional gamers is that these people are mostly extremely young and are faced with quite extreme amounts of cash. This is certainly the reason why most professional gamers retire at a very young age as they are faced with the extreme pressure of high-level competitive play.
Set Yourself Apart From Other Gamers
Still, there’s a topic that is omnipresent in all sports, but electronic sports are truly following and setting the trends in it, and that’s personal branding. We’ve written a lot about how you can improve your personal brand and what you can do to make the best of what you have, but when it comes to electronic sports, your brand is extremely important. Considering that the majority of your fans and audience that follows what you do does so online, you need to invest a lot of time into making yourself stand out on all sorts of different online platforms so you can keep up with your audience. After all, what’s an athlete without fans?
The best way to gather people around you is, of course, to be good at what you do, but for the sake of the argument, we’ll presume that you are extremely good at a high-level competitive play of some eSports title. Considering that there’re seasons in eSports just like in any other sports, you need to play the game a lot every day to stay competitive. It’s your job after all.
Next up is to actually share your playing with the people that are interested in the same thing. For example, you can be an extremely good gamer, but if people can’t see you play, you’re wasting valuable time not branding yourself. That’s why most of the biggest names in electronic sports today are heavily invested in streaming their own playing over platforms such as Twitch or YouTube Gaming. Think of this like a broadcast of a football game. If these people simply played the game without the audience, who would know about it except for them?
Personality Attracts Attention
Being popular on Twitch comes with its own merits of course. The development of your personal brand in eSports is heavily influenced by your playstyle and online persona. Pro gamers are grasping this now and are working heavily to differentiate themselves from other pro gamers, simply because individuality brings with it more recognition. Most of the streamers on Twitch are unique in their own way, and every one of them attracts a different kind of people to their streams. Be it anime lovers who love that a player truly loves anime or people who love humour because the player is telling jokes during the stream. Everything that differentiates you from the other top level players is truly welcome because it lets you build a fan base that would love you for more things than your knowledge of the game you play.
Just remember, all football players really know how to play, but some are truly famous and popular in mainstream conscience while others simply aren’t. This leads us to the next logical step: money.
Even though there’s a lot of money to be made in electronic sports, there’s really a lot of competition. As we’ve said, it isn’t enough to just be good, you need to brand yourself. The players who managed to do so are now basking in the glory of hundreds of thousands of fans that are more than willing to spend their money on the players. That means that if you’re popular enough and play well enough, you can attract a lot of attention that can, in turn, lead to donations and even sponsorships.
Just like Lionel Messi is personally sponsored by Adidas aside from his playing in Barcelona, pro level eSports players are sponsored by all sorts of companies from the business, ranging from energy drinks to sportswear manufacturers and of course companies that specialize in gaming equipment. Being successful in branding yourself means more chance that a company will be willing to invest money in you and your gaming.
Your Own Line Of Clothing? Why Not!
Once you develop your personal brand in the way that famous Counter-Strike: Global Offensive teams like Fnatic and Cloud 9 have, you can consider putting your name on everything from gaming peripherals to baseball caps. If you’re in the upper echelon of players, people will truly want to buy both merchandise and peripherals that are directly related to you. Your good personality, combined with the skill of playing and the style you do it can lead you to have your own source of income, that is not strictly related to you playing games.
For example, Fnatic, currently one of the best Counter-Strike teams in the world has its own brand of computer peripherals that are developed with some of the best makers of gaming hardware in the world. By having “signature” mice and keyboards they are making their brand known to their audiences, that strive to support them by buying the hardware that they themselves have helped design. It’s truly not a lot different to other sports if you think about it.
To conclude, simply because eSports is a young trend, we shouldn’t dismiss it as something that is not serious or isn’t a “true” business. There’s a lot of people involved in the scene, and people who are making their living playing eSports titles are heavily investing into making their own personal brands stand out from the brands of other top level players, because it simply allows them to reach a broader audience and in turn make themselves more popular outside of the playing field (or map). When you really think about it, eSports isn’t really different to other sports because it also provides the players with sponsorship deals, tournaments in which to compete, and spectators that enjoy the show.