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Fortnite Proves That eSports Isn't What We Think It Would Be: Part 1

Fortnite, the free-to-play game on PC, Xbox, PS4, and mobile devices, has ushered in a new era of gaming, especially competitive gaming.

Every time I check trending news on gaming, there's stories on colleges offering gaming scholarships, or high school varsity leagues forming for gamers.

It's crazy. Sometimes I wish I could have been a teenager now with all of the attention brought on by gaming.

Then again, if I became too focused on games, I may not have studied and focused enough on academics in high school to make it to where I am today.

(Did I mention that parents are hiring coaches to teach their kids how to play Fortnite better?)

I'll consider the missed opportunity a blessing in disguise. Getting back to the core matter here, Fortnite has brought gaming, and eSports, to a public sphere. It's main breakout star, Tyler 'Ninja' Blevins, just now graced the cover of ESPN magazine for his prolific rise on Fortnite and his tenure as a competitive gamer for over a decade now.

Tyler 'Ninja' Blevins, competitive gamer, now face of eSports.

But, this isn't what I, or my friends who are also interested in competitive gaming, imagined what eSports would become represented as in the mainstream media.

Don't get me wrong - Ninja completely deserves all of the financial and media success he's received.

But I always thought that the mainstream representation of eSports would be led by gaming teams like FaZe Clan or OpTic Gaming, not Twitch streamers like Ninja, Shroud, or Dr. Disrespect.

Why? My vision stems from traditional sports. Football, basketball, and soccer are all team sports. Of course, one or two people on a team can have an outsized influence (especially true of basketball, see LeBron James), but the league infrastructure and media attention is built around teams, not individuals.

Which makes Ninja's rise as the face of eSports as perplexing to me. I never envisioned eSports centering around individuals versus teams.

With more thought, it actually makes sense that the rise of eSports is driven by individuals than teams.

The upside for being a top streamer is dramatically higher than being a part of a top competitive stream. The second top streamer I mentioned, Shroud, used to play for Cloud9 (another competitive gaming team across multiple teams) for a number of years. Being a competitive gamer grueling - playing tens of hours a day for months on end for preparation for major tournaments. The prize money is usually in the mid-five figures, sometimes low-six.

For the time you have to put in, the return on investment only comes by placing in the top three in most tournaments. It's grueling. Not to mention, corporate sponsors are few and far between as compared to traditional sports were they are ubiquitous.

Michael Grzesiek, aka Shroud, playing competitively for Cloud9.

Now let's take a look at Streaming Shroud. Shroud as a streamer earns more than in one month than he did in one year as a competitive gamer due to how Twitch compensates streamers. Individuals can donate and purchase regular or premium subscriptions to view Shroud's gameplay and commentary in real-time, and past streams as well. The fact that these are monthly subscriptions is guaranteed revenue coming into Twitch's pocket, which is then split with streamers such as Shroud.

Streaming Shroud. This guy makes more money per month than I do building aerospace vehicles in...I don't even want to say it. It's pitful, but hats off to him! :)

It's ridiculous how much top streamers like Shroud earn per month. Ninja, currently the highest paid streamer, earns roughly $500,000 a month. Yes, a month.


When you think about it, the financial factors making eSports driven by entertaining personalities like Ninja makes perfect sense?

But what about the actual competitive gameplay?

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series, coming out tomorrow.


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