Why streamers are killing eSports

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Streamers are quietly sabotaging eSports

Picture of a twitch streamer conducting a live broadcast
Despite what you may have heard or thought, streamers are killing eSports. Read this post to learn why they are a massive threat to the eSports industry!

Alright, it’s confession time, and if you are squeamish please find an article with a softer tone. For years, I’ve been a passionate fan of watching eSports. There’s nothing better than getting to see the most elite gamers from around the world compete in top tournaments and leagues. I’ve even gotten emotionally invested in the careers and success of my favorite players. I couldn’t be any happier than I was when I watched Faker win his third League of Legends World Championship in 2016. Or the epic Grand Final when Alliance beat Na’Vi in Game 5 to win over $1.4 million in The International 2013. Those are some of the best moments in eSports that I can personally remember.

However, over the past year, I’ve started to realize something that pains me to admit. I’ve finally succumbed to the reality that the real eSports stars are dying a slow death right in front of my eyes. Who is the suspect you ask? No one other than online streamers. You know, those not so funny guys and girls that build their personal brands at the expense of us all. Yes, we all know that eSports is blowing up and is becoming more and more the talk of the town. The industry is experiencing tremendous growth and is projected to make billions of dollars in revenue in just a few years. But even with this crazy growth, the stars and pro gamers that we all know and love are being replaced by frauds. These frauds are streamers, amateur gamers who stream their gameplay on various platforms like Twitch and YouTube Gaming to make a quick buck or two. 

So you might be wondering why and how streamers are killing eSports? It might sound dramatic, but trust me, it’s entirely true! These are the reasons why:

  • Streamers emphasize entertainment above all else
  • Streamers promote a personal brand over the sport
  • Streamers are becoming the face of eSports
  • Streamers undervalue the profession of professional gaming

Keep reading the rest of this article to learn, where we’ll share all of the details and explain exactly how and why streamers are killing eSports.

So who are streamers?

Picture of players streaming live on Facebook Gaming

You probably already know that Twitch is a mega-popular online video streaming service that is dominated by the world of gaming. Millions of gamers of all skill levels from around the globe stream their gameplay to eager fans who watch for hours upon hours. With over 15 million daily active users, Twitch has become an absolute must-watch for anyone interested in video games. There are other streaming platforms like YouTube Gaming and Facebook Gaming that offer similar streaming services, but it is clear they all have one mission and that is simply to keep you hooked on gaming. Overall, these streaming platforms have been a very positive platform for the world of eSports, bringing a ton of attention to gaming and making it easy for people all over the world to watch others play video games.

However, they are also responsible for creating the gaming industry’s version of social media superstars known as streamers. These streamers broadcast their own gameplay of video games to millions of viewers each day. Sounds harmless right? Well, not exactly. Streamers are social media influencers at their core as they have huge followings. The top streamers have well over 100,000 followers, and some even have over a million. They are extremely popular and have made full-time, extremely well-paying careers through live streaming their gameplay. In fact, unlike most jobs which pay via a salary, streamers make a large portion of their money from ads, sponsorships, and subscriptions.

Is there a difference between a streamer and a pro gamer?

Picture of pro gamers at a live eSports event

It is critical to first understand the differences between a streamer and a professional gamer. Often, the two are unfairly grouped together under the genre eSports, but let it be known that they are indeed two entirely different skillsets.

Let’s start with professional gamers. Pro gamers are the professional athletes of eSports. They train and practice for hours upon hours each day, mastering the skills that it takes to become an elite gamer. They have spent countless years working hard to become the best of the best in their respective games. And they’ve had to prove themselves under pressure on numerous occasions. Pro gamers are under contract with a professional eSports team or club, and typically pro gamers are paid a salary, compensated based on performance, or often a combination of the two.

Most importantly, pro gamers compete against other gamers, teams, or clubs in various professional leagues and tournaments. And pro gamers earn most of their money through these competitive match-ups in leagues and tournaments. The prize pools for competitions are often very lucrative, with the top tournaments like Dota 2’s The International, which awards the top 17 teams more than $25 million in prize money.

Streamers are entirely different from pro gamers. At their core, they are content creators and social media influencers. To put it simply, streamers play video games and live-stream their gameplay to others who watch online. While it may not sound super entertaining, the amount of people who consume and watch this live-streamed gaming content daily is astronomical. The distinctive thing about streamers is that they are entertaining. They have created a personal brand for themselves and have captivated an audience based on that brand. In most cases, streamers are not elite gamers. For the most part, they are good at whatever games they play, but the overwhelming majority would not be able to compete at the same level as pro gamers. Streamers are popular because they are entertainers. And they make all of their earnings through sponsorships, ads, and subscriptions, which are all results of their massive followings. They are influences on streaming platforms like Twitch and other forms of social media.

Streamers are like Instagram models

If you’re still not clear on the difference, let’s take another extremely similar example. If you’ve ever been on the popular social media platform called Instagram, chances are you’ve seen your fair share of Instagram models. These are self-made social media stars and influencers who make money from posting pictures of themselves on the social media platform. In most cases, they’ve had no formalized training and are not considered to be professional models. They typically have large followings, in the thousands and even in the millions. Instagram models get paid by companies who want them to promote their products and services to followers to help gain exposure and sales.

On the flip side of that, there are professional models. These are men and women who are signed under contract with modeling agencies and have had significant professional training. Professional models walk the runways at fashion shows for top brands and do photoshoots with top photographers. They have spent countless hours perfecting their skills (and bodies) to make a successful modeling career for themselves.

So how does this apply to eSports? Well, think of streamers as the Instagram models of the eSports industry. They are self-made, social media influencers, often with very little or no professional training. If you put them next to professionals, they would likely crumble and would not be able to compete. Professional gamers are like professional models. They are elite and respected professionals in their field. They have had formalized training and have spent a significant amount of time perfecting their craft to become the best in their field. While it might not seem like eSports and modeling are similar, the parallels between the two can definitely be seen in this example.

Streamers are threatening eSports, and you know it

Picture of people dressed in a knight and dinosaur costume

So now that you know and understand the difference between streamers and pro gamers, we can dive into the reasons why streamers are killing eSports. We’ve broken these down into the four sections below.

Streamers emphasize entertainment above all else

As we mentioned earlier in the article, streamers are entertainers. It’s only natural for them to emphasize entertainment and doing whatever it takes to keep their followers interested and engaged. If streamers fail to produce interesting and captivating content, they will simply not be successful on Twitch or YouTube.

For example, a couple of weeks ago I was watching a particular streamer on Twitch who was playing Fortnite. The whole time I was tuning in, she was having a lengthy conversation about accessories for her avatar. And this lasted for at least 10 minutes! She wasn’t talking about anything related to her gameplay or strategy for playing Fortnite. Instead, it was all about the accessories. The best part is that 20,000 people were watching her stream! That’s an incredible amount of people listening to someone who is talking about a topic unrelated to the game of Fortnite is actually played. But this is necessary in the world of Twitch, as streamers must be creative and entertaining above all else.

And this is hugely problematic for eSports. Streamers are setting a dangerous precedent that entertainment is more important to gaming than things like hard work and skill. This is unfair to the professional gamers who spend years of their lives mastering and honing their skills on their journey to become elite gamers. While eSports definitely should be entertaining, that is not the priority. The priority should be skill and work ethic and rewarding the top gamers who exhibit these two traits. But instead, with streamers, the priority is getting views, subscribers, and followers. They will do anything to become more popular and earn more social media buzz. Entertainment is at the core of streaming, and rewarding streamers for being good entertainers is casting the wrong spotlight on the professionalism of eSports.

Streamers promote a personal brand over the sport

Picture of a monitor showing live streaming Fortnite gameplay

It’s quite evident that streamers construct a personal brand for themselves. They are masters at doing so. They’ve found a way to successfully create an online persona and have built a brand behind that name. Their personal brand is who they are and what makes them so unique. It’s what turns them into influencers and celebrities, with huge followings that tune in to watch and listen to them play video games. A personal brand is everything to a streamer and is what makes or breaks their career in streaming.

Let’s look at one of the most popular streamers as an example — Ninja. His real name is Richard Tyler Blevins, but it’s pretty rare for someone (even his own followers) to recognize him by that. He’s been one of the most successful streamers ever to build up his personal brand behind his gamertag, Ninja. Now with over 11 million followers on Twitch, he has built his massive following with his personality and charisma while playing Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Ninja has completely built up his personal brand. He is pretty much a household name at this point, with colossal sponsorship and endorsement deals. He’s even been hanging out and playing Fortnite with the likes of Drake, Travis Scott, and Juju Smith-Schuster. Ninja has a phenomenal personal brand and has built his career off of it.

The personal brands that streamers build for themselves are great for one, and one person only: a streamer. Everything they do is in the best self-interest to continue building up their personal brand. The decisions they make and their actions solely benefit themselves. Streamers are not acting in the best interest of eSports as a collective whole. They do what’s best for their personal brand, and ultimately what will make them more money. And this is definitely dangerous for eSports as a single streamer could potentially damage or tarnish the entire sport or industry because of their poor decisions or actions.

For example, the ultra-famous YouTube streamer, PewDiePie, who at one time had the largest following on YouTube, was caught tangled in a couple of significant scandals. PewDiePie is famous for his video game commentary and streaming and has built a multi-million dollar career and personal brand for himself. However, in 2016, he posted a video with an anti-semitic prank and also had been caught several times using racist language. This understandably made a lot of people upset, and he brought a bad name and negative reputation to the gaming community.

And more recently, Ninja, stated he would not ever stream alongside a female streamer, out of respect for his marriage. This brought more negative press and attention to eSports and upset a lot of people. Ninja has effectively written off working with any female streamers, which has painted a dangerous picture that eSports and gaming are only for males, and even the best streamer won’t play with girls. This is another case of one streamer’s comments, decisions, and actions having widespread adverse effects on eSports as a whole.

Both of these examples are setbacks for the professional gaming industry and eSports. Their own personal decisions and brands come before eSports, and it will always be that way. At the end of the day, streamers are not operating in the best interest of eSports, because it’s not what they are incentivized to do. They are incentivized to make money, and they do so by building up their own huge personal brands.

Streamers are becoming the face of eSports

Picture of cheering fans at a live eSports competition

When you think of other professional sports like football and basketball, the first people to come to your mind is probably the top athletes in those sports. Famous athletes like Serena Williams, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and others are the faces of their respective sports. They are the best and most elite athletes in the game. And they have certainly earned the right to be called the best players at their sports. They’ve spent countless hours over the years training, practicing, and studying to become better athletes.

When it comes to eSports, the athletes and professional games should be the face of the sport. Those who compete and play competitively on pro teams and clubs in various leagues and tournaments have certainly earned the right to be considered the stars of eSports. Names like KuroKy, Faker, Sneaky, Impact, Universe, and Arteezy, are some of the top eSports pro gamers. However, you rarely hear or read about them in the news or that they are playing video games with top celebrities like Drake.

Instead, the streamers are the ones that are primarily the face of eSports. They are the ones who are achieving celebrity status and are the first that come to mind when you think of eSports. We always hear about Ninja, summit1g, Syndicate, and others. Streamers are the ones who get a ton of media coverage in the news. They’ve become more popular than the actual professional gamers who play eSports competitively for a living. And this would absolutely be unheard of in the world of other professional sports. Can you imagine a world where the tv reporters of ESPN’s show SportsCenter were actually more popular than the athletes themselves? Well, that is kinda what’s happening with streaming. People are often paying more attention to the people covering the sport, instead of the actual sport itself. The scary part is that when they can no longer entertain us, what becomes of the actual sport itself?

The truth is that streamers are becoming synonymous with eSports. They are muddling the waters between what eSports is and is not. At the end of the day, eSports is a sport, and the stars should be the top athletes and pro gamers. eSports is based on competitive video game play, and those who compete professionally should absolutely be the face of the sport. While streamers are entertaining, they are often not the most skilled or elite gamers, and they should not be taking the spotlight away from those that are. It’s entirely unfair for professional gamers and distracts the attention away from what eSports is truly about.

Streamers undervalue the profession of professional gaming

Picture of live LoL gameplay at a live eSports event

Perhaps the most concerning effect of streamers on eSports is that they are entirely undervaluing eSports and professional gaming as a profession. Streamers are setting the wrong example for younger generations of aspiring gamers. As we mentioned previously, entertainment is their primary motivation and to become more popular and gain more followers. This is entirely different from professional gamers, who value skill, work ethic, and elite gameplay above all else. Streamers do not stress or demonstrate the importance of mastering gameplay and skills or the time commitment it takes to become elite in a particular video game. They become famous because they are fun to watch and listen to, not because they are the best gamers on the planet.

Streamers are basically sending the message that as long as you’re entertaining, you can make it in eSports. But this is definitely not true for the real athletes of eSports. To become a professional eSports gamer, it takes much more than creating interesting, funny, or intriguing videos and streams. You must invest a lot of time, and in some cases, money, to hone your skills and to become an elite gamer. You must practice, train, and compete endlessly and work your way up by competing in ladders, leagues, and tournaments. And even then, you’re not guaranteed a professional career in gaming.

Streamers make obtaining eliteness in eSports look way too easy. Many streamers have become overnight celebrities and have spent way less time working on their career than professional gamers have. They are setting a terrible precedent for eSports, and for those who are looking to make a career in the industry. Not only do they make the profession look way easier to break into then it actually is, but they also place the emphasis on the wrong skills and traits.

Streamers are doing more harm than good

So there you have it. Streamers are the gaming world’s social media monsters who are taking over eSports one live stream at a time. Although it might not seem like it, they are currently one of the biggest threats to the eSports industry. The main issue with streamers is that they are shining the wrong type spotlight on eSports. They are certainly bringing a large amount of attention to gaming, but it’s the wrong kind of attention.

Streamers are entertainers and influencers, not competitive pro gamers. They emphasize entertainment above anything else, even over skill, gameplay, and work ethic. They are primarily concerned with promoting their personal brand over eSports and will do just about anything to gain more followers and become more influential. Streamers are also becoming the face of eSports, instead of the real athletes — the professional gamers who play eSports competitively. All of these things that streamers are doing are undervaluing the profession of professional gaming. They’re a terrible example for aspiring gamers as they make achieving stardom look far too simple.

The eSports industry is still far too young and not yet established enough in mainstream society to be able to draw clear distinctions between the real and the fake. Similar to the XFL, the cheap knockoff league that tried (and apparently still attempting) to compete with the NFL, it was very evident that fans were clearly able to decipher real football from the cheap entertainment gimmicks produced by the XFL. The concern is that eSports may never reach the pinnacle of it’s popularity if it continues to have a fundamental identity crisis, particularly with brand new fans who are exposed to the eSport for the very first time.

I would love nothing more than for the tides to turn and for professional gamers, the real athletes of eSports, to become the main focus of the industry again. They deserve all the attention and spotlight and ultimately are the ones who are really pushing the eSports industry forward. However, the dream I once had of seeing eSports flourish is slowing becoming a beautiful nightmare. Now, please bow your heads and keep your fingers crossed.

1 thought on “Why streamers are killing eSports”

  1. It feels like a biased analysis rather than in depth discussion. The whole point of a streamer is to showcase him or herself above anything else true. But this seems more of an opportunity for esports instead of a problem. TSM for example, banks on that for a great deal of its revenue as do other teams. The thing about pro gamers that I see diminished here instead of upheld is their competitive capacity. A streamer will always lack it in comparison to someone solely dedicated at becoming better each day. If a streamer is serious about the game they will inevitably be faced by the chance of competition, even as part of their streaming business. Idk, I think you could revaluate this piece and perhaps provide data or something more to support your claims

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