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The Realities of Esports Careers: Pro Play

01:50 PM June 23, 2020

Just about a decade ago, the common consensus was that gaming and esports wasn’t the place to be if you wanted a lucrative career. I got my start in the scene during this time, and I can say that a lot has changed since then. A space that used to have veterans struggling to make a decent full-time wage is now a multi-billion dollar industry. It’s even expected to reach $120 billion USD by 2022, according to Business Insider.

2020 has brought an increased amount of attention to gaming and esports, in part due to the COVID pandemic freezing most other entertainment-centric industries. This is because the gaming industry as a whole, unlike its counterparts in film and television, has the capability to continue functioning effectively even with work-from-home setups. That said, there has likely never been a moment in our short history where the world would have given people the same interest in pursuing a career in the gaming space. 

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Now, you may be wondering: is gaming and esports really THAT big of a deal? The short answer is yes, but short answers aren’t the point of this column. Contrary to the popular perception that gaming is still a niche market, it is now a lifestyle of its own for multiple reasons. One of these is the recent rise of mobile gaming, especially in the Philippines.

Almost a quarter of our population actively plays mobile games; this means that one in every four Filipinos is a mobile gamer — something we couldn’t say back in 2010.

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Times have definitely changed. The industry now has more than enough success stories seeing individuals who pursued their passions being rewarded with fame and money far beyond what we could have imagined back then. As someone who has worked in nearly every aspect of gaming and esports across the country, I can say that the most consistently lucrative opportunities here are in the talents’ side of things. While some of the best pro players can match or even exceed the earnings of top talents, the majority do not earn close to what the average mid-level content creator earns.

Nonetheless, most gamers dream to become a streamer and/or pro player. Some people mix both, but they are two different career paths that require almost entirely different skill sets. In this series of articles, let me share with you the realities of the two paths and the road to get to the top. 

In this first part, Iet’s talk about the road to pro.

The Path to Pro

Is the climb worth it? What waits for me at the top?

Before I share with you the steps on how to get to the top as a pro player, let me show you first the most successful pro players in the Philippines based on publicly recorded player earnings available in a website called esports earnings.

As you can see, it’s no secret that Djardel “DJ” Mampusti, of Fnatic DOTA 2 leads the list with an accumulated earnings of 39 million pesos which doesn’t include any personal endorsements and salaries given to them by their organization. It is also evident that the top 10 on the list are DOTA 2 players, a game which has one of the highest prize pools in the world. However, the top 15 also features pro players from games like Gears of War 4, League of Legends, Hearthstone and Player Unknown Battlegrounds which shows that the career path of pro-play when it comes to monetary returns are not solely available on a single game. The salaries of pro players range from allowances of below 10k to millions in salary per month depending on what game and what region you’re playing in.

Now that we have answered how rich being a pro player gets you, I now want to answer another question that might be running in your mind right now. What will it take for you to get to the top? What does it take to be a successful pro player?

This is such a loaded question and something that is very hard to have a singular answer, but since this is an opinion piece let me share my thoughts on what attributes make a pro player succeed.

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  • Game Skills: You have to be part of the top 10% of your game.
  • Work Ethic: Let me just share with you a famous quote to help you describe what type of mindset and work ethic is needed to get to the top. “When you are not practicing, someone else is getting better.”
  • Communication Skills: Unless you are not playing a team game, most esports are team sports thus your communication skills are as important as your game skill.
  • Motivation: Distractions will come in different forms to push you out of the track that you want to pursue and the ones who usually get to the top are those with a very strong motivation to get there as no amount of distraction can break a person with a strong drive.
  • Focus: You need to be able to laser focus on what you want to achieve to become the best in what you do.
  • Luck: Luck is still a huge factor in all this as games aren’t just won with pure skills. Luck will always be a big factor in sports and the same thing in esports.

Road to greatness

I have been surrounded by great players to know how they tick and what got them there but with pro players, I can say that each and every person’s path is always different. Thus, there might not be a linear step by step approach on how to get there but I tried my best to create steps which are as general as possible for people to understand how they got to their level.

Step 1: A pubstar is born

Most players start their professional careers as a pubstar. A pubstar is a player who has earned their recognition in public games played in the game and not in the professional scene. Luckily for players today, games have set ladders that determine the skill set of players. Some will say that this isn’t a true measure of one’s skill and I agree with them, but as someone who is unknown who wants to get recognized, this is your friend. Grind and get up the ladder. I can assure you that owners, players, coaches and other important people are looking at those ladders more than you know.

Step 2: The first break

For some, the first break came in the form of top players recruiting them to play in an online tournament that’s happening in the next weekend. For some, they are instantly signed by an up-and-coming organization with a small allowance, free meals and a bootcamp. For some, they are signed by huge organizations and they get the full package, a salary, a bootcamp, a coach, free meals and more. There are probably more ways than the ones I mentioned but my point is everybody needs that first break.

Since I’m a DOTA 2 guy, let me share with you one of the biggest first breaks I’ve seen in my career.

For some  guys the first break can come as a stepping stone but for someone like Topson of OG, he literally went from being a pubstar to a multi-millionaire almost overnight

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He was recruited by one of the top organizations in the world to play in the next upcoming tournament which, luckily for him, had more than $20 million USD in prize pool. If you want to know more about Topson’s story, check Redbull’s feature on the internationally-renowned player.

Step 3: The test

After you get that long sought first break, I can say that you have to be ready to fail. The reason why is because I see four possible outcomes once you get that first break and you are not going to be happy with three of those outcomes.

  • Outcome A: You’ll play the best games of your life, but still lose the tournament.
  • Outcome B: You won’t play the best games of your life and lose the tournament.
  • Outcome C: You won’t play the best games of your life, but win the tournament .
  • Outcome D: You’ll play the best games of your life and you win the tournament.

There are definitely more outcomes than these four but the point here is not about foreseeing the possible outcomes but showing you guys that if we were to quantify success based on playing your best games and winning that tournament, it is very unlikely (but not impossible) that you’ll do that on your first try. The lesson here is not that it is impossible to succeed, but it is that you need to be ready to fail to succeed. Just like in any competitive career, there will always be losing and mediocre performances as part of the equation.

Step 4: The turning point

After going through that first break, this is the time for you to internalize if this is really something you want to pursue or not. For some, they don’t have the mental fortitude for something like this and leave. For some, they loved the thrill so much that they can’t get enough of it and they choose to continue.

Step 5: The road to glory

The road to glory is one of the rockiest roads you’ll ever face in this career that you chose as no world champion has achieved greatness without blood, sweat and tears. In this step, you’ll see how hard it is to get to the top and you’ll have to be able to find ways to become the best form of yourself in order to separate yourself from the competition. This is the hardest part in my opinion.

Some get to the top and some don’t, and that’s the harsh reality about competition, there will always be winners and losers and unfortunately, no single formula can make you a winner.

Some have poured their life into becoming the best only to be stopped by someone who is greater than them or some circumstance that stopped them from achieving that. In this competitive world that you got yourself into, you have to accept the fact that getting to the top is your job.

 Step 6: Win big or Go home

After 5 steps in your career as a pro player you probably have gone through a lot. These 5 steps can happen in 3 months or maybe 5 but in the end the bottom line is simple. If you were to pursue a career in pro-play, you can either win big or go home. Money and glory are available for those who win and not much is left for those who don’t. This is just the reality of being a pro player.

 Step 7: Post-Career Opportunities

Unlike other careers, a career in pro play is like a career in any competitive sport. Your time is limited due to age, skills and other factors. This is not a permanent job. For this reason, you need to make sure that you make the most of your time in the pro scene and prepare yourself for the future without playing professionally anymore. What are your options?

  1. Coaching
  2. Analyst
  3. Shoutcasting 
  4. Team Owner
  5. Streamer
  6. Business owner (Invest your winnings)

The list goes on. In any temporary career just like pro play, you need to learn how to adapt when the day of your retirement comes and I’m confident that if there’s something that you learned as a pro player it’s learning how to adapt.

I tried my best to squeeze my experience and knowledge in this article to share with you the path to pro. I know that a lot really dream about this without knowing the sacrifices that they have to take and the actual steps that they have to follow. In the end, there is no single path to any road to success, all I did was to paint you a picture of what’s about to come if this is something that you really wish to pursue. I built a business that relies on people’s dreams and I’m never going to  stop you from pursuing yours.

After getting to this point, it’s my turn to ask you a question, do you still want to be a pro player?

 

 

 

 

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TAGS: Career, Content Creator, esports, pro gamer, Streamer, Tier One Entertainment, Tryke Gutierrez
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