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Streamers vs Esports Athletes

Professional gamers and the difference between streamers and esports athletes

Professional Gamers

A professional career as a video gamer primarily breaks down into two categories:

  1. Streamers (entertainers)
  2. Esports Athletes (elite competitors)

We often hear these two groups referred to interchangeably, yet they are quite distinct. This week we wrote a piece to explain the two groups (read here).

An esports athlete plays at the highest competitive level (single-game focus) for professional teams like FazeClan, Team Liquid, or Cloud9. A professional entertainer includes those who have become prolific streamers (game-agnostic) such as Ninja, Myth, or Tfue.

In traditional sports, you see this mimicked in the difference between top athletes (Christiano Ronaldo, Lebron James, Neymar) and entertainers who make a career out of sports-based content (DudePerfect, freekickerz, Professorlive).

What is unique to gaming and esports is that the streamers (entertainers) are more well-known than the esports athletes. There are two primary reasons for this:

  1. Financially, it currently makes more sense to be an entertainer or content creator in gaming than it does to be a professional esports athlete. (see ESPN's article on Ninja who made $10M+ last year)
  2. Most esports athletes, while considered elite gamers, are typically more focused on their elite gameplay vs their charisma in front of their fans. This is changing slowly, but it’s not the status quo yet.

The below image shows "DoubleLift" (pro esports athlete for Team Liquid: left) and Ninja (pro gamer & streamer: right).

Career Choices: Music, Hollywood, or Streaming?

I mentioned last week that video gaming ($152B) is 2x larger than Hollywood ($43B) and Music ($20B) combined. We took a look at a few publicly available stats online and put together the chart below around Hollywood talent, music artists (Spotify), and streamers (Twitch).  

A few of my takeaways:

  • Each category has a similar # of people who are “making it”: Streaming (27k), Music (22k), Hollywood (13k).  
  • A career as a streamer is just as competitive as a career in music
  • There is 7.6x ($152B / $20B) more money in video gaming than in music, so the competition is only going to become more intense
  • The term “starving artist” should now include a career as a streamer