How to Go Pro In Esports – Advice from Nadeshot and Industry Veteran
Ask almost any young person growing up gaming these days, and you’ll likely get a similar response as to what they want to be when they grow up: it’s either a content creator on YouTube, or some form of a professional player in their favorite game. Unfortunately, the reality is that while many people will try to succeed in such an endeavor, it can be tough to make your mark in comparison to just about any other career path – much like being a professional athlete in any other sport. However, with our advice on how to go pro in esports we can hopefully help you hit the ground running.
However, there are some things that you can do to set yourself apart from the pack if that is your dream. And, despite what any marketing department for computers, keyboards, mice, and gaming chairs will tell you, it comes down to far more than what gear you’re playing on. That hardly plays a factor at all, really.
As with most industries, the most important thing is your ability to market yourself and network with your peers, learning from the best while you yourself are rising through the ranks and getting better at gaming.
How to Go Pro in Esports? Networking is Key
You’re ranking at the top of every leaderboard you can see in the game. You’re owning lobbies. You’re completely carrying teams at the highest ranks of the game. But no one is reaching out to give you hundreds of thousands of dollars for a professional contract – what gives? Isn’t that the pipe dream of going pro in esports? Being scouted out just based on your performance? If you listened to the marketing for leagues like Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch League, you might think so.
But according to those that have done it and built a career around building the best teams in the industry, and playing on some themselves, that is not the most important factor that you can have. Being personable and learning from those around you is.
“Networking [is the it factor for making it as a pro player],” 100 Thieves CEO Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag said on the Impaulsive podcast with Jake Paul. “You might not be the cream of the crop at the top level, I never was. But I was really good at leveraging teammates and building the best rosters around me. Alright, I’ve got the resources, I’m on the best team now I can go and get the best players. It’s tough when kids ask me how can I go pro? It’s really just relationships. Playing with people better than you, acclimating to that playstyle, and then when you get better than those teammates, you go get some new ones. It’s kind of a dog eat dog world out there.”
The esports world is highly driven on interpersonal relationships, politics, public perception and way less than on just personal skill. While that skill may be useful for getting initial attention, if you don’t take advantage of talking to the people you are teaming up with and trying to gain more connections, you won’t get far. It’s far more about handshakes than locking yourself in your room and grinding out games. You also have to build a community and try to market yourself that way, to give teams even more reason to pick you up.
That being said, you should never put all your eggs in one basket.
Don’t Quit Your Day Job | How to Go Pro in Esports
One of the best pieces of advice young people can receive when it wondering how to go pro in esports is to make it a side hustle until it’s self sustainable. Nadeshot notes this, and also notes that many out there are trying to quit their day jobs before it’s time.
“That itself is dangerous. There’s a lot of people out there who say I quit everything, I bought the setup, I’m streaming 10 hours a day, I’ve gotta ask “what are you doing?” Nadeshot said, incedulously.
The odds of making it in esports are astronomically low. Unless you have a fallback, it’s not advisable to just go all in on esports, without being sure that you’ll be okay economically. Nadeshot provides Courage as an example.
“Courage is a perfect example. He was going to school full time, getting his education, but while he was doing that, he was interning at Major League Gaming in Downtown NYC. He was just a production assistant, but then one day one of the casters for the main Call of Duty League event was sick and couldn’t make it. They were looking around going, “what are we going to do?” and Courage raised his hand. He interned there for months, but he was still going to school to make sure his future was set, but things just happened to pop off. He made the opportunity what it is today.”
Even if you’re the best in the world, there are plenty of other factors that go into it, including your game of choice. Tfue, for example, started in H1Z1 before taking off in Fortnite – mainly because Daybreak botched the handling of H1Z1 professional play.
“It’s some astronomical odds to make it to being a top 25 player,” Nadeshot continued. “But it is possible. Tfue is a perfect example – he was one of the best h1z1 players, but he wasn’t followed by anyone. Then Fortnite came around and his name was in the bucket as one of the best players around. Then he got the opportunity to play for FaZe Clan and the drama with them happened, he got banned from Twitch, he exploded even further behind that. It’s all timing. Nowadays if I tried to do what I did 10 years ago, I don’t think I’d be able to do it. It really is about the relationships. You could be really, really good but if you don’t have the relationships or at least an in with the right person. It’s kind of like a guard that’s really, really hard to break into.”
What Other Options Are There in Esports?
While being a professional player may be an astronomically low chance, there are other options for young people to be involved in esports. When wondering how to go pro in esports, many young people just want to be involved in some way, even if they aren’t the ones in the spotlight.
For example, take this author – I was a young man of 22 when I discovered esports, and I just wanted to be involved in some way. I knew that I wasn’t good enough at any particular game to make it in esports. However, I did see the opportunity to build communities in South Florida for amateur players, especially in the fighting game community. I teamed up with several of my friends and began hosting tournaments under the Pyro Panda Entertainment brand at several major comic shops (most notable GXE in Pompano Beach.) While that venture ultimately proved not very profitable, it did instill in me a love of community and seeing people win and succeed in competitive gaming. From there, I discovered that there was a vibrant community of esports writers online that was just beginning to become a profitable venture – I started reaching out to editors and freelancing for GameZone.com, while talking with several editors in the space while I tried to go full time.
Even as a content creator, the most important thing was networking. I wasn’t a very good writer back then (looking back at some of my old content still makes me cringe) but because I was consistent, I hit my deadlines, and wanted to grind, I was able to get my foot in the door and build a portfolio and begin to network. Over time, I built up enough of a portfolio to get my first esports gig for Ten Ton Hammer, and made a name for myself there. I haven’t looked back since. Before I even entered esports full time though, I was working full time retail and then doing four hours worth of work a night after hours – for almost two years. It’s not an overnight thing and whether you’re a player or a content creator, expect to work long hours for not much pay at first until you have something to offer people.
This goes for any part of the industry – graphic design, journalism, YouTube content, marketing, anything – you have to have something to offer. You can’t expect to make $30,000+ a year just coming into the industry fresh.