Quick, short column, just to focus on the recent Own3d controversy. Now, I don’t think it’s my place to judge whether Own3d is an evil company, or whether Destiny and other streamers are simply whining about lost income. I don’t know the full story, I haven’t seen the contracts, and frankly, that judgment belongs in a courtroom somewhere. But I do think it speaks to a growing larger issue within the e-sports community – the issue about streaming sustainability.
Streaming is, in itself, an interesting concept in the sporting world. It is essentially an individual sports player publically broadcasting themselves practicing. You get to see high level skill, and if the player is talking and interacting with the stream, you get to see what they are thinking while playing. It makes for a good show, when done right. I’ve watched plenty of streams – usually put them on in the background when I’m watching TV with my fiance or eating dinner.Everyone knows what happens when something is high supply and low demand.
Streaming isn’t inherently bad – it helps a player promote themselves and it gives the community something to watch. The problem comes in when you look at the abundance of streaming. Right now on TL, there are over 80 streamers. More often than not, you’ll find one of them is a very high-level pro, such as Stephano or Jaedong. People looking for a stream will have no problem finding one. And everyone knows what happens when something is high supply and low demand.
Therefore, economically, streaming carries very little inherent value. Not only that, it can be very unreliable – you never know when a more popular streamer will come on and take all your viewers away. Furthermore, for every new streamer that signs up and starts broadcasting, the ads are worth less and less. Also notice that I’ve said nothing about tournament broadcasts. At any moment, one of the now-weekly large tournaments will start their show, and give people looking for something to watch a focus for the entire weekend (right now, that’s IEM Katowice).
All of this leads me into my real question for the industry. Why the hell are all of these players relying on stream income?
It’s unreliable. It’s decreasing in value. It is extremely competitive. And because of the public nature of it, it’s time that you can’t spend preparing for a coming match – you wouldn’t want to use a strategy an opponent can sniff out.If anything, streaming should be treated like an easy way to earn a bonus. It is an incentive and should not be looked at as a primary source of income.
Players should be making money through their team/agencies. They should be doing what they can to promote their sponsors, and be practicing to place high in tournaments. Streaming is a decent way to promote yourself and sponsors, but it will only get less effective from here. If anything, streaming should be treated like an easy way to earn a bonus. It is an incentive and should not be looked at as a primary source of income. There are other ways to approach the latter, such as through personal sponsorships.
This isn’t the first I’ve heard complaining about stream income from pro players. Fill rates have lowered these last few months, leading to players wondering why they didn’t make as much. And companies like Own3d and Twitch (and recently announced, Azubu), will always be the ones being pointed at as the problem. I say we start asking questions about why streaming is so important to the professional players – why can’t they make enough money doing what regular sports players do. Practice, practice, practice, and win. Give an interview every once in a while.
And stop, for the love of god, relying on money from such an unreliable source.
First off, let me begin by stating that somehow, this was taken as a news article. Growing Pains is a column made up entirely of my own opinion – if you disagree with any of my statements, feel free to do so and refute anything I say. I will properly source anything I take from elsewhere, but for the most part, these thoughts are based off my personal experiences and impressions of the e-sports industry. The goal of this column is to bring issues up in the community, and to promote discussion. I think I did that today, albeit with overreaching statements and some gross oversimplifications. As a note, I usually spend 2 weeks working on a column, thinking, writing, editing, and submitting for proofing. Today, I did all of that in 2 hours, in an attempt to strike while the iron was hot. This was a mistake.
To sum up, in an effort to redirect focus from the Own3d-Destiny story, I wrote this to bring some larger questions into the consciousness of the e-sports community, by providing an extreme argument against the status quo. I did to make people question why streaming is such a large part of the “business model” for e-sports. As mentioned in a couple responses, many contracts have streaming clauses, and yes, I absolutely agree that streaming is one of the main ways right now to promote yourself and your sponsors. For some, it is the main way to do so.
If you found yourself questioning this model, then I consider my column to have succeeded. Unfortunately, and this is largely my fault, many misinterpreted this piece as some sort of realistic proposal that should be implemented immediately. Not at all. I know this is unrealistic, and that streaming will always be a part of any e-sport. I wrote from a perspective of an idealistic system, to serve as a counterpoint to the current system.
Some good points brought up in responses:
Cristian Tamas, COO of TheGDStudio – http://www.reddit.com/r/starcraft/comments/16u7i2/the_real_question_we_should_be_asking_ourselves/c7zlfqh
You’re right, I don’t know a lot about the backend and streaming business. Most of what I see publicly is complaining about it. The TL thread on the Own3d-Destiny story (http://www.teamliquid.net/forum/viewmessage.php?topic_id=393965) documents many notable people stating issues, both using Own3d and Twitch services. These statements were a large part of my motivation to write this column, and I think your statements (and link to a great article about how Twitch ads really work – http://www.teamliquid.net/forum/viewmessage.php?topic_id=300563) serve as a great counterpoint. Husky’s statements indeed ring true, “Something that is extremely frustrating in both Esports and new media is the lack of professionalism in the scene.” Apparently, this extends to both players, for not understanding all about streaming revenue, and to streaming services, for delayed payments and broken contracts.
For what it’s worth, FXOBoSs indicated a positive change from Twitch: “[These issues] have been around for a long time, twitch has since fixed it to the best of their ability.”
Please, if you are a streamer or are curious how the streaming industry works, check out that thread by the COO of Twitch.
Cameron Carson (famsytron) – http://talesofalaowai.wordpress.com/2013/01/19/a-response-to-streaming-sustainability-and-value/
Very good stuff, and as noted in one of the retweets, a “more realistic outlook.” Where I write from an puristic point of view, exemplifying a perfect system, Cameron accurately sums up reality for streamers today, and many reasons why streaming will continue to be a large part of e-sports.
He also rips apart my last paragraphs, and rightly so. I was attempting to sum up in a way that made people question why we can’t adopt a more traditional model – in truth, there are many reason why we can’t, and Cameron hits on many of them.
In the end, I was attempting to make an argument by providing an extreme argument against the status quo. It was hastily put together, and as many have noted, doesn’t do justice to the true argument for a more standardized business model for e-sports. Hopefully, it did force some to look from this perspective and promoted some discussion about the current e-sports business model, and at the very least, there’s a couple good links to information about streaming and ad revenue.