As sponsors jump ship from esports, companies across the industry are folding or laying off staff — and leaving scores of unemployed workers in their wake. Everyone in esports is feeling the effects, but this collapse is particularly scary to content creators, whose fine-tuned skills are specifically molded to fit the gaming space.
Although creators command an inordinate amount of audience attention in gaming and esports, many gaming creators choose to join esports organizations rather than staying independent. Doing so gives creators access to consistent income and allows them to plug into organizations’ pre-existing networks of sponsors and partners.
For years, signing onto an esports org has been the end goal for many creators because they are a source of safety and security that is so often lacking in the creator space. But in 2023, the bottom has fallen out. Creators are desperate for job security, but many feel their options are dwindling.
To get an inside look into how creators have been affected by the so-called esports winter, Digiday reached out to a concerned gaming content creator for the latest edition of our Confessions series, in which we exchange anonymity for candor.
This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Did any specific events trigger your anxiety about the collapse of esports?
[Tournament organizer] Beyond the Summit just announced that they were closing their doors — and that affected people from everywhere. There were creators who’d worked with Beyond the Summit; there were obviously the staff that were at Beyond the Summit; it was kind of an across-the-board thing.
And it wasn’t just one org, it was companies across the gaming space. I’m not going to lie to you, especially as someone who consumes Twitter every day, I know there are so many more places that were dropping people. It wasn’t just 100 Thieves and BTS — there’s just so many now.
Are female creators particularly at risk?
Women creators have a million hills that we have to climb up anyway, and a million things that are an issue, and so I don’t think that, from a creator standpoint, we are made more expendable because of what’s happening. I’m more concerned about esports players; I’m concerned about the women’s teams.
So you believe competitive esports players are facing more risk than content creators signed to orgs right now?
Yeah. I mean, knock on wood — but I feel a bit safer in my position as a creative. People are always going to be consuming content, and the waves come and go.
It is a really big concern for players right now, because you see so many orgs doubting the capability of esports right now. It’s because of the recession, because of the economy — which is just awful timing, because right now esports is bigger than it has ever been. There are so many opportunities for brands to get involved, but this is increasingly going to be a problem, because brands and established businesses are going to start getting worried if more orgs are like, ‘Well, we’re in this for a little bit, but now we’re going to pull out.’ The whole thing is just a mess.
It’s not just in esports; it’s happening in so many businesses and so many companies. But for esports, a lot of big companies were starting to take it seriously, so you don’t want to see things like this keep happening.
Do you know if this sentiment is widespread among other content creators?
These are conversations that I’ve had with friends, and consuming social media and seeing a million other people having these conversations as well. Esports has come a long way from taking advantage of people and having them work for free. There are entire companies, there are people on salaries. So you have to worry, is this going to cause big companies to back out and set things back a million steps?
What’s your advice for content creators who are currently signed to orgs?
Diversify your content. Just keep pushing yourself, and stay on top of the trends. The biggest thing you can do is not put everything into one basket. You can still really grind that basket — you can put a lot of eggs into it, because it’s your main basket — but try to make sure that you are showing all aspects of yourself, posting on other platforms, making yourself visible. There are always going to be brands and sponsors, but you have to make sure that, if your org dies, or if your agency ends up collapsing, you can still present yourself to brands and say, ‘This is the content I am capable of creating.’
How about for creators that have just been dropped by their org?
Talk about it. I don’t mean bash the org you were on — I just mean be public, make a reel, share your content, go, ‘Hey, I just got dropped.’ This isn’t just for content creators, this is for any of those people who were working in esports behind the scenes. We’re photographers, we’re digital designers, we’re editors. Say, ‘This is what I’m capable of, this is what I’ve accomplished. I would love to be part of another org.’
I was on another org previously, before the org that I am currently on, and I had been off that org for about seven months before I posted a tweet that said, ‘Hey, I’m looking for new opportunities.’ And I had a lot of orgs reach out to myself and my manager being like, ‘Oh hey, we didn’t realize you were off.’ You have to let people know that you’re looking.