Is pro-gaming sustainable in SA?

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Flying treadmill

It can be really hard to break into the eSports scene – teams struggle to get recognized, it can be difficult to get sponsors, and even poor ping can cause problems for locals. We’ve talked about what it can take to go pro, but once you get there, is it even worth the trouble? In light of PandaTank’s retirement from eSports, I asked Congo Kyle some questions, with interesting answers.

For those who aren’t aware, PandaTank officially announced his retirement via Facebook. It’s filled with thanks and talking about some of the awesome opportunities he had, but this was the part I found interesting:

This will be the official announcement of my retirement from pro-gaming. I’m sure a lot of you will want to know why. Let’s just put it this way, all good things must eventually come to an end and being a professional gamer in South Africa isn’t a sustainable career. I’m getting older and I need to start thinking about what my next adventures in life will be.

Not a sustainable career. I can only read into this that there wasn’t enough money for the amount of work required. Let’s face it, there aren’t many local matches that can earn a pro prize money, so it mostly comes down to sponsors supporting players and sending them overseas to other tournaments for the extra exposure. It takes a lot of time and commitment to be good at your game, and for some players it just isn’t worth it compared to getting a “real job”. This is a sad state of affairs – I asked Congo Kyle about what teams should expect from a sponsorship and the difference between sponsoring a team vs a shout caster:

In South Africa it’s very difficult to see a return for sponsors when sponsoring a team. Players are unable to stream their personal practice games and gather a large enough following in which they would promote their sponsors, however the success of a sponsored MGO is what we’re looking at right now in South African gaming. Biggest examples being Bravado Gaming and Energy eSports, both have shown their dominance as the favorite MGOs in South Africa going as far as sending players overseas to compete in international competitions. What should the teams expect? Well South African gaming is in infancy right now so expect them to work their arses off to get things done, being actively involved in Steelseries I know what lengths sponsors go through to make things happen in this country.

As a caster it’s a little bit easier to see a return for your sponsors. I’m lucky enough to have a very active following through Twitter and Facebook which I interact with on a daily basis. I was extremely lucky to be picked up so early in my casting career. They put a lot of faith in my abilities and it did motivate me and it still does.

Allworknoplay

He goes on to explain that it’s different as a shoutcaster – he get more opportunities than some local teams because his job is more to promote the games in general, rather than just one team. As long as he is shoutcasting, raising awareness about local eSports, or even going on TV and radio to get the word out, he is doing his job and showcasing his sponsors.

I think this is the main problem in South Africa – teams want to be sponsored so that they can get the free machinery and get flown to tournaments. But they don’t realize that the sponsors want to see a return on the investment. It isn’t just about giving a pro a free keyboard and hoping for the best – they want other players to see the local pro-athletes playing with awesome hardware, making those consumers choose one brand over another. I asked Congo Kyle how he juggled the need to spend time on the craft in order to become worth sponsoring, and then, once sponsored, how he keeps up with that lifestyle:

I have to be honest it did take a massive toll on me at the start. It affected my studies, I found myself up till late at night and not getting up to go to university. This was my passion now and I had zero inclination to continue studying a degree which I hated. I did make a promise to my parents I would finish a degree and I plan on keeping that promise. It also took a toll on my long term relationship with a beautiful, loving girl who was extremely supportive but unfortunately couldn’t cope with the lifestyle. I have made some sacrifices but looking back I regret nothing. I go to sleep thinking about eSports, I wake up thinking about eSports and I wouldn’t change that routine for the world.

Sustainability kitty

When it comes to a team, it goes beyond gaming:it means the team has to be great at what they do (in-game), as well as interesting, personable and social. Not always an easy balance. it’s that personality and humor that makes Congo Kyle fun to listen to, and awesome to interview – just check out the following Q and A that I subjected him to:

Q: Do you have voice exercises to keep your timbre silky smooth?

A cigarette and a smooth bourbon usually do the trick. No, I usually talk so much that my voice is warm and ready before a game starts. Anyone who has met me knows I can grind an ear off in one conversation. PS: I don’t drink on the job

Q: How many women throw themselves at your feet now?

Not enough. I have used it as a pickup line a few times and it works pretty well actually, but it’s always the same questions and explaining what I do isn’t the easiest thing in the world to someone who isn’t a gamer. My QT3.14 gamer GF is out there, I can feel it. (So please follow me back on Twitter)

A big thank you to Kyle for his time and making me smile. The reality is that being a professional eSports athlete means hard work – just like being professional in any career. It will require sacrifice and dedication, and it may not be what you thought it was. However, for those with a passion for working in gaming, it is a dream come true. Let’s hope that infrastructure improves and teams are able to start streaming their practice matches soon – once teams can show off what they can do on a regular basis, it will help grow a following and improve brand awareness of their sponsors. Win-win for everyone.

You can follow Kyle on Twitter and Facebook

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Last Updated: January 23, 2014

Zoe Hawkins

Wielding my lasso of truth, I am the combination of nerd passion and grammar nazi. I delve into all things awesome and geek-tastic. You can read more of my words over at www.borngeek.co.za, or just follow me on all the social networks to get the true range of my sarcasm and wit.

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