2020 has been a tough year for sport for obvious reasons, with leagues and tournaments across the globe thrown into disarray. But there is one area within the sporting sector that has thrived during recent months. While the physical world has been in a greater or lesser extent of lockdown, cyberspace has remained well and truly open for business. That has been just fine for the eSport community, and competitive gaming has continued it progression faster than ever from the periphery to the mainstream.
A growing phenomenon
Games like League of Legends, Dota 2 and CS:GO have always had a dedicated following among gamers. The big difference is that they are now attracting more fans and followers than ever before. Just as you don’t need to be an athlete to follow Manchester United, you don’t need to be a gamer to enjoy eSport. This new popularity has led to increased backing from sponsors, greater media coverage and growth in other peripheral or supporting businesses. For example, Betway now offers esport betting alongside the more traditional sports. This is one of most trusted online casinos in New Zealand according to the Casinoblox.co.nz rating site, and it shows which way the wind is blowing.
A growing fan base, big sponsorship deals, live streaming on the sports channels and even attention from the betting community add up to one thing. There’s more money in eSport now than at any point in its history to date. Despite the relatively small population, New Zealand has always managed to compete on level terms with the rest of the world when it comes to traditional sport. But how about in eSport? Let’s meet the nation’s most successful players.
Better known by his online tag Gratisfacton, 24 year old Sean has recorded total winnings of more than $120,000 from his game of choice, which is CS:GO. That makes him not only the highest earning CS:GO player, but also the most successful eSport player overall. This is, in itself, unusual, given that globally, most of the top earners generate their winnings in Dota 2.
Sean is famous for his laid-back attitude, and insists that being top of the tree in his home country is no big deal. He says that making a living from playing CS:GO is “fun” and that, under normal circumstances, attending tournaments is a great way to see the world.
Going under the online name of Parpy, Abdullah is a familiar, and sometimes controversial, figure in New Zealand’s eSport community. He is also second on the nation’s money list with earnings to date amounting to just under $90,000. Parpy is best known for playing Fortnite, and his is a classic story of rags to riches.
Before he hit the big time, Parpy lived for some time in a refugee camp. Last year, he made a video that discussed his experiences and the plight of thousands of refugees. Unfortunately, this led to tension between Parpy and his team, Raised By Kings, after he felt they did not support him in promoting the video. The upshot is that Parpy and RBK parted company and he is now back to playing as a free agent.
Known to Fortnite fans as Link, here’s an eSport star who has never even revealed his surname. Link remains something of an enigma, but that surely cannot last for long. Despite only appearing on the pro circuit in July 2019, he has already catapulted to third place in the list of top New Zealand eSport earners, having scooped almost $83,000 in 17 tournaments. This included a $50,000 prize in the Solo event at the Fortnite World Championship finals last year – not bad given that it was his first pro event!
Since then, Link has played in smaller-scale tournaments, but consistently he has finished at the top of the tree. He keeps his privacy closely guarded, but we suspect that this is a young man with a very big future at his feet.
Slaya, as he is better known, came up through the ranks with Parpy and the pair are often seen together on YouTube. Unlike the elusive Link, Slaya is a familiar face, who regularly streams his games on Twitch and likes nothing more than sharing tips and tricks via his social media feeds.
His earnings to date stand at $72,000, and he is another star who scored big at the Fortnite World Championship last year – an event he attended just weeks after celebrating his 17th birthday.
Fifth on the eSports earnings list for New Zealand, Richard “Mes” Simpson is the nation’s number one when it comes to World of Warcraft. Unlike the Fortnite upstarts, Mes has been on the scene for a few years now. Spending more than two years on the Method Orange roster, he built a reputation as a man who is calm and unflustered under pressure.
Career earnings of $58,000 include a $30,000 pay day at BlitzCon in 2018 and $12,500 at the World of Warcraft North America finals back in September 2017. Mes’ game of choice is not typically a major money spinner, and the fact that a WoW player is in the top five eSport earners in the country, speaks volumes for Mes’ skill and dedication.
And many more
Outside the top five, there are literally dozens of other eSport players in New Zealand whose gaming skills have earned them five-figure sums. Fortnite is the game of choice, which is indicative that many of these up and coming stars are of the new breed, and are still in their teens.
Having said that, New Zealand also has its share of established players who play the older games. For example, Simon “Sico” Williams is well known on the CS:GO circuit and has accumulated earnings of more than $55,000. It all adds up to an eSport scene that is bursting with skill, youth and vitality. That can only bode well for New Zealand’s aspirations of taking a leading role in the future of eSport.