This is the second half of a two-part interview with manOFsnow. In this section manOFsnow gives his insight on choosing between becoming a professional player, being a coach, or being a full-time streamer. The first part revolves around his involvement in Renegades during the Winter Premiere.
Throughout his time in Overwatch, manOFsnow has juggled the potential career paths of becoming a professional player and a full-time streamer, and is now also considering becoming a coach. Between his time playing for Kingdom and then Renegades, he built up a sizeable following for his Twitch stream which has allowed him a source of income outside player salaries. This following is not primarily due to fame as a top player, but is a direct result of the content on his channel, as well as the time and effort expended.
His personal situation has many similarities to other players' across the scene who could pursue careers as a streamer or a pro player. What goes into that decision? How do the financial and lifestyle aspects compare between the two? How feasible, or risky, is each choice? To explain some more details, I sat down for the second part of an interview with manOFsnow.
Talking about your future then specifically, you’ve alluded to the fact that you're looking for a pro team - not actively in the sense that you're desperately searching for one but you're open to the idea of it - so where do you see your future being as a professional player in overwatch?
m: For the moment, I'm kind of looking for a team, kinda not looking for a team. I made the hard decision not too long ago just to focus on my content for three months. The main thing is, I'm focusing on teamOFsnow for the moment. Once that's completely finished, I go back and I join a team. Hopefully I find a decent roster for myself by that time.
The timeline for teamOFsnow is: applications will open Saturday, be open for two to three weeks, tryouts for a week - so that should amount to a month - and then for two months I’m coaching this team. If I feel like I've gotten them to a reasonable point, I make my exit and I start focusing on myself as a professional planer. If not then I continue developing them. My end game is legitimately to get them signed to a semi pro org ideally.
What's the end-game for you though? Are you aiming to be a professional player, are you aiming to be a coach, is it whatever you naturally fit into as you go down this journey?
m: It's a good question. As you pointed out there, working on teamOFsnow helps me develop my role as coach. That's something that I'm interested in - is it what I want to do when all’s said and done? Maybe. I feel like I could do the role really well. As a player I feel like I could do really well.
I don't know if I'm one of the 10 best flex players in the world; I don't know if I'm one of the 10 best in my particular role when it comes to Overwatch; could I be a top 10 coach? I don't know - I don't think I really care. I think I could be a good coach, I don't think it's for me though.
I do legitimately think that my content is very good. I think that percentage wise I'm a much better streamer than player, so with the fact that I personally thoroughly enjoyed streaming that's my end goal. Every time someone subs I say, “thank you for helping me pursue my dream job,” and it seriously is my dream job - so streaming is my end game for sure.
These three avenues you could go down - content creator, professional player, or coach - what do you see as the pros and cons of each thing from your point of view?
m: As a player, the pro is a lot of visibility. You don’t have to worry about streaming too much to support yourself, you receive a salary from an org. Basically, industry standard for someone like myself is actually a reasonable amount so that’s a huge pro for being a player. A con - playing on a team is very, very stressful, there’s a lot of worry. Can we perform right now? One thing that’s always helped me out - I used to wrestle, and when you are out on a mat and you’re in a skin-tight unitard and you’re having to go up against another person and all eyes are on you, that’s super nerve-wracking. And that helped refine my senses. When I’m playing against another team and we’re in front of essentially 10,000 people - a lot of people can’t do it, even people who stream, they can’t perform as well. That’s something that a lot of players struggle with but I’m able to counter that fear.
For a coach, you really don’t get any visibility. You get some level of a salary; I think it generally should be as much as a player but it could vary. Some coaches don’t really get respected by their players which is really unfortunate. The players see them as a 3.5k SR player [and they think], “why should I listen to what you say?”
Some people don’t understand that coaches aren’t necessarily good at the game they teach, they’re good at coaching rather than playing. And that’s why they’re the coach. So yeah, visibility goes down for the coach. I think it’d be a really fun role. You are the person, at the end of the day, that has to be accountable for the team environment. If players are picking on one person and it goes on for too long, it falls on your shoulders that you allowed that to happen. It’s a tough role, you have to say no to people. You have to say no to people that could be a superstar, you have to say, “no you can’t do that, you can’t act this way, I don’t want you playing this character at this part of the map, etc.”
As a streamer, streaming is very convenient. I worked as a software developer, I understand how it works to be at a real job and streaming is great. You get to pick your own hours, you get to work from home. There is this unknown - if I say something super bad on stream and I can’t recover, like some internet fiasco - if something like that were to happen to me and I am seen as this awful person on the internet, my stream wouldn’t recover and that job is essentially terminated for me. So that’s kind of a fear.
In a way it can be very isolating, it’s you and your chat. You can co-stream with people, I’ve been working with doing that, talking with other people. Even in comp games it feels like when I’m talking with other people it’s me talking to chat. On a team you really get this sense of camaraderie - like I’ve said I spent fourteen years on various teams and being in a team environment is something I could definitely come to miss. Hopefully that gives a sense for each of the three roles, how I feel about them.
From your point of view as a content creator, how is that side going for you? Obviously it’s not something where you get a set salary, it’s based on the amount of hours or energy or content you put out there, as you try to generate a fan-base for yourself. So how has that been going for you and how do you see it going in the future?
m: The grind is slow, the grind is super brutal. But I go into that with the mindset, I understand how it works. I liken streaming a lot to lifting weights, it takes a long time to develop super strong healthy numbers. I’ve been streaming for a year and a half. I streamed a lot of TF2 but as you know the numbers are not so amazing for that game. When I swapped over to Overwatch, I had maybe 5 viewers. It was really small and I had to heavily re-develop my brand at that point.
It’s no secret, no beating around the bush, I have been getting viewbotted and it has worked in my favour - kind of unfortunately. I do feel really bad about it but there are a lot of people who have been helped out by my content who only saw the content due to the viewbotting, so it’s bitter-sweet.
To explain streaming for me, when I started I was not in a super awesome place personally so I’d stream, talk with my chat, and they kinda helped me out of this emotional hole. So it’s my goal, every time I turn on my stream, to try to do that for each and every single person that’s in my chat. If I can entertain somebody to make their day better, that’s something I wanna do. If I can educate somebody to make them play better in Overwatch, that’s something I wanna do as well. Whatever I can do to help out, I wanna try to do. That kinda comes into teamOFsnow, I’m trying to develop the competitive scene in that sense. I want to have competitive Overwatch become stronger, a bigger community essentially.
From the financial point of view, you alluded to this earlier, but can you give us a sense of the scale of the numbers involved with professional players and content creators?
m: As a general rule of thumb, for most streamers you can look at their concurrent viewer count and you can use that to estimate their sub count. There’s kinda a continuum of community strength: a very strong community leads to a higher sub count than viewer count, up to twice as much, but generally not quite that high. Somebody with low community strength will have maybe half their viewer count in subs, it can vary by a factor of two either way.
For example, let’s take a 1000 viewer stream. If their community isn’t really strong, if the streamer doesn’t make chat feel they are with him together, then maybe that person has maybe 500 subs. Conversely, if that streamer instead has a very strong community, he talks to chat very frequently, has sub-only games, has this, that, and the other thing to make everybody feel welcome in the community, he could have upwards of 2000 subs.
For me, I have a very strong community, so I will say if I were to have a sub count it would be above my viewer count, and that’s true right now. I get maybe 150 concurrent viewers and my sub count is 240-ish. I’m pretty sure I can’t talk about how much I get from each sub, but I can allude to how much I would get from a team.
There’s four sources of revenue from streaming - you have subs, prime or real subs, bits revenue, ad revenue, and then you have donations. And in my experience, after talking with some people, I feel like your revenue from bits, ad revenue, and donations comes out to be relatively equal with how much you get from subs. Those are signs of community strength, so those numbers tend to be about equal. Generally speaking, as far as I understand it, I think someone would need in the neighbourhood of 600-700 subs to be making as much as they could on a pro team.
In terms of the growth and the ceiling on it, what are your thoughts there?
m: No team in Overwatch right now can match the salary of MoonMoon. Let’s say he was the best Overwatch player of all time. He has about 11,000 subs; no team will be able to pay him enough to have him come back from streaming. It’s just not possible, you would require multiple professional athletes chipping in, helping pay for this guy. It’s not feasible.
You could take somebody like DazeD from CS:GO, who makes a very healthy amount from streaming. I don’t see how, even in CS, it would be tough for him to find a team - not that he can play in Majors or anything - but it’d be really hard for him to find a team that would pay him enough to drop streaming. If you are on the absolute highest end of streaming, if you stream under one particular game and you’re a top 8 broadcaster for that game, it’s hard to argue against that kind of income that’s going your way.
So why do you think most top pro players, who when they do stream get a large concurrent viewership - Seagull is the obvious one but he’s such an outlier that it doesn’t really make sense to look at him, but if you look at more reasonably sized pro streamers, people like Mendokusaii - why do you think they don’t go to streaming? Why are they still playing for pro teams rather than pursuing the money and the flexibility of being a streamer?
m: I kinda touched on it briefly, camaraderie is a huge part of being on a team. Not to make it sound weird but it’s a relationship, one that you might share with a loved one. You build up a rapport with these people and they can be a support structure if something goes wrong in your life. You have these people that have your back.
Above and beyond that, if you are in competitive Overwatch you’re a true competitor. You are there to show you are the best. It does come down a bit to egotism, which is totally fine, happens in any sport. You just wanna show that you’re the best, you have what it takes to be the best. That’s why you see a lot of professional players sticking with the pro scene rather than moving to streaming full time.