Esports vs streaming: Smash players caught between a rock and a hard place
Positive articles about streaming are generally easier to find than positive pieces on esports, but there is a dark truth beneath the surface for some of Twitch’s more popular stars. Players from the Smash community have struggled in recent months to maintain their stream subscriber numbers as well as compete in the games that made them famous, perhaps foreshadowing an issues that could become more prevalent for other games in 2019.
Right now, the reason Smash suffers in this way is due to the intersection between prize money and streaming being relatively low, where the income a top Twitch partner like Cloud 9’s Joseph ‘Mango’ Marquez or Tempo Storm’s Gonzalo ‘ZeRo’ Barrios can achieve by streaming far outstrips their potential tournament winnings.
ZeRo picks stream over competition
We’ve already seen this manifest with ZeRo’s decision not to compete in Smash Ultimate in a serious way in an attempt to protect his stream income, and a number of other players have talked about the struggle of losing hundreds of subs whenever they spend the weekend at an event. Now, even smaller streamers from the scene are starting to see serious losses when they leave to play at an event, which could mean the competitive scene suffers down the line.
Equally, the effect on the mental health of the streamers in question is no longer a doubt, with many expressing real concern that they could end up suffering for taking even a couple of days off. This experience is not new to self employed folk and the like, but for a young man or woman who has only experienced the world through esports the pressure goes from zero to sixty in no time at all, and can take a brutal toll on their mindset.
How this is solved long-term is a difficult question, but there is no doubt that players need some assistance to deal with the pressure of maintaining a stream. Experienced players in the Twitch game such as Summit1G have admitted to feeling the heat, so for someone like ZeRo or Mango the pressure is going to be even more intense, with their existence that much closer to the bread line.
Whether it is Twitch, who profit so intensely from the players, but are rarely keen to police their platform, or the teams that need to act is another question, but in 2019 someone needs to find a way to take the intense pressure off the stars of Twitch. The alternative is damaging to all of gaming and esports, and this scenario is already hurting the competitive scene in smaller scenes like Smash.