HeatoN steps back from NiP

One of the most enduring partnerships in esports has come to an end, as Emil ‘HeatoN’ Christensen parted ways with Ninjas in Pyjamas after a relationship that had lasted nearly 16 years. He first played under the NiP banner in 2001, and was a brand ambassador for them until yesterday, October 10th, 2018.

Not all of the intervening years were spent in a NiP jersey but, other than SK Gaming, there is no org HeatoN’s name is more associated with, and even SK can’t touch the level of connection he had with the Ninjas. For modern fans, his name is legend, used for gamertags on other platforms by those who remember his playing pomp, while for the old school he is simply a titan, both on the server and outside it.

Five years of dominance

Between 2001 and 2006, there were few who could match HeatoN’s level, and his run of results shows just that. Comparing the prize money he took home with some of the figures around modern CSGO must be a depressing moment for him but many of the players he knew back then faded completely, while HeatoN was at least able to also perform on the business side.

Like many who made an impact in early esports, HeatoN’s start came after an injury put an end to his ambitions in hockey, of the icy variety. That competitive urge clearly translated well into esports, be it in a SK or Ninjas jersey, and today no player can boast five years at that level, although part of that is down to how much harder it is to dominate now.

Alongside the legendary Tommy ‘Potti' Ingemarsson his SK team dominated the early 2000s, before he went back to reform the Ninjas in Pyjamas org so synonymous with his name, where he remained as manager, brand ambassador and so on. He remains a shareholder in the company, but is leaving at this point to "focus on building his personal brand".

Dark times too

It hasn’t all been good times, of course. A 2015 judgement found HeatoN guilty of fraud over the payment of employment tax, for which he had to pay fines and performs some community service. Likewise, the NiP brand that used to represent the pinnacle of CSGO is associated with nostalgia these days, in part due to their unwillingness to let go of the past.

He was also involved in the disaster that was the CGS (Championship Gaming Series), running the Stockholm Magnetik for the Sky-owned group. His return to CSGO in 2012 with the NiP lineup that went on to win 87 games without loss may be the defining period in the game’s early life and their subsequent battle with Fnatic was the first true rivalry CSGO fans will remember down the ages.

New chapter

He steps away as a brand ambassador to focus on a new chapter and his own brand, which coincides with the planned release of his book, titled Heaton: Playing With Your Life. He remains a shareholder in the firm and there is no doubt that anyone who knows his name knows his connection to the Ninjas, and always will, but for now it seems he’s decided to take less of a connected approach to the game that made him.

This is a sad moment, but also a happy one, as the titans of the old school are still remembered, and CSGO is still here to remember them. There are many games that were played in 2001 that you might not have heard of today, but from then until now, CSGO has endured, and the journey could have been degrees tougher without the man they called HeatoN showing the world how it was done. Gone, but never forgotten, and always welcome back.

Images: NiP, Liquipedia