Utah Esports team’s $1-million win shows gaming is viable career for some

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LAYTON, Utah (ABC4 News) – A Utah professional Esports organization showed the world that hard work and dedication pay off after winning $1 million at a global gaming competition in Canada in February.

A group of “Rainbow Six Siege” players represented Spacestation Gaming, based out of Layton, at the Ubisoft annual Six Invitational held in Montréal, Canada February 14-16. 

Coming off a U.S. National win in December, the team proved they had what it took to become world champions with an undefeated climb to the top of the winners bracket.

The team defeated NiP’s Brazilian players to take home the competitions top grand prize of $1,000,000.

You can watch a video recap of the competition here.

(from left to right) Dylan Bosco (Bosco), Coach Justin Woods (Lycan), Javier Escamilla (Thinkingnade), Assistant Coach Zachary Sites (Sov), Luke Slota: their 17-year-old analyst, Nate Duvall (Rampy), Alec Fultz (Fultz), and on the bottom middle, now two-time world champion, Troy Jaroslawski (Canadian).

Alex Christiansen, Chief Operating Officer of Spacestation Gaming, said they have multiple teams across the county who compete in several different games like Rainbow Six: Siege, Rocket League, Smite, Super Smash Bros Ultimate, PUBG (PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds) and Brawl Stars.

Christiansen said gaming has evolved tremendously over the years, and they are trying to change the stigma behind what the outside world understands about professional gaming.

“It’s a full-time job for most of them,” said Christiansen. “Players are paid a salary, just like any other professional athlete, to be a part of the team.”

Christiansen said Esports is a growing industry and while it is still new, it is no longer just a “hobby or side play” like some assume and can lead to a very lucrative and rewarding career.

“This is our players 100 % focus, they can spend 10 or more hours a day working on their skills,” said Christiansen. “The team that won the tournament lives together in a house in Atlanta and will soon be moving to Vegas. Every couple months they also attend a camp where they spend a week working on strategies, other teams’ strategies, skills, and the structure of the game.”

Organizations are coming up to support high school students in leagues and teams that represent their schools and Christiansen believes 10 years from now there could be a complete flop of traditional sports in high schools and colleges around the country.

The Esports industry has grown so massively over the last few years. Rainbow Six Siege registered around 10 million players in 2016 and now has more than 55 million worldwide.

The amount of money professional Esports professionals can make varies on the amount of time the game has been around.

According to Jkcp.com, (Julian Krinsky Camps and Programs who provide camps and programs for youth conducive to achievement and growth) regular Esports salaries range from $1,000 to $5,000 a month but for some, like top players for League of Legends, can be upwards of $15,000 a month in addition to tournament winnings.

Gamer incomes often come from sponsors, such as manufacturers of gaming equipment or energy drink suppliers or even non-gaming sponsors such as car manufacturers and clothing companies.

According to Nerdwallet, an American personal finance company, another way gamers make money is by live streaming on Twitch through subscriptions, sponsorships and receiving a percentage of ad revenue.

Shaun McBride, 31, also known as Shonduras, is from Clearfield and is the owner of Spacestation Gaming. McBride’s fast-growing fame started by using his Snapchat account to share his daily adventures with the world then grew through the use of Vine and YouTube.

Currently, his YouTube channel “Shonduras” has 2.1 million subscribers and his videos, on average, receive 4.9 million views per day.

More avenues are opening up to explore Esports as a potential career right here in Utah.

iTEAM USA announced in February that they have a partnership with Esports platform PlayVS to launch Esports to schools throughout the state of Utah.

“Esports provides a new opportunity for students to become athletes,” said Dr. Clint Kennedy, Director of Education & Acquisition at PlayVS. “It opens the door to scholarships, recognition, and newfound communities on campus. We are excited to work directly with teachers and schools to build out their Esports programs this fall.”

Christiansen said he fully understands it can be difficult for parents to get behind their kids wanting to make careers out of gaming because of a lack of full knowledge. As this continues to grow so will the faith in parents as well as the knowledge of the industry.

As their child gets older, parents have to learn to gauge if their child has the talent required to make it professionally. Just like with any physical sport, it takes dedication, skill, and the right talent, said Christiansen.

Nearing 495 million people involved in Esports worldwide, the industry is expected to top over $1 billion in revenue in 2020.

In 2017, the University of Utah became the first P5 (Power Five athletics) school to announce they will have varsity Esports team, created through their nationally-ranked Entertainment Arts & Engineering video game development program.

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