The Choices Pro Gamers Face: Performing Abroad, Live Streaming, and Thoughts on Their Retirement...

They say that life is made up of an infinite amount of choices; this also applies to pro gamers as well. After they fulfill their dream of becoming one, they still have numerous paths to choose, such as whether to go to a foreign team or play in their home country. Also, players have more to worry about after they retire from the scene since most of them have short careers.

That is why a lot of pro gamers who perform in Korea choose to go abroad since it could be a ‘second beginning’ for them. If players went to foreign leagues to earn more money in the past, nowadays, they go abroad to be free of the fierce competition in Korea. These days, seeing Korean pros perform overseas is nothing unusual.

Related: Salaries and Ages in the Korean Esports Industry -- LCK Average Salary at 175M Won


LoL players to China, Overwatch to NA

You can now easily find Korean players not only in China, NA, and the EU but also in Turkey, Japan, and the Philipines. According to the KOCCA(Korea Creative Content Agency)’s 2018 study on esports, in Korea, LoL and Overwatch are the 2 events that have the most players going overseas to perform. As of July 2018, 91 LoL and 61 Overwatch players are playing in a foreign team.

There are some differences in which regions players play between the 2 events. As stated in KOCCA’s study, Korean LoL players are mostly performing in China whereas Overwatch players tend to play more in NA. Looking back on Korean LoL history, players started to go abroad after Chinese capital was brought in. On the other hand, the Overwatch League’s participants are mostly based in NA. This is probably why the 2 events show significant differences.

Korean players who are performing in foreign leagues have already made notable results in numerous tournaments. A total of 34 Korean players performed in the 2017 LoL World Championship (Worlds) and at that time, 16 of them were playing in a foreign team. The Korean import mid laner Song “Rookie” Eui-jin was the main lead for iG during their run in the 2018 Worlds, which they eventually won. As a matter of fact, the first champions of the Overwatch League, the London Spitfire, have an all-Korean coaching staff and players.

TwitchTV  vs  AfreecaTV


With the development of esports, diverse related industries have also developed, and one of those ‘now-familiar’ industries is live broadcasting. Since esports itself is largely based on the internet and since its fan base is mostly in their teens and 20s, live streaming naturally grew as a prominent industry. Compared to 2016, broadcasters in 2017 that were involved in internet streaming services made 28% more income, whereas traditional cable broadcasters were hit with a 5% decrease.

Also, steaming is an important way of earning money for pro gamers. Aside from players’ wages and prize money, live streaming has become the most lucrative way for pros to up their income. As of August 2018, among the LoL Champions Korea (LCK) players, a total of 50 players were streaming on either TwitchTV or AfreecaTV.  27 players used Twitch as their platform and the other 23 streamed on Afreeca.

However, the total numbers of fans between the 2 platforms showed a significant difference. The 50 players mentioned above had a total of 3,300,000 fans (TwitchTV + AfreecaTV) and the percentage is highly skewed towards Twitch TV. The top 3 players that have the most fans are  Lee “Faker” Sang-hyuk, Kim, Han “Peanut” Wang-ho, and Kim “PraY” Jong-in, whose viewers constitute 59.62% of the total viewers for the 50 LCK streamers. Faker-Peanut uses TwitchTV and this seems to be the main reason for that difference.


What are the thoughts of pro gamers on their retirement?


In the aforementioned study, we were able to gain some insight on pro gamers’ thoughts on their retirement. According to a survey, using a total of 51 LCK players performing in 8 different teams as subjects, it seems that the majority of them had quite a positive perspective on their future as a pro gamer. Moreover, they also thought that the esports market itself had a bright future ahead; 88.3% answered that they saw the future of esports as a positive one. Also, 62% thought their own future would be positive.

The LCK players were also fairly open to the idea of going to a foreign league. A total of 64.7% answered “yes”. When it came to regions, a total of 57.6% preferred NA and 18.2% answered either EU or China.

Regarding their retirement, 52.9% answered that they’ll end their career when they think that their performance has decreased. Also, 7.8% thought of retiring when they have difficulties finding teams. Their military service was also taken into account; a total of 13.7%, players said they would consider ending their career when they go to the military. However, most LCK pros said they desired to keep on working in the esports industry as coaching staff, a streamer, commentator, etc.

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