"Streamer salaries are ten times higher than for pro players" - Lanm Talks about Esports

Dota 2 Ben “PineappleCake” Tan

Lanm's speech at the 9th annual IResearch Summit. Lanm was a guest speaker at the event. During his speech, he introduces us to the development of Esports in China and talks about the income gap between streamers and pro players, interwined in the speech is his personal stories and his thought on the issue.

This is the translated speech by Lamn from the 9th annual IResearch Summit about the development of Esports in China and the problems facing it now.

Below is Lamn's speech at the 9th annual IResearch Summit held in Shanhai. In his speech he starts with talking about how the media currently views Esports in China. Following that he transitions into telling the story of the development of Esports in China and the different conditions throughout the years, woven into this is his story of his experience leaving his hometown to go his team's training house when he first got signed. After that, Lanm proceeds to discuss the current issue facing streamers and pro players, namely the pay difference between the two with the latter recieving on average ten times less then the former. He continues to dicuss a possible solution to this issue.

Credit goes to "Edooley" for providing the translation.


Legendary retired player, Lanm


Lanm:  It is wonderful to hear what many elders in our community had to say. This also includes what ImbaTV HT said in the last session. I truly felt like I have learnt more from our guests than studying for 10 years.  Many of the people sitting here today might not know that for their love of the game, many pro gamers give up on their education to enter the gaming profession. Before coming here, I was not sure about how to talk about Esports when I was invited to give this speech.

Recently, I saw an interview which portrayed Esports as a “gold clicking game”.  (Gold clicking game in the sense that money are made through mouse clicks) They mentioned how the current streamers (including former professional players) are receiving major increases in wages and earnings in the recent years. This increase led the outside media to think "How can a person playing video games earn this much money?"  I think this assessment is a bit harsh. What I want to talk about today is whether professional gamers truly deserve this type of treatment. Lets start with the development of Chinese Esports and the professional scene in the past decade. 

Let me introduce myself, I was a Dota2 pro in Team DK.  Last year, I won many championships with DK. Unfortunately, the team disbanded and we all went our separate ways.  Esports in China has been recognized for nearly a decade now. Spanning from 2003 when the Chinese sports ministry officially recognized Esports as the 99th sport, to the immediate blockage and restriction imposed by the government due to some unforeseen circumstances caused this industry and so on. Esports went through its ups and downs.

During the beginning of Chinese Esports, I was still in school.  After entering the industry, my colleagues told me what the situation of short term Esports players was like during 2003 and 2005.  For example, during 2005 team CS rented a two bedroom apartment for 6 people.  As professional players needed training, they went to the nearby internet cafe.  The internet cafe was about one kilometre away from their apartment so they walked there to train on a daily basis.  This arrangement was done intentionally to save time. At first, they were not getting paid.  Later on, there was a boss who really loved Esports.  He helped them renting a house and their monthly salary was only 500 Yuan (80 USD). They could only practice at night because it was cheaper to rent internet cafe's computer for the whole night. They survived on 12 Yuan (less than 2 USD) meals which included a box of ramen noodles and a bottle of water. At the time that was all the professional players could afford. 

I became a professional player around 2009. I got in during the booming years of Esports in China. At that time, I had to leave my home town in July '09, and when I left, I face a lot of social and family pressure. Due to the team's training base being located in Yunnan (Southern China close to the golden triangle, a triangle of places infamous for drugs), family members questioned me about the trip and was afraid I would be abducted by drug traffickers. At that time I was also very nervous. But I have been watching Sky winning the WCG for two consecutive years.  Sky's victory along with my love for Esports motivated me to the point of ignoring the warning from my family. I got emotional and decided to go to Yunan. 

When I was about to leave, my family was not in a great place financially. They put together a little over 2000 Yuan for me. I was really afraid. My family told me I have to save the 2000 Yuan for emergency use. My grandmother sewed a secret pocket inside my cloth. She put the money in the pocket in case the invitation was a lie and human traffickers got a hold of me. I could use the 2000 to escape and run back home.  At that time, it was truly hard for everyone in my family. My family was not supportive of my decision at all. They questioned me leaving home. To them, I left home to go play video games. There was no support coming from the family. My school and even my girlfriend were not supportive. The professional players of that time had to endure great social pressure to continue playing. As a player it is gratifying for me to see the industry’s development up to now. I think the mainstream media still does not fully recognize Esports as the real deal and I hope that one day it will. But for that to happen, it cannot simply be done through the efforts of only professional players. In 2011, one company raised the total prize money of Dota 2 tournament to 1.6 million dollars. (The International 1) One million dollars was the first prize of the tournament in Cologne, Germany. That tournament brought many investors into the scene. Those investors realized that Esports captivated the imagination of many people.  The competitions of the past two years built the foundation for what Esports is slowly becoming today. Esports has its own operating system and tickets are sold online through this operating system. One can purchase an E-ticket to watch your favorite players compete. Many players who truly love Esports are willing to spend the money to buy those tickets. 25% of the ticket intake will go towards the overall prize money and fans choosing to purchase these tickets lead to the ballooning effect of the prize pool. This ballooning effect is what led the outside to believe that our industry is no worse than other traditional sports industries. 

Team DK winning StarLadder 9 (source: SLTV)

That is one of the reasons why Esports is growing rapidly. I am currently streaming on Huomao TV. Why did I sign with Huomao? Because they have communicated with me that they will continuously package and help me to become a professional streamer. I know I wanted to get better as a streamer so I signed with HuomaoTV. 

I was not the only player to have signed a streaming contract.  Many retired players and a few active ones have signed streaming contracts.  Why are so many players choosing to retire and becoming streamers? You can retire and stream because the streaming sites are paying the streamers a lot of money.  Players are watching the amount of money being made by the streamers and cannot resist. They all feel they could become a streamer and get this amount of money. Now a new problem arises. This is the problem for the pro players and streamers alike. The problem is the fact that streamers' salary is more than 10 times that of the tier one professional players.

I can honestly tell everyone, currently, tier one pro player's salary (LOL and Dota2) is around 30,000 Yuan per month (4762 USD). The salary of streamers is ten times or 20 to 30 times of that of the professional player's salary.  This led many professional players to compare the money they could earn streaming to the money they would receive from winning a once a year tournament like TI. The Esports scene in China is facing this money issue and I feel like a solution must be swiftly found by the streaming services and the Esports teams. I feel that the role of the streaming service in the grand scheme of Esports should be that of news, media, and public relations. I feel this would be a better way to address the current issues at hand. Deep down I have no idea how to address this problem. Many professional players have already become heroes in the eyes of their followers.  Streaming will allow more interaction between players and fans. This is why streaming is an excellent stage for players to package/create an image for themselves. 

Next we move to my current job as a professional caster. My advantage lies in my professional knowledge. I have credibility because I was a player. But in comparison with other casters, I am not as good with the actual casting process, and I’m not as funny as they are. I feel streaming service should help players to become more interesting and help streamers to better interact with their audience. In addition, it should also helps streamers to become more professional. 

Streaming service should provide casters and streamers the opportunity for self-cultivation. As a professional gamer, I rarely have the opportunity to get on a stage like this to share my stories. To me, this is an opportunity to improve my craft and therefore I hope streaming services would create more training opportunities for us. Topics such as language skill, the ability to adapt on the fly, and information research are some of the things streaming service and streamers could improve and provide. I feel that Esports need to get the recognition from main stream media. Esports is the gaming industry's pioneers. Why? Because gaming itself could never get recognition in the main stream media. Esports is a positive development in the gaming industry. If Esports could get main stream recognition, the player base would increase exponentially. 

Professional players should not be too irritated by the difference in pay between the streams and the pros. They should not solely focus on the money they have yet to make. I think the pros should continue to be pros and they should come to an agreement with their clubs to stream and compete at the same time. This is not a bad thing for either party. Through streaming, players could interact more with their fan base and players could even increase their fan base. I think the pro players should focus on their communication skills, humor, and interaction with the fans during streaming. If I was a college student an easy job like streaming would be ideal. Spend a few hours streaming everyday and make a few thousand dollars a month would be wonderful.  This is all under the pretense that streaming will not interfere with studies. 

Finally, I have a few words for investors and the legends of the gaming industry. Today, it is only an Esports circle. I hope in the near future, Esports circle will evolve into the Esports profession, and then into the Esports field. If one day I could watch the Chinese flags being raised at an Olympic Esports venue, then I would proudly tell the younger generation that I use to be an Esports player, I was a rebellious young man!

 Thank you!

Source: iresearch.cn

Ben “PineappleCake” Tan
Inactive editor for Gosugamers Dota2 and an osu! Standard lover. Contact me via a message on Gosugamers or email to [email protected]