If you’r a casual Call of Duty player, like me, there’s a pretty good chance you’re not familiar with 22-year-old named Matt Haag a.k.a. Nadeshot. The 22-year-old from Chicago is a competitive Call of Duty BEAST and was the subject of an extensive front-page profile in the Sunday New York Times. It’s a must-read for all fans of the C.o.D. franchise. More importantly, anyone who has ever made snarky, snide jokes about C.o.D. geeks can insert their foot in mouth knowing that this dude is bringing in a million dollars a year just doing what he loves. If that’s not a Bro move, I don’t know what is.
Nadeshot has racked up over 1,460,000 YouTube subscribers on his OpTic NaDeSHoT channel. His livestreams on Major League Gaming and Twitch routinely get hundreds of thousands of viewers. The public visibility — along with big tournament wins — has led to some very lucrative sponsorship deals. In the immortal words of Jay-Z, he’s “a business, man,” making nearly seven figures playing Call of Duty professionally. Via the NY Times:
His command over his audience is great enough that Major League Gaming recently enticed him to leave Twitch and stream exclusively with its site. He is on track to make around $700,000 from streaming and his YouTube channel this year. Throw in his other sponsorships and contest winnings, and he is well on his way to a million-dollar year.
Not bad for someone who was literally “flipping burgers at McDonalds” just three years ago. His biggest sponsorship deal to-date is with Red Bull, which now has an “e-sports” sponsorship division like it does for snowboarders, mountain bikers, and motocross riders:
And while most pro gamers have to settle for modest sponsorships with companies that make things like game controllers and headphones, Mr. Haag last year also attracted Red Bull, the energy drink, which has traditionally built its marketing around skateboarders, motocross riders and other extreme-sports athletes. Mr. Haag is one of six people on its roster of e-sports players, and it is showering them with the same attention and training it has lavished on athletes who compete in the real world.
For the trip to Los Angeles, Red Bull paid for Mr. Haag and his teammates to live in Venice Beach. During the day, the company shuttled them to its headquarters in Santa Monica for workouts and other training. At night, they lingered in a high-tech studio and played video games into the wee hours.
Makes sense, right? Red Bull and marathon Call of Duty sessions go hand-in-hand. In fact, Red Bull rented a house in Venice Beach and “trained” Nadeshot and his Team Optic teammates at an “e-sports” training camp, where they had sessions on yoga and eating healthy to improve stamina. Red Bull hooked his head up to a brain scan reader to study how his brain operates during matches.
Despite all the cash, heavy is the head that wears the crown. When you’re making seven figures just for playing video games — something almost everyone who plays video games dreams of doing — you tend to worry about self-preservation:
“I think about my future probably at least 10 times a day. I think about what if this all goes away one day? What if for some reason people just aren’t in your live stream tomorrow? What if people aren’t clicking on your YouTube videos tomorrow? What if your team doesn’t work out and you’re not performing that well and you have to quit competitively? What happens when you can’t compete anymore and you want to retire because you’re going insane?”
Nadeshot would probably laugh his ass off playing in a Deathmatch against me and my feeble attempts to Kingslay with a custom AK12. The profile is a fascinating read, illustrating just how much of a cultural phenomena the Call of Duty competitions have become.