Choice, coercion, or money, what makes eSports players switch games?


Over the last few days, two well-established Filipino gamers announced their intentions to retire from Dota 2 to pursue a career in Mobile Legends Bang Bang (MLBB).

While this is not the first time a professional eSports player has changed his/her game of choice, these two cases are just the most recent. This brings up the big question of what motivates professional players to make a switch and shift their focus to a new game?

This is a difficult question to answer, and it is worth looking at some of the better-known cases of players changing games. Some of the famous examples are those of Johan “N0tail” Sundstein, Tal “Fly” Aizik, Jesse “JerAx” (pronounced dʒɛəraks) Vainikka, Spencer “Hiko” Martin, Adil “ScreaM” Benrlitom, Nick “Nitr0” Cannella, Kenneth “Flysolo” Coloma, Jacko “Jacko” Soriano and Ylli ‘Garter’ Ramadani.

N0tail and Fly made the decision way back in 2012 when they shifted from Heroes of Newerth (HONE) to Dota 2. The decision was made because HONE had a declining professional circuit and Dota 2 was picking up. The shift may also in part have been influenced by the fact that both players were playing for Fnatic at the time and the organisation had decided to disband their roster for HONE and offered them a spot on the Dota 2 roster.

Jerax is another example of a player who started out playing HONE, however, he was forced to take a break from professional game due to compulsory military service, and on his return, he chose to play Dota 2. Jerax shifted from his home country of Finland to Korea as he felt that might improve his chances of finding a team he could possibly play with.

Hiko, ScreaM, and Nitr0 are all well-known players who moved from Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO) to Valorant. The move by these players was shocking, to say the least, given that they had all reached legendary status in the eyes of the fans. There have also been several other top players from CS: GO who chose to make a similar move. This decision by many of the professionals is largely attributed to the fact that Valorant is believed to offer a more immersive experience for players and also at the same time has more scope for content creation in comparison to CS: GO.

Of late, a number of top players from CS: GO have moved on to other games.

Flysolo and Jacko along with Garter are examples of players who decided Dota 2 is no longer the game for them and chose to re-apply their skill in a new game. Flysolo, while announcing his decision to change games, but the decision has come on the back of an unsuccessful 2020 for the player. He has made a move to MLBB, which is very popular in his home country (Philippines), and the decision appears to be based on the hope that he may find better professional opportunities in a new game.

Jacko was once considered a rising star in the world of Dota 2, and some even considered him one of the greatest talents in the history of eSport. However, he was given a lifetime ban by Valve when he was caught for his involvement in a match-fixing scandal. While the ban was handed out several years ago, Jacko only announced his retirement from Dota 2 two weeks ago. The reason is clear – he intends to pursue a career in eSports, and he has realised that Dota 2 is no longer an option available to him.

Garter is a case of a player becoming disgruntled with the way the Dota 2 professional circuit is set up and he felt the possibility of earning money was more realistic in League of Legends (LoL) despite the fact that the largest tournaments in LoL offer less than a fraction of the money that can be earned by winning a single tournament in Dota 2.

There are even a few examples of Indian players too who have changed their eSport. The best examples from within India would be Gourav “INDJokerFTW” Joshi, Ayan “8bit Rebel” Ali, Parv “SouL Regaltos” Singh, Tanmay “Sc0utOP” Singh, Naman “MortaL” Mathur. the main factor that persuaded these players to move is the fact that PUBG Mobile has been banned in India.

There are three categories of reasons that drive a player to change the game they play professionally. The first category is where players are forced into a situation where it looks impossible for them to continue playing the eSport they have been a part of so far. The players who find themselves in this category are those similar to Jacko who have been handed punishments due to behaviour that is against the very spirit of the game.

The second category is players who move onto what they believe are greener pastures. The players in this category are motivated by monetary factors that make one game look more favourable when compared to another. Players who struggle to break into the highest levels of their eSport are often within this category.

The third category includes the players who move into a newer eSport due to unexplainable or unique factors. This includes factors as vague as the gaming experience (which is often subjective), better viewership for streamers or in some cases even just a change in their preferences. The players who litter this category are a mixed bag including some of the top players. However, the big commonality between players in this category is that they are driven by non-monetary factors while making the decision to move on.

Times2 Desk
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