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Streaming’s brightest stars are trying to build the next generation of gamers

FaZe Clan announces its Academy, and SypherPK talks Oni Studio

FaZe Clan

Today, esports and entertainment organization FaZe Clan announces its new talent development program, FaZe Academy. It places a bunch of potential FaZe recruits into a bootcamp to get a shot at being a full-fledged member of the organization. It’s a long way from how the organization used to recruit in the beginning — which was by Twitter DM, says Darren Yan, VP of Talent at FaZe. The point of the Academy is to create lifelong FaZe members, and its first class will be announced in January.

It’s an interesting idea, not least because cultivating successive generations of talent ensures that organizations can stay relevant even after their original members have quit the scene. In that regard, the Academy is something of a legacy builder: it’s meant to keep FaZe in the spotlight for years to come.

I’ve spoken to two other streamers recently — Ali “SypherPK” Hassan and Félix “xQc” Lengyel — who intend to or are building similar initiatives, which are meant to guide up-and-coming streamers into stardom. “We want to build out a resource, a company that can help talent that has potential to see their full potential,” Hassan says, “while still, you know, retaining full control of their content, and just providing them the tools and the insight that we’ve accumulated over the years building up the SypherPK brand.” Lengyel, on the other hand, is interested in creating what he calls a “streamer showcase,” after his experiences playing Among Us with people he found on Twitter. “It’s been really crazy to see all these smaller streamers grow, like, out of the blue,” he says. “All of them getting partnered and getting sponsorships.”

Both FaZe’s Academy and Hassan’s creator development program, Oni Studios, are more talent management than agency work. (Lengyel’s streamer showcase is light on details, as of right now.) “Unlike other esports orgs, for our content creators, and our streamers and personalities, it’s more of a talent management and client relationship more than it is a player team relationship, like our pro players,” says Yan. Essentially, it’s a development and management company for its content creators who aren’t signed to the FaZe professional teams.

“For us, it’s more like traditional entertainment in the sense that we manage them and we grow with their business, and we take a rev share of helping them build that,” says Yan. The academy will also teach the finer points of FaZe Clan history, assign each member a team to help with strategy and development, and (naturally) exclusive gear.

As described by Daniela Hassan, Hassan’s wife and business manager, Oni Studio is focused on helping streamers stay productive in the long term. “We know the burnout, we know the mental strain that this career takes on people,” she says. “And a big part of it is due to the business aspect of it and the strategizing, you know? A content creator isn’t necessarily a business savvy person, they just want to make content online.” Their company is meant to help streamers with the business of streaming for a living. But Daniela is also clear that the company is looking for the next Sypher, the next Ninja, and the next DrLupo. “It’s not just something that’s going to last for two, three years. We’re looking at the long con here to make sure people are taking care of their futures just as they’re taking care of their nows.” Oni Studio will announce its first creators next March and will offer development, strategy, and social media services.

In our conversation, Hassan was clear that he’s able to spend time and money on Oni Studio because he recently struck an exclusive streaming deal with Twitch. It’s given him more structure and flexibility in his day-to-day, which means he has more space and support to work on things like this studio. “So instead of just the nonstop daily streams, we have a more solid streaming schedule that we’re following, we have a more solid content schedule,” he says. “And now we can have the peace of mind to really branch out and take on an ambitious project like this, and dedicate resources, both financial and time towards it as a direct result of the streaming deal.”

Where Oni Studios and FaZe differ is mostly in who they’re courting. FaZe actively recruits talent from both the public and the esports and content creator space, without necessarily considering their reach or if they’re even streamers. Oni Studios, on the other hand, is specifically looking for established live-streamers who could use a boost. “I would say it’s geared more towards the already established creator, in that 200 to 400 viewer range,” says Daniela. “Because before that, it’s really in the weeds. And there’s very little that we can do with your own brand — you know, you have to develop your own brand before we can come in.”

This focus on legacy is just another sign that the live-streaming industry is maturing. The stars in the current firmament haven’t winked out yet, but it’s clear that being on top makes you think about your relevance. It’s also potentially lucrative, as making a streamer into a star usually means minting their management. “Because streamers can’t do this forever,” says Daniela. “So this is Ali’s way of staying in the space. He loves this space. He loves streaming, he loves Twitch, he loves all these things. But let’s be honest, there’s a shelf life on content creators,” she continues. “And when you’re past that stage, it’s like what’s there left for you?” It’s a salient question. Streaming for hours in front of fluctuating audiences is unsustainable; many have written about streamer burnout and how devastating it can be. Creating organizations that can stand on their own is a smart way to stay relevant, and as Daniela notes, creators should be thinking beyond the next three to five years.

“This is our legacy that we’re trying to build. And we want to encourage the people that work with us at Oni studios to think in that same way,” she says. “Evolve past your daily content creation. That’s great in the now but what’s your goal for the future? What is this empire that you’re building?”