Month: April 2019
eSports is the new promised land. Maybe you’ve heard of GeT_RiGhT or faker. You’ve almost certainly heard of Shroud.
Professional video game players, working full time to win competitions on a global stage, and take home their part of a $700M industry. Whether it be Team Liquid taking home the lion’s share of The International’s $25M prize, or Counter Logic walking home with $1M from the Halo World Championships, “Professional Gamer” is a job title that commands respect and awe. Of course, it wasn’t always that way, and there’s one guy who really helped kickstart it.
You’ve probably seen his brand in Best Buy or Micro Center without even realizing it was a person, but there’s the top online casinos usa gamer behind that brand name. [Fatal1ty] Hey Guys, this is Fatal1ty and you’re watching Planet Quake 4 dot net Johnathan Wendel, gamertag Fatal1ty, was the first major Western eSports superstar, the highest earning professional gamer for almost ten years in a row, and the man behind the Fatal1ty lifestyle brand. You’ve probably seen his logo on mousepads, headphones, motherboards, and even food. But this millionaire gamer started out at a time when gaming wasn’t something you could do for a job.
It’s 1999, and Quake 3 Arena is one of the biggest games in the world. Just a few years ago, Dennis “Thresh” Fong had won John Carmack’s Ferrari in a Doom competition, and Johnathan Wendel has decided to follow in his footsteps and try to win some money at the Cyberathletic Professional League’s FRAG 3 tournament in Dallas. He’s been playing games for years, starting with Ikari Warriors on the NES in 1986, but he’s naturally competitive.
He played tennis, and became team captain, and played billiards against pool sharks–and won. In fact, he was good enough at pool that he qualified for the junior nationals tournament. It was his tournament to lose, or so he thought, before his mother refused to allow him to travel to compete. His parents were divorced, and that weekend was her weekend with the kids, so she said “no.” John’s mom believed he should get a job and go to DeVry, and get a solid job working tech support.
He has a few friends who played games, and one of them in particular was pretty good. Eric “Batch” Paik had just won a Quake tournament in London, and one night during a friendly match, Batch was beaten by Wendel 10 to 0. His response? “Johnathan, I just won in London and you went 10–0 against me.
It’s pretty obvious you need to start playing in bigger tournaments.” With this plan, Johnathan moved out of his mother’s house, moved in with his Dad, and made a handshake agreement. He would play one tournament, the upcoming FRAG 3, and if he lost he’d forget about gaming. His dad agreed, so Johnathan took the last $500 he had, travelled to the tournament, and competed. He didn’t win, but he placed 3rd, and came home with a check for $4000.
That check started his career, and six months later he won $40,000 at the Razer Tournament. And six more 1st place wins that year. He was so dominating in the arena that he managed to cut a sponsorship deal with Razer for $30,000 plus all expenses, and all he had to do was wear their t-shirts while he played. And he continued to win, playing in Dallas; Des Moines; Sweden; St. Louis; Seoul; and Cologne. In that first year as a pro gamer, he earned around $110,000. In the 02-03 season, he failed to qualify for the upcoming Quake tournament, and so he decided to play another newly released game, Unreal Tournament 2003.
This shift from his bread-and-butter game to a new title caught the attention of MTV, who featured him as a part of their True Life series for an episode called “I’m A Gamer.” MTV followed him as he trained for and eventually won the Unreal Tournament championship, and suddenly Fatal1ty was known to a national audience. With some amazing foresight, he founded Fatal1ty Inc, and began working with various manufacturers on keyboards, mousepads, and more, leveraging his free publicity from MTV, and securing interviews on 60 Seconds, magazine spots in Forbes, Businessweek, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and Wired–showing up next to Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. He was front page of the LA Times, and was drawing attention to this brand new eSports industry. Of course, at heart, he was still a competitive gamer, and he continued to participate in tournaments–and win them. That is until Intel offered a $150,000 prize to the winner of a year-long tournament in the first game from studio People Can Fly called Painkiller.
You might know People Can Fly today because of their game Fortnite, or because of the Gears of War series, or Bulletstorm. This was their very first game, and it was incredibly popular in the competitive scene. Fatal1ty was new to Painkiller, and he was behind the competition. Sander Kaasjager, known better as Vo0, was the reigning champion–having won 5 of the 9 events throughout the year-long competition already. Fatal1ty only won two. It was enough to get him to the finals, but it wasn’t promising, and it wasn’t surprising that Fatal1ty lost.
But this was a double elimination, and Fatal1ty had his second chance. In the final game of the competition, Fatal1ty was the wild card that managed to get into that seat across from Vo0. He played like he’d never played before. He obliterated Vo0 on Vo0’s best map, and then did even better on the second map. Vo0 tried to come back, scoring multiple kills in a row and putting Fatal1ty down by 5 points, but this only seemed to motivate Fatal1ty more, and he came back to win it. In fact, he won every single game against Vo0, with a final score of 4-0.
He cheered, he laughed, he crowed, and he held that $150,000 check above his head, doubling his career earnings, and securing his position as the world’s highest paid video game player. MTV Overdrive carried the feed live, making it the first worldwide broadcast of an e-sports event. It was the last major tournament Fatal1ty would ever win. The next year, Quake 4 was the game of the choice. In his time away from the Quake environment, a new challenger had arisen: Johan “Toxjq” Quick.
This Swedish superplayer dominated Quake 4’s leaderboards, winning seven straight tournaments in a row in 2006, and winning 75% of the tournaments the next year–one of esports most dominant runs in history. Fatal1ty came in 4th, then 2nd, then 3rd, and then he quit. Johnathan Wendel held World Championship titles in Doom 3, Alien vs. Predator 2, Unreal Tournament 2003, Quake III and Painkiller. He was awarded the first ever Lifetime Achievement Award in eSports, and was inducted into the inaugural class of the International Video Game Hall of Game.
He also holds a Guiness World Record for most frags in one hour in Quake 4. In his career he won more than $450,000 in tournament winnings, a record that wouldn’t be beaten until Lee Jae-dong would eclipse it by coming in second at the 2013 StarCraft II World Championship Series Global Finals. Johnathan Wendel didn’t disappear, he moved into business, and retired from gaming.
He would start a real estate company in Las Vegas, continue to work on his Fatal1ty Inc. brand, including partnerships with Monster and Creative. He sponsored more than 30 pro-gamers and became the face of the DirecTV’s Championship Gaming Series. Today, he streams on Twitch with just under 40,000 followers and is a respected golfer–travelling the world to play at various courses. Fatal1ty is a brand now, and one that isn’t often associated with the man behind the name, but at one point, there was little question about how the world perceived him… [Steve Kroft] So you’re the best in the world? [Fatal1ty] If you say so. I’m trying to be modest here, so uh.
But uh, yes, I’m pretty good. Do you watch eSports? Is there a personality you enjoy watching, or do you like a specific team? I’ve always had a soft spot for fnatic, though I tend to watch the team, even as players move in and out of it.
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