Fedya Khvan of cyber.sports.ru had a big talk with Aunkere. The original interview is available in Russian following the link, we present the English version of the most interesting parts of the interview.
Eugene “Aunkere” Karyat is a popular streamer, who has over 370,000 followers. What is more, Aunkere is a prominent esports athlete. He has spent more than one year in NAVI academy and managed to advance to Rio Major RMR as a part of Benched Heroes – a team that also consists of Owen “smooya” Butterfield. Unfortunately, the team has failed to get to Malta due to visa problems.
The interview includes the discussion of streams, FPL, pro-players salaries, income from stickers, visa issues in details and more.
Streams, esports athletes' earnings
Fedya Khvan of cyber.sports.ru: How often do you stream?
Aunkere: I’m streaming more often now, compared to the first part of September. We’ve been training a lot for the RMR tournament, which we have to skip due to my and Calyx’s visa problems.
– As I understood, you mostly stream FPL?
– Yes, you’re right. Sometimes I stream in the afternoon just to chat with my audience and to play Faceit Premium. I also like playing with my friends, and other streamers or just communicating with the chat. You have to stream FPL with a delay because if you don’t, pro-players might streamsnipe you – the prize pool is something like $15000, that’s quite serious.
– Even at FPL there’s a streamsniping?
– I can’t say for sure. But, listen, there are many gamers who play for money, they don’t have teams. They play FPL every month, trying to get some cash. And when the month is running out, at the very last days of it... I mean, you can’t rely on someone’s conscience completely.
– Is it harder playing FPL, while streaming or not?
– No, it’s not, actually. It was harder for me when I started doing this but now I get used to it.
– Is it much more profitable to stream compared to esports?
– It depends on the format you stream in. In the top-40, top-50 team you will have like $1000-2000 USD salary. If you manage to get into a better organization, you’re moving up the career ladder, your salary can be around $4000-5000 USD s. If we talk about tier-1 CIS and Europe teams, the salary might vary from $15000 to $40000. When it comes to streaming, it depends on amount of viewers, on the content you give to the audience. If you stream casinos and roulettes, you can earn more than a tier-1 player.
– And what about being a CS:GO streamer?
– To be honest, streaming CS is a good earning. You get more than tier-3 players. Compared to tier-2 it’s 50\50. If you play in tier-2 team and making it to the Major – you are getting stickers. They give you much more income in the long-term perspective. If you don’t get to the Major, streaming is more profitable.
– You’ve mentioned sticker income. Is it a one-time payment or a permanent one?
– It’s a one-time payment. Look, you have a team stickers and individual stickers. You take 100% income from the individual one and some part of your teams’ stickers, it depends on the organization. We’ve qualified to the RMR and we’ve sent our stickers to the game. The team stickers we’ve divided into five parts, so each of us gets 20%. It means we would have a better income than if we were in an organization.
– In the beginning, you said it was harder for you to stream when you started. Is it difficult to combine both streaming and practicing?
– It depends on your personality. I wasn’t really tired after practicing. I like playing, so it wasn't hard for me to stream after that. I had a break after a practice and streamed FPL later. Some players get tired after it and just go watch movies or sleep. Some don’t play CS apart from team practice. Some do.
– First time you were kicked from FPL quickly. What happened?
– A funny story. I’ve passed the FPL-C qualification, played a little bit, and was kicked. There was a case with ScreaM: the English-speaking audience thought I disrespected him. But I’ve just missed the info from him, haven’t understood his words. I answered him that I was going to play a particular position and he understood it as I was taking his role. The clip has scattered over the internet rapidly and the FPL admins removed me. The next time I got in there weren’t any situations like that.
– Did you qualify via FPL-C a second time? Was it difficult?
– Yes, I did, I took first place and got the invitation. You have to play really hard for a month. You wake up and go to bed thinking about CS, 30 days in a row. You can qualify if you give 100% of your energy and dedication.
– How many games a day?
– Like 4-5 at FPL and twice as many at FPL-C. FPL-C players are weaker so you have to play more.
– How is it possible to keep the focus throughout the day?
– You play 3-4-5 games, then take a break to play 2-3 games before going to bed. You have the focus because you’ve just played it several hours ago, you’ve taken a rest, had lunch and your energy has been recharged. The main point is your motivation. You need the aim to achieve, otherwise, you will fail.
– Have you started streaming before getting to NAVI?
– It was my original idea, to start streaming, just as I saw CS. I’ve been watching kalashz0r, cheatbanned [streamers]. I didn’t play CS at that time, was just watching. I liked the way they [streamers] communicated with the crowd. I had an awful PC or didn’t have it at all, don’t remember. Certainly, I wanted to stream too. I remember my mom bought me a 60-fps PC. I tried to stream on it but everything was lagging heavily. And just as I got the better PC I managed to stream for like 5-10 viewers. I’ve been streaming for a small audience for 2-3 years. As my name started appearing more often in esports, my audience has grown to 50, 100, and 200 viewers. Thanks to NAVI, it has grown from 500 to 1000.
– If you had to choose between a streamer and esports athlete career, what would you choose?
– I would’ve chosen a player career at first. I want to play, to achieve something. To share it with my viewers and fans. And maybe later I switch to streaming because I like it too.
– What else do you like to stream?
– I played various FPS titles. I’d like to stream PUBG or Warzone with my friends, those games are funny and dynamic. They draw you off from CS, also giving you emotions.
– What do you think of Valorant?
– It’s 50\50 for me. It’s easy to shoot there for me, but I like CS more.
Fast tryouts for NAVI Juniors (Aunkere was accepted after 2 games); failed move to ForZe
– What was the two-month qualification for NAVI Junior like?
– When I heard of NAVI Junior for the first time I was both surprised and rejoiced. I even thought it was a prank, some joke, a media project – anything but not the pro-project. But later I changed my mind. NAVI is the biggest and most famous organization in Eastern Europe. I applied for it, but they haven’t been answering me for a week or even more. I messaged Dima “spirit” Veko – a friend of mine and ForZe manager. He knows Amiran “aMi” Rehviashvili, the NAVI Junior coach [at that time]. He asked aMi to check my application. In a few days, I got the invitation from Amiran: “Hi, we want to try you out for NAVI Junior”. I played two games on the first day and Amiran said that “95% they take me on board, but I need to play the next day under B1ad3’s close attention”. Amiran liked me, but B1ad3 didn’t know anything about me. After I played on the second day, B1ad3 told me: “You’re on our list, we need to discuss your flight to a bootcamp with your mother”.
– How did your mother react?
– She was surprised at first, nervous of course. After a discussion with B1ad3 and aMi, she calmed down. She read the contract and realized it was all quite serious. It was NAVI, not some shady business. My mother agreed to the terms and I flew to bootcamp in Kyiv.
– What was the first bootcamp like?
– A lot of emotions, a lot of info from the coach, from the psychologist. We were taught how to play properly, how to act, how to behave: everything in detail. I’ll remember that for a long time, it was really cool and funny. We had a lot of sports: yoga, CrossFit, and 7 am physical jerks.
– Is it hard to wake up at 7 am?
– Very hard. [laughing]
– How much did the NAVI academy level you up?
– It was my way to an adult and conscious life. It made me meet a lot of interesting adult people. It influenced me heavily. I was another person 3 months earlier. In NAVI Junior I completely transformed to become an individual.
– ForZe wanted to get you. Why didn't the transfer succeed?
– Organizations didn't find an agreement. I had the short-term contract and NAVI didn’t see a sense in selling cheaply a player they’d invested in. They had to find a compromise, but ForZe didn’t want to pay a lot because my contract was going to end soon, while NAVI didn’t want to let me away for a song.
– And what did you want?
– I wanted to be transferred to Forze, it could’ve been a significant growth for me as a player. Jerry, a friend of mine, plays there. We're good friends in real life as well and we were interacting easily together inside the game. I was being tested for ForZe and played several official games and tournaments. I wanted to take a risk and move to ForZe, but it didn't happen.. It was sad for me, but on the other hand, it provided me with media growth in NAVI Junior.
– How much did NAVI upgrade your media?
– Due to the NAVI tag you become famous quickly. They’re CIS well-known company and if you’re signed by them, people everywhere start talking about you. They start following your socials, your Twitch-channel. If you play official matches, they watch you even more. But the tag itself promotes you a lot.
Discussing RMR situation, visa problems and the absence of the organization
– You didn’t get to RMR. It seemed strange to me that you wanted to divide the team sticker between players only. Usually, the income is divided between an organization as well. Why didn’t you do like that?
– We had offers from European organizations. Smooya was communicating with UK sponsors, they were negotiating about the conditions. They issued “level 1” and “level 2” offers, starting with $10000 USD a person at level 1 and a bit more at level 2. But in that case, we had to change the team tag, share the stickers' income and put their sponsors on our jerseys. They sent the offer themselves and didn't respond after that. We had a deadline for uploading stickers and sending payment info until the middle of September, there was a date. As they ignored us later, we decided to play under our tag and without an organization.
– What are levels 1 and level 2?
– Level 1 meant jersey, tag change, and sharing of team stickers. Level 2 meant the full social media branding, publications, the major part of stickers income, and some other moments, I don’t remember details. Certainly, we had to take part in interviews and make videos with advertisements.
– Buster [famous Russian streamer] said on the stream that he wanted to sign you up. Why didn't it happen?
– We’ve been discussing it with Slava [Buster]. He wanted it a lot, maybe we had to change the tag. But since smooya lives in the UK, where ad prices are much higher, he requested a great sum per person. It was too expensive and we stopped discussing that.
– Did anyone in the team try to change smooya’s mind?
– No, because we had those UK guys, whose responses we’ve been waiting for.
– What emotions did you have when your team advanced to RMR?
– It was astonishing, everyone was in seventh heaven. We were glad that we managed to gather a team, changed the player the day before qualification, played a couple of praccs, and just outplayed with our enthusiasm other guys who have organization, contracts, and salaries. We had to solve the visa issue only.
– So if we speak about the visa case, could you tell the story once again completely?
– After the open qualification’s victory, I’ve just gone to Moscow to apply for the visa at the French embassy. There’s an agent who helps players to get all the documents, make an application and send it to the visa center. I’ve contacted her as everybody else and I did exactly what she said. I was the only one who was refused. When I called her to ask why it had happened, she told me: “You were just unlucky”. Calyx was also refused a visa in Turkey, but he has his own internal problems there.
– Why did smooya say on the stream that you were trying to apply for a long-term visa?
– Because smooya is inadequate dude. He didn’t study the situation, didn’t ask what happened. He just started expressing his thoughts on the stream. A day later he messaged me, apologized, and asked for details. He was just attracting attention, it was funny and unprofessional. He always had the opportunity to text me directly and ask. Everyone who knows me and watches my streams knows that I was applying for a 10 or 12-day visa, that’s all. When I heard his words, I just laughed. Actually, I was frustrated that he is an experienced esports athlete and can’t think with his own head.
– He is considered to be a "toxic" person. Did you notice it during the matches?
– We didn’t have major disagreements – sometimes we had moments when he was saying something to me, I was responding, and we were quarreling a little. But generally, we had a positive vibe inside the team and positive emotions. We didn’t have any problems inside our team.
– Whose idea was it to gather such a team and how did you seek players?
– Initially, it was me and Rodion [fear] who were sitting and thinking about what kind of line-up we would like. He wanted to play with his guys and I suggested smooya play together: “Let’s play together: me, you, Rodion. Let’s just find two more good fellows”. We started searching for two players according to our roles. We played the first, the second, and the third qualifications. We understood what kind of players we needed. We called Michu and Calyx – they were fitting our line-up perfectly. It appeared that we performed really well.
– Are you going to look for a new team?
– Yes, I am. I had a South Africa offer some time ago but it was a top-40 team that’s why I refused. If I have another offer I’d like to try. It’s a new experience and I don’t need to relocate forever.