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Why the Million Dollar Man is a Million Dollar Gamble


TenZ' move to Sentinels is one of the biggest moves of all time in esports - largely as it establishes Valorant as a genuine tier one esport. A 'seven-figure' buyout fee isn't too rare in LoL, but there's been far fewer in CSGO; and this already would be one of the biggest fees paid for an FPS player.

But like, why?

 

The scenes from C9 HQ as Sentinels won Masters.

First off, the upside

TenZ is FANTASTIC. A truly excellent player, arguably the best player in the world and almost certainly in the top five. His unrivaled mechanics were never really used to their fullest extent in CSGO, but once Valorant came around, TenZ had found the game that let him flex those mechanics.

Don't tell CSGO fans I said that, though.

His performance at Masters catapulted Sentinels to the best team in the world, and there's no doubt that they were going to have to pay a lot to sign him permanently.

Seven goddamn figures

But $1,000,000+ is a sh*t ton of money. You can have your own opinion on whether or not esports is a bubble, but LoL, Dota 2 and CSGO... well, they've proven they can survive the test of time. Valorant... hasn't. I'm not saying it's the new Fall Guys, or (God forgive me for saying these words) Among Us, but... what if Valorant isn't this big next year?

There's a pretty high chance that it's here to stay - but we were told Overwatch League was the next big thing. Even if Valorant is to stay around, it's not impossible that it isn't quite as big in two years time, and the money involved isn't quite as high as it is now.

This is not to say that Sentinels shouldn't have signed TenZ. This is to say that maybe seven figures is a little bit too much for an esports player. 

TenZ probably is the best player in the world - but he's the best player in the world so far.

But Jaxon... his brand! 

"But he has a big brand!!!" Yeah, I don't care. Brand is almost entirely attached to ability, unless you're an incredibly interesting personality. If Shroud suddenly couldn't aim, nobody would watch his stream. If Tyler1 was a Gold 3 player... well, maybe he would survive, but he would lose quite a bit.

How much do you think TenZ' popularity translates to merch sales? I'd probably guess at 'a little bit', but it's not going to be anywhere near the few 100k it would need to be to cover the price. We don't even know if teams get to keep the money from selling merch - it may go to the clothing company for all we know. 

There's an argument that having TenZ would get you more sponsorships, but TSM lost Doublelift and Bjergsen as players and still signed the most ridiculous sponsorship I've ever seen. Big orgs > big players, for the most part.

I suppose if it goes wrong, they can make him a streamer and abuse those 30k views he gets. That he would definitely still get if he was no longer the best player in the world. For sure, dude.

 

We're still scaling

TenZ probably is the best player in the world - but he's the best player in the world so far. That cannot be overstated enough. The best player in CSGO at the start would get smashed by even an NA team over there now, and the best LoL players in early seasons would pale in comparison to a random Diamond player now.

As the game and meta develops, there's no guarantee that TenZ will be the best player in the world in six months from now. If more players switch over, younger players appear, hell if the meta just changes in a way that makes individual skill less important (hello, double controller meta) - it's possible that TenZ won't be the best player in the world.

We've also had ONE international tournament. One. We haven't even seen more than a handful of teams from each region.

What if, in six months, TenZ is one of the best players in NA? Would $1m still seem like a good idea?

I think not. And I'm never wrong, so you should too.

Sorry, C9 fans.

Look, TenZ is a superb player, and there's a solid chance that Valorant keeps growing forever and ever and TenZ is the bestest best player in the whole world. In that case, sure, spending one million dollars on one player in an emerging esport is a great idea.

But let's not pretend it's a certainty. We've seen a lot of big money failures in established esports. Hell, TenZ' buyout probably helped to cover up the cost of one of them.

Now I'm not saying TenZ is the new woxic...