$1 Billion Video-Game Coaching Business Ramps Up During Lockdown

During his senior year in high school, Taylor Heim, an aspiring esports player who lives on the outskirts of Philadelphia, has enjoyed a steady part-time job. For roughly a dozen hours a week, Heim hops online and coaches fellow video-game enthusiasts on how to improve their skills at Overwatch, a multiplayer shooting competition. 

Like most video-game coaches, Heim talks with his clients on video calls while watching them compete live or in replays of earlier matches. For a fee, Heim analyzes their mistakes and gives them tips on how to get better. 

In March, when the coronavirus pandemic hit, requests for Heim’s services suddenly doubled. He bumped up his price to $25 an hour from $15 and still found his hours fully booked. He now has all the clients he can handle. “It’s pretty much my peak,” Heim said. “I have finals coming up.” 

Video-game competitors in search of a tuneup need not worry. There is no shortage of coaches standing by online ready to tweak their virtual shooting form. Between December and March, as a growing number of businesses and schools shut down across the country, the amount of time people spent playing popular shooter games nearly doubled, according to researcher Newzoo. Now, with gameplay on the rise, so too are the billable hours of video-game gurus. 

Fiverr.com, an online marketplace, saw a 43% jump in the number of video-game coaching sessions booked between January and March. According to the company,  instruction geared towardsFortnite andRainbow Six Siege was especially popular. 

In March, GamerCoach sold more than 1,000 hours of virtual coaching, up from 650 hours in February. “Right now we are really seeing things change,” said Idris Piers, chief digital officer at GamerCoach. “We are seeing parents who are buying courses for themselves because they want to play with their children. There’s also parents who are looking for a new way to occupy their children. Video games are a very good way to do that because it’s not really expensive, and it’s online.”

While exact figures are difficult to come by, David Cole, the founder of researcher DFC Intelligence, said that the business of coaching video gamers in person and via instructional videos and streaming likely exceeds $1 billion.

With job cuts mounting in other industries, some coaches on Fiverr are seeing their former clients turn into potential competitors. GamerCoach is currently fielding about 10 applications a day from people wishing to become coaches. According to Piers, the company previously received, on average, no more than two a day. 

“You’d be surprised how many clients come to me saying, ‘I want to go pro, I want to start streaming, I want to achieve the success you have,’” said Ben Johnstone, a 20-year-old U.K. resident who teaches Rainbow Six Siege full time. Between January and March, his sales through Fiverr roughly doubled. “There was one client where he worked in oil, and oil prices have dropped like a stone, and now he has a lot of time. A lot of people who were in these jobs are turning toward streaming services, because this is another way in which they can get revenue.”

Streamers on sites like YouTube and Twitch who focus on helping viewers get better at video games are also seeing an uptick in business. Martin Glaude, 41, who does beginner-level tutorials on games such as Civilization VI, said views on his channels are steady or up slightly. In March, donations from his viewers jumped 60%.

“Lots of people are expressing comfort in the continuity of my content as a welcome distraction during all of this,” Glaude said. “Quite a few of these are from people who have started working from home this past month and previously only rarely got a chance to catch the livestreams when they were actually live.”

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