Jul 2 2014 - 6:53 pm

Who is Twitch's deep-pocketed mystery donor?

Video game streaming site Twitch has grown to extraordinary size and influence over the gaming world
Cody Conners
Dot Esports

Video game streaming site Twitch has grown to extraordinary size and influence over the gaming world. But its stars still sometimes struggle to make a living. Enter a mysterious figure known only as Amhai, who over the last year has dropped more than $100,000 in donations to his favorite streamers.

Twitch is still something of conundrum to many outside the gaming and esports industries. Who would want to watch other people play video games when you could play the video games yourself? Since launching in 2011, Twitch has shown that a lot of people do.

In fact, earlier this year, the company reported it had 1 million broadcasters streaming on its service a month. Over the course of 2013, 45 million users watched 12 billion minutes of video on Twitch from 6 million total videos broadcast.

YouTube is rumored to be interested in a $1 billion buyout of Twitch—another sign of its rise. And it's taking popular gamers with large audiences along for the ride.

Twitch shares ad revenue with partnered streamers. The more viewers you have the more you can make by showing commercials. Streamers also frequently get donations from fans eager to support people they look up to. The typical donations are less than $5.

Shortly after the release of World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria last year, the popular massively multiplayer role-playing game saw a big bump on Twitch. Popular streamers, in turn, saw big bumps in their viewership and with the viewers came increased income.

That's when people started noticing the name "Amhai." Donations began relatively small. $1,000 here and then $5,000 there. Soon streamers like Isaac “Azael” Cummings-Bentley and Chance “Sodapoppin” Morris found themselves the beneficiaries of $10,000 multiple times a week.

Cummings-Bentley, a World of Warcraft arena world champion, first heard about the benevolent donor when Morris, his friend, received a donation.

“Some people said, holy shit this guy Amhai just donated Sodapoppin $10,000,” he recalled.

"From there, things just exploded," Cummings-Bentley said.

Over the course of a few months, he received $30,000 in donations just from Amhai. Morris received $50,000.

Amhai’s generosity shortly became a thing of legend. But even as fans tried to figure out who he was, he managed to keep his real identity a secret. A Google search for “Amhai” simply brings up YouTube clips of the moments some of his beneficiaries first got their money. Sometimes the last name “Sharib” is attributed to him. A search for “Amhai Sharib” yields only a private Facebook account—which does "like" Morris's fan page—as well as an unused YouTube account.

A popular rumor is that Amhai is an oil baron from the Middle East. But Cummings-Bentley, who became friends with the real Amhai after the donation, says this isn't true.

“I don’t think he really wants anything said about him,” he said. “He is just a very, very wealthy individual.”

He loves seeing the reactions from people. He loves seeing how happy it can make someone, and knowing that it can change their lives.

Amhai would often test streamers by starting with smaller donations, trying to gauge how appreciative the recipient was before deciding whether or not they were ready for the big leagues.

“If he thought they were funny, or touching, he’d want to give more.”

How could someone give $100,000 to people playing video games? Streamer Byron “Reckful” Bernstein, another beneficiary of Amhai’s generosity, did his best to contextualize just how someone might be able to do it using just Notepad.

There’s no sign Amhai's slowing down, either. Lea “LegendaryLea” May, a streamer of Blizzard's relatively new Hearthstone game, has already received $22,000 in donations from the cloaked philanthropist. And with the latest update to World of Warcraft, Warlords of Draenor, releasing this fall, there's a good chance Amhai return to his wheelhouse. And it’s likely he'll make some lucky gamers very happy.

Illustration by Jason Reed

Jan 20 2017 - 9:38 pm

Blizzard designer says Hearthstone Shamans "don’t win too often"

The deck is still stifling the meta game, however.
Callum Leslie
Weekend Editor, Dot Esports.
Image via Blizzard Entertainment

Shaman continues to dominate the Hearthstone ladder, and at this point players are resigned to it. They are just hoping that in a few months' time the new set rotation will shake things up and dislodge it from its position at the top of the tree.

Blizzard game designer Max McCall addressed the power of the class on the official forums recently—but according to him, the class doesn't have an overwhelming success rate.

"All of those [Shaman] decks are strong," McCall said. "but they are all weak against Dragon decks (like Priest and Warrior) and Reno decks. If you’re tired of losing to Shamans, play Reno Warlock. In some ways, that is fine: Shamans are popular, but there are strategies that are good against them."

"Playing Shaman isn’t a dominant strategy – again, they lose to plenty of decks – but it is still boring to play against the same class over and over again," he continues.

These comments puzzled and angered some players, who pointed to their own experience and other sources of data like the Vicious Syndicate meta report that suggested these matchups were much closer than McCall suggested. And the other matchups were much more one-sided for the Shaman. Indeed, in a second forum post McCall that Reno Warlock was only favored by half a percentage point.

Others took issue with McCall's characterization of the state of Shaman deckbuilding. According to McCall, there are aggressive decks which run pirates, and midrange decks that run pirates and jade cards. But by virtue of running pirates, the inclusion of jade cards doesn't stop a deck from being aggressive in style (something we have highlighted before).

Jade Claws and Jade Lightning, which are often the only jade cards run in the faster lists, lend themselves very well to an aggressive style. Jade Claws takes the spot of Spirit Claws, as early game weapons continue to drive aggressive Shaman decks with value and early pressure.

However, McCall did rightly admit that Shaman is a problem on ladder because of how frequently it appears. According to his data, Shaman currently makes up about 25 percent of games on ladder. This can make games feel repetitive and a grind, especially if you aren't playing one of the limited counters.

At the end of the day, Blizzard is watching Shaman closely. And if it doesn't decrease in popularity, it is prepared to make changes. But that won't help those players who feel demoralized by the ladder right now.

Jan 20 2017 - 5:37 pm

CompLexity and Luminosity win 11-game thrillers in Trinity Series debuts

The teams took each other to the limit on day two.
Callum Leslie
Weekend Editor, Dot Esports.
Photo via DreamHack

CompLexity Gaming and Luminosity Gaming came out on top during the second matchday of the ESL Trinity Series Hearthstone league—but both teams were taken to the limit.

Luminosity Gaming, with Keaton "Chakki" Gill and Frank "Fr0zen" Zhang playing from China, claimed a 6-5 win over Team Liquid.

After Liquid left the Shaman of Luminosity unbanned, the only team to do so in the four matches of week one, Luminosity fancied their chances. But that Shaman was ineffectual, knocked out by the Druid of Team Liquid as David "Dog" Caero and his teammates piloted the Druid to three straight game wins.

That left Liquid at 5-3 and match point, but Luminosity were able to win a crucial Druid mirror and go on their own streak to take the comeback win.

In the second match of the day the experienced Cloud9 lineup of James "Firebat" Kostesich, Cong "StrifeCro" Shu, and Andrew "TidesofTime" Biessener nearly pulled off a similar comeback.

Cloud9 and CompLexity Gaming traded games back and forth until CompLexity's Reno Mage, driven by Jan "SuperJJ" Janssen, took three straight wins to put them in the same position at 5-3. TidesofTime attempted to reverse the tide with Reno Warlock and fought back to 5-5, but Cloud9 were forced to use their combo pieces early and CompLexity won the match with a Reno Warlock of their own.

After beating Alliance 6-0 in the first match of the tournament, G2 Esports sit atop the table after the first week of games.

Week two will see Alliance take on CompLexity, Luminosity against Tempo Storm, G2 versus Virtus Pro, and Cloud9 will play Team Liquid.