In most traditional sports, a 30-year-old player very well may be right in the middle of their prime. In esports, however, many players at that age, even the ones with numerous accolades, have already retired.
For the first several months of 2020, Hiko, a 30-year-old Counter-Strike veteran, appeared as if he was also ready to end his pro career. Since being replaced on Rogue in 2019, he played in just a handful of qualifiers while he watched his streaming career fade as well.
From Jan. 1 to April 6, Hiko averaged 789 viewers and had cut back his daily stream time to about four hours while taking off three days per week, according to Twitch Tracker. But on April 7, the closed beta for VALORANT kicked off and so did Hiko’s resurgence on Twitch. For the almost two months the beta was live, Hiko averaged nearly 8,000 viewers and streamed every day, averaging nine hours per day.
In an interview with Dot Esports, Hiko said that without VALORANT, he has no idea what he’d be doing now.
“I was teamless in Counter-Strike for about a year and a half, and my stream wasn’t really at a point to be sustainable, so I was considering either trying to find a job inside the industry still or just kind of wait to see what happens,” Hiko said. “It wasn’t looking good, that’s for sure. I was considering coaching, I was considering being a caster or on the analyst desk, so yeah, VALORANT definitely turned my life around and I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today without a new game.”
In addition to the success of his channel, which surpassed 10,000 subscribers on June 11, Hiko will continue his pro FPS career by competing in VALORANT under 100 Thieves. But deciding to compete wasn’t a snap decision, according to Hiko.
The Michigan native considered how his streaming career would be affected by pursuing a pro career, which will likely soon require travel and hours of off-stream practice. Several talented players, including Hiko’s former teammate Shroud, have given up promising pro careers for full-time streaming. But Hiko just couldn’t do that.
“With how fast my stream kind of blew up, even before I joined 100 Thieves, it was definitely a thought in my head to be just like, ‘Why even bother going pro? I might as well be a streamer,'” Hiko said. “But at the end of the day, what drives me as a person is the competition. Once you’ve had the taste of being the best in your region or being on a top team, I feel like streaming doesn’t satisfy that hunger that I have, that desire I have to play professionally and hopefully win championships.”
For Hiko, competing has become a part of him. Over his nearly decade-long CS career, he’s traveled the world over in hopes of winning titles. And whether it’s CS:GO or VALORANT, Hiko’s goal remains the same.
“I said it when I signed with 100 Thieves, my goal is to win. My goal is to win championships,” Hiko said. “My number one priority in life is to build a team that has the potential to win and that has the drive and hunger to win.”