It’s something everyone dreams about – getting paid to do something they love. Kobe gets paid to play Basketball, Christiano Ronaldo gets paid to play soccer, Dan Carter gets paid to play Rugby and Ryan Gutierrez gets paid to play Street Fighter 4. That’s right Ryan”Gootecks” Gutierrez is a pro gamer, but he doesn’t consider himself to be one. Albeit he doesn’t earn as much as the previously mentioned athletes, he is still paid to do something he loves, and Mr. Gootecks loves Street Fighter.
Ryan has been playing Street Fighter 4 since about August 2008, after he went to SBO to play Street Fighter 3: 3rd Strike. Since then he has been placing highly in tournaments and promoting the scene to a wider audience. He defeated Justin Wong at SinSation earlier this year, which is no easy feat. He then fought Wong again in Atlanta, and lost out in a tight battle. Some of this action can be watched in the documentary “I Got Next,” which is available as a free download. It gives an informative look at the fledgling pro Street Fighter 4 circuit. It also highlights the familiar faces of JustinWong, Alex “CaliPower” Valle, ComboFiend, Iluvujoe, Mike Ross, Ed Ma and of course, Ryan “Gootecks” Gutierrez.
It isn’t hard to see why Gootecks is highly regarded among the fighting game community. He’s an all round nice guy to talk to and an absolute beast when he’s using Balrog. Though he may not admit it, he has influenced many fledgling Street Fighters out there to ditch Ken and Ryu and start using Balrog (including two staffers here at Koku Gamer). Through training and hard work, he has become one of the most renowned players not only in America, but around the world. I was lucky enough to spend time with Ryan and talk with him about a few things.
Being A Pro Gamer
Ryan is a little bit different when compared to others on the circuit; his income is not solely based on winning tournaments. In fact when I asked Gootecks whether or not his money came from placing in tournaments he said:
“No…..but a small part of it does. I mean it doesn’t anymore because I’m not winning tournaments. But it’s like if the money came from that then I’d really be in trouble right!”
I was quite surprised by this, seeing that Gootecks beat Justin Wong at SinSation and then lost in an epic showdown with Wong in the finals of the 12th Final Round tournament in Atlanta. His reply was:
“I know right! And it sounds pretty good when you say it, but whats a couple of hundred bucks? Not to say that a couple hundred dollars is a small amount of money, but it is kind of a small amount of money over the course of 7 months.”
So how does Ryan make his money you might ask? Well his income comes from training people and also selling educational products. He also puts on events that gather some of the best players around. So does this mean that Gootecks is giving up as a player?
“I’m not solely trying to win tournaments, I’m actually trying to build up a business. If I could do both for a little bit then that would be awesome too.”
The Potential Of Pro Gaming
“Well yeah I think it does have potential because whether or not anyone wants to admit it or not gaming is more mainstream. Its not just the nerdy kids that are playing games. It has become an everybody thing. As it becomes an everybody thing more and more people will pay attention to the competitive aspect of it.”
This has been especially true of the Street Fighter series, with Street Fighter 4 selling over 2.5 million copies world wide. EVO this year was massive, and the competition was fierce. No doubt this has been because of the 360 and PS3 versions showing just how fantastic the series really is, and always has been. As more people play it more competition will come forth, and the growth of pro gaming will accelerate.
“Right now pro gaming is so tiny. I went to Blizzcon and I got to hang out with pretty much everybody in E-sports, and we all know each other! And we’re all struggling in our own ways. Pro gaming isn’t really there yet, pro gaming is like it was just conceived. I mean look at MMA; MMA is still relatively new on the grand scale of things, but its still been around way longer, and they copied their model from boxing. We don’t have anything like that to take our model from.”
I talked to Gootecks about sponsorship, and whether it can be used as a way to source a more regular income. After all super stars in sports get a regular income from sponsorship
“It’s hard to get sponsors in pro gaming for a lot of players; it’s an issue because 1. Pro gaming is very new and 2. It’s hard to show value to sponsors, well at least in my opinion because a. Your audience is tiny and b. Most of the ways people are sponsoring pro gamers are hard to quantify. For example wearing a sponsors logo, like a T-shirt or a hat or something, it’s really hard to say how much that’s worth. Is that worth $500? $5,000 or is it worth $50,000? You have to wonder how many people are actually going to see this picture? What that comes down to is how big do you think pro gaming is really? So to me that’s part of the issue and that’s part of why it hasn’t gotten bigger because those things are hard to prove. You can’t really put a dollar amount on it at this level because dude, we’re not Tiger Woods! We’re not any kind of star athlete! Like yeah there is a fair amount of people that pay attention, but it’s nothing like that! So for me what it comes down to is taking it from a sponsorship type of deal and turning it into…selling ad space. For example if you own an arena or a baseball stadium you have ads all over the place. When people walk in they see ads everywhere, so they know that they sold X number of tickets and X number people showed up to the game so that means X number of people saw the ad. So they can quantify that, and they can sell it to an advertiser. To me that sounds like something that’s more quantifiable and easily, well not easily but more realistic.”
So what are some of things we can do to promote pro gaming as a potential future income? Well we should pay more attention to the current pro scene and support it more. If pro gamers start getting a decent fanbase then these sort of issues can be overcome in the future. Feel free to discuss ideas you think can help further pro gaming.
Stay tuned for more, as we talk about potential cross platform competition and Gootecks thoughts on the deadly Japanese SF4 players.
For those that want to learn more about Gootecks his website can be found here. It gives an informative look into how to play like a pro. He also offers guides to combos and even has audio tracks where he and Ed Ma talk strategy. Be sure to check it out if you want to learn more about Street Fighter 4.