Published in: 2018
Emil “HeatoN” Christensen is considered one of the best Counter-Strike players of all time. His team “Ninjas in Pajamas” (NiP) dominated the global CS scene in the early 2000s. The book is about Christensen’s path from growing up in a suburb of Stockholm to ending up in esports’ “Hall of Fame”.
AS BIG AS ”REGULAR” SPORTS. E-sport is the collective name for professional computer gaming where Counter-Strike (CS), Dota2 and Starcraft2 are among the largest. CS alone has over 100 million practitioners. In 2017, esports had around 250 million fans globally and in Sweden, 370,000 people watched e-sports daily.
FOCUSED REPITITION. After a sports injury, Christensen decided to “go all in” on CS. He set up a training schedule for how to throw grenades with the right bounce in the walls to get the perfect timing to surprise the opponents. He had three hours of training every night, with one hour per grenade (smoke, flash and explosive). To become better at melee combat, he studied the recoil on the various weapons and practiced moving the mouse in the opposite direction – that way he could shoot straight into situations where other people’s recoil made them miss.
REACHES THE TOP. Gradually, the game took over more and more and Christensen dropped out of high school. His life totally revolved around CS. In 2003, Christensen’s team won two world championships, the Olympics and recorded 47 straight wins. Christensen and his colleague Tommy were world stars. They sold caps and t-shirts for millions and HeatoN became the poster boy for the world’s largest manufacturer of mouse pads.
NIP INCORPORATED. After breaking with the German sponsorship organization in 2005 (they also played tournaments in their name), NiP restarted and brought in investors for the new venture. The company brought in an external CEO and rented an office of 150 sq.m. at Stureplan, in the central parts of Stockholm. The players received a salary of SEK 12,000 a month and taxes and social security contributions were paid – something that was not the case with the German partner. Christensen owned 46% of the shares and the rest was held by external investors.
ACQUIRED BY A LISTED COMPANY. After a period of success, the company was acquired by the listed CISL Group (paid for in shares) and Christensen’s share was worth SEK 4.6 million. Not long after that, the finance magazine Affärsvärlden wrote that the CISL Group was a house of cards, after which the share as well as the company collapsed – Affärsvärlden was right. For many years, the CISL Group had pumped up the company’s valuation through strange acquisitions and had been riding a stock market euphoria. By 2007, the market cap of the company has reached one billion SEK, and the majority shareholders cashed out just before the stock crashed and NiP’s journey was once again over. The key people in the CISL Group were later suspected of financial fraud.
DO NOT BE CARELESS WITH THE BOOKKEEPING. Later, Christensen and a friend started another new company as a platform for the next version of NiP. Christensen took care of bookings and the team, the friend took care of the finances – it was said. The friend neglected accounting as well as reporting to SKV (The Swedish IRS) and the Swedish Companies Registration Office. Christensen and his friend, who were board members, were prosecuted for bookkeeping violations and later sentenced to a 40-day fine for negligence and 75 hours of community service for failure to comply with the bookkeeping obligation.
GET IT ON PAPER. Early in his career, Christensen collaborated with a German sports organization to develop a “HeatoN” mouse pad. Because he lent his brand, Christensen would get 1% of sales. Hundreds of thousands of mouse pads were sold, but when Christensen would later receive his money, the partner announced that they had no written agreement and that they could instead agree that he would receive 1% of all future sales – but none of the historical. Christensen had no opportunity to get “his” percentage of what had become the world’s best-selling mouse pad. He estimated that he screwed of several million swedish kronor.
BE CAREFUL WHEN CHOSING ”HELPERS”. Christensen would several times in his life, both as himself, as a player, and as part of a team, be scammed on large sums by managers and various professional “helpers”, who saw a chance to earn a quick buck on the talented youngster. For a young, and in a narrow area strongly skilled person, there are great risks in older and less scrupulous people trying to take advantage of the situation.
THE E-SPORTS IS GROWING. In 2016, the e-sports market reached record levels with total revenues of SEK 4.3 billion, an increase of 52% compared with 2015. Globally, the number of players and fans was around 300 million people. Nowadays, the sector attracts multinational companies as well as international sports clubs – Paris Saint-Germain, Schalke 04 and the Philadelphia 76ers all have their own teams in Counter-Strike.