10 years with esports org Team Liquid: A conversation with Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma

Influencer arena

As of 2024, prominent “Super Smash Bros.” player Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma has been a member of Team Liquid for over 10 years. The decade-plus collaboration shows how gaming creators have benefited from esports organizations’ long-term approach to talent management.

Last month marked Debiedma’s tenth year as a member of Team Liquid, a Dutch esports organization that boasts a worldwide fan base. After joining the team in April 2014, he spent years as the world’s best “Super Smash Bros. Melee” player, then leaned into content creation to grow his following on Twitch to nearly 500,000. In 2021, he became a part-owner of Team Liquid after purchasing a minority stake in the company.

At the moment, Debiedma is one of the longest-tenured creators on the roster of any major esports organization. To learn why he’s stuck with Team Liquid for so long, Digiday spoke to the Twitch streamer for an annotated Q&A.

This conversation has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

On his responses to offers from other esports organizations

Debiedma:

“Every time that it’s happened, I just go to Liquid and say, ‘Hey, I have this thing on the table, but I’d rather talk to you guys instead, because I think we can work on something better together.’ It’s like when the pandemic happened, and I became a much bigger content creator. I reached out to [Team Liquid co-CEO] Steve [Arhancet] and I said, ‘Can we work on a new contract that better reflects what my value is worth to the team right now, given everything that’s happening?’ The day of — the hour of — me making that text, we just hashed it out right then and there.”

Digiday:

Debiedma’s anecdote about his transition from competitor to content creator reflects Team Liquid’s strong understanding of the changing nature of esports. In 2024, competitors becoming creators reflects a growth opportunity for esports organizations — which is one reason why Arhancet may have been so enthusiastic to take Debiedma’s call. Having a roster of creators allows esports organizations to plug their brand partners into an engaged audience without paying the overhead costs that come with operating competitive gaming teams. Although Team Liquid is an organization rooted in competition, it has the infrastructure to allow its members to dip into both competition and creation instead of picking one lane.

On how esports orgs can work in tandem with more traditional talent management

Debiedma:

“Over the past few years, I’ve been working with Underscore Talent, just because it gave me more opportunities to utilize my stream or my likeness as a content creator and an influencer, and they found me some really good deals, too. But Liquid themselves has also brought me incredibly amazing deals over the past few years. In the future, I hope there can be some form of harmony and collaboration that allows for better communication if a deal falls out of the sky. Obviously, that has been tricky to navigate.”

Digiday:

Debiedma’s answer to this question shows how dedicated talent management and esports organization talent management are not mutually exclusive practices. Like Debiedma, many gaming creators can and do benefit from both types of management, though some friction is inevitable.

“Most of our talent have talent managers outside of our organization in addition to their dedicated talent managers within Team Liquid,” said Team Liquid senior director of talent Jena Gares. “We maintain strong working relationships with all of our counterparts, which is highly beneficial for our talent as they have more people to support them and drive their success.”

On the role of team ownership and decision-making power in his decision to stick around

Debiedma:

“I thought to myself, maybe I am meant to be more than just a guy who clicks the button — and maybe, in the future, I can have even more of a role in an esports org, given what I know and the input that I could provide. So now Liquid, because they see me as a content creator and an influencer, have given me more creative license, in a sense, on how I want things to happen, and they’ve also trusted my input into picking up players.”

Digiday:

As Debiedma takes on a more active role in the management of Team Liquid, his experience shows how esports organizations’ long-view approach to the space can be beneficial to the players on their rosters. Being part of an esports organization such as Liquid can help increase a digital creator’s effective shelf life, both by giving them career development opportunities beyond content creation and by allowing them to directly benefit from Liquid’s efforts to build generational fandom in the space.

“Team Liquid fosters a public brand identity and legacy, aligning creators with our values and prestige. Joining Team Liquid feels transformational, as talent become part of a family, sharing in competitive success and camaraderie,” Gares said. “This relationship can help creators grow and extend their relevancy beyond their own, potentially spanning generations.”

https://digiday.com/?p=546120

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