Streamer Jeremy "Disguised Toast" Wang Explains Why He Left Twitch: "I Felt Plateaued"

United Talent
Jeremy "Disguised Toast" Wang

The popular online personality left the Amazon platform in November for an exclusive streaming deal at Facebook Gaming.

Last month, popular Hearthstone and Teamfight Tactics streamer Jeremy "Disguised Toast" Wang departed Amazon's Twitch platform for an exclusive streaming deal at Facebook Gaming. Since the move, Wang has been focusing on games he wants to play — such as League of Legends — and increasing his international audience.

The streamer, who discovered his love for gaming after playing action role-playing game Diablo 20 years ago, tells The Hollywood Reporter that he got into content creation when his brother wanted to start a fan site for Blizzard's online card game Hearthstone and asked for Wang's help. "We started off making posters and cool-looking infographs which got popular on social media. Then we transitioned to video, which was more watchable and monetizable," he says. Wang spent about a year doing that, and then realized he was running out of content.

"I always thought streaming was great because it’s essentially infinite content; you make as much content as you want," he says. "So I started streaming Hearthstone and from the beginning my gimmick was, I had a mask and nobody knew what I looked like until I leaked it one day. I thought there would be a negative reaction, but the opposite happened where I was able to be more myself streaming. As a result, more people started showing up and it eventually just kept going."

Ahead of the Christmas holiday (which Wang is celebrating at home in Canada), THR caught up with the streamer and his UTA talent agent, Mike Lee, about the real life of a streamer, the next steps in his career and the issues of mental health in the industry that are often not addressed. 

Firstly, I think people are dying to know why you left Twitch. 

Wang: I felt a little plateaued in terms of my growth on Twitch. I had a really good first and second year, but by the time I had my third and into my fourth year I felt a little like I’d done all the things I can. There’s also this pressure on Twitch to constantly stream games that your audience wants to watch, not necessarily the ones you want to play.

How has the transition been and what have you focused on since the move?

Wang: The transition has been good, obviously the audience is a little different — more international — so I’ve been exposed to more languages and more culture, which is quite different to [solely] English on Twitch. I’ve been mostly playing games I want to play now, and I’ve been really happy with the change.

What games are you concentrating on?

Wang: The game I like playing now is League of Legends. I’ve been playing with professional league players.

What does Facebook gaming offer you as a streamer that aligns with the goals that you’re pursuing?

Wang: I guess the biggest thing they have is a huge native audience; hundreds of millions of people use Facebook already, but the majority of them don’t watch streams of video games. The audience is there [though], and my hope is that even if I convert a small percentage of them into stream-watchers, it would be a significant amount of viewership. It’s also more international — a significant amount of my fan base comes from the Southeast Asia region, and I know Facebook has a big presence there.

Can you comment on the growing war to sign streaming talent? There’s been a lot of shuffling in the past few months.

Wang: After what happened with Ninja [who left Twitch for Microsoft's Mixer in August] and Shroud [who left Twitch for Mixer in October] these conversations are very expected now, if you’re one of the top streamers on a platform. There was a lot of back-and-forth, but I believe there were offers from every major platform, so it was then about weighing pros and cons of each platform.

Lee: We’ve been working with Toast for three years plus now, so to see him evolve from YouTuber who didn’t really show his face to being one of the top streamers now — and every streamer has their niche, every platform has their niche. So, Toast is transcending his brand to become a personality himself. We try to always position him as not just a Twitch streamer but a live content creator.

Mike, why is it important to have a client like Toast on your roster?

Lee: For us, we like to work with personalities who we think can expand beyond just playing video games, and Jeremy’s wit and cleverness has been able to transcend to projects like Offline TV, where he’s creating content that shows off his personality and what makes him unique. Even though brands are really getting interested in the space now and esports is starting to blow up, it isn’t all about Fortnite and shooters. Gamers have been around for decades now, so strategy games and digital card games are becoming more and more important.

Jeremy has been streaming League of Legends, Teamfight Tactics, which are games that mainstream media might not be looking at, but that are gaining attention on a global level. I think people often forget how important these strategy games are and how much time it actually consumes from an average media consumer. [And] the fact that he speaks Mandarin, has an immigrant story — for us, that’s always great to see and support.

Where do you see the gaming industry going in terms of gamers working with agents and the esports industry gaining more visibility?

Wang: For me, there’s a lot of good stuff and bad stuff happening. A lot of companies are trying to figure out what esports is and what streaming is. Some companies hire great talent who know what they’re doing, they see great returns and their campaigns go really well. And some companies don’t know what they’re doing. I think that once companies understand how to use streaming and esports, it will become really big. The viewership for professional esports is better than any traditional media.

Lee: Agents are there to help not just the talent, but also help our buyers understand what the real market value is. There’s been so many horrendous stories about how esports players in competitions have been taken advantage of, internationally, so it’s become a necessity now that the dollar sizes are getting higher, the deal terms are getting longer — people like Jeremy and Ninja have been able to pave that path and understand how representation can really help you and help the buyers in the same token.

What are the ups and downs of the professional streaming world?

Wang: The pros are really obvious, which is you get to play video games for a living and kind of set your own schedule. The cons are that you can essentially never take an extended break, unless you’re insanely at the top. I’ve seen Hearthstone streamers take a month break and they used to average 10,000 viewers; they now average 100. Losing 99 percent of your audience because you took an extended break is insane. The longest someone can go without streaming is about a week, and that’s pretty scary when you think about it. There’s [also] no time limit to how much you can stream, so burnout is very common in the industry. That’s actually what causes people to take extended breaks. They have to stream every day, they have to look at their viewership, they have to look a the time they stream, so they’re not overlapping with another big streamer, and you have to do this day in and day out for years.

Most people just play one game, unless you’re like Dr Disrespect, where your audience will watch you for anything. I would say 90 percent of the big streamers are mono-gamers — their audiences watch them when they play that one game. And when they don’t play that one game, they lose 80 percent of their audience. All the extra pressure wears you down over a while and makes you feel like you can’t really have days off or just completely detach yourself. It really comes with the territory: streaming is a career where you have to be on every day for an extended amount of hours — it’s not like YouTube where you can make one video a week and edit it down and have a variety of content. Everything you do is on display.

Lee: I think Jeremy is bringing up a great point about mental health. That’s one of the biggest problems when it comes to gaming and streaming: you’re fully transparent and everything is live. So finding out news about personal problems, family, friends — your life is really under a microscope. We live on the video-on-demand side of the platform as well, and for streamers as they get older, especially ones that live here in the United States — luckily Jeremy is from Canada and gets great health insurance — there isn’t a writers guild or an actors guild for streamers, so sometimes the support isn’t really there for them to get the best mental health [advice], for these guys who live their lives in front of thousands or millions of people.

What was your reaction to Dr Disrespect’s TV deal with Skybound? Are you interested in doing the same?

Wang: If something like that comes along, it would be amazing. I remember meeting Conan O’Brien a couple of years ago and that was a huge starstruck moment for me, and collaborating with T-Pain — all that stuff was really cool. When I saw that on mainstream TV it was really cool — I think the skit itself was kind of weird because it was essentially an ad for the Turtle Beach [gaming] headset, but that's how you get your foot in the door.

What are your long-term goals as a professional gamer?

Wang: I don’t imagine being a streamer forever. In five years, I want to be someone who impacts streaming beyond just being a streamer. Maybe managing streamers or creating projects...or consulting for bigger companies who don’t really understand the space — use my influence in a bigger way, because I feel like, as a streamer, my impact is only so much. I feel like there’s a higher calling out there for my talent, but right now I enjoy streaming. Opportunities like this are very rare so I’m just holding onto it.