Sander “Vo0” Kaasjager is a Dutch esports veteran who made a name for himself playing games like Painkiller and Quake in the mid-2000s. Kaasjager has won more titles and prize money at professional Painkiller than any other player and recently came out of retirement to compete in Quake Champions.
I caught up with the former two-time World Champion while he was competing at DreamHack Denver to discuss his new partnership with SteelSeries and how the esports market has changed.
“I’ve been playing with [SteelSeries] products for so long,” Kaasjager told VGNS. “To me, it made sense to contact them and ask them if they were interested in a partnership. I think that I can be a good addition to their product line.”
During his time with Fnatic and compLexity Gaming, Kaasjager was sponsored at the team level, but this marks the first time he has partnered directly with a brand. In addition to a sponsorship deal, Kaasjager—who is also a mechanical engineer—will work extensively with SteelSeries on the design and play-testing of future gaming peripherals.
Although he couldn’t say what he’s working on yet, the esports veteran shared his views on what makes a peripheral attractive to competitive gamers.
— SteelSeries (@SteelSeries) October 30, 2017
“Since professional players want their gear to be top-notch and not break, it needs to be consistently good—and if you build a product from the ground up, taking in mind what a pro player wants or needs, then you’re going to have a great product,” he said. “If you design a product from a pro player’s perspective, it might have more things added to it than [one designed for] casual players.”
Although Kaasjager admits that a lot has changed since he played his first esports tournament in 2004, he believes the industry has been evolving in a good way.
“Esports is going to get bigger,” he said. “Millennials enjoy watching other people play. I enjoy watching other Quake-ers play Quake. I think streaming has gotten huge over the past few years, like Twitch. It might be heading to where a professional’s first job is to be a professional streamer and their second job is to be a professional player. I think that streaming might actually become the bigger source of revenue than tournaments.
“I’ve seen esports change. Back in ’04 and ’05, when I did these tournaments, the production quality was nothing like it is today. Today, you’ve got these big camera crews and the sound quality is better. Back then, you basically had webcams recording events and people sitting in a dark corner hosting radio streams because there was no video streaming back then. I think the accessibility of pro gaming has definitely improved big time.”
While pro players appreciate the interest from brands, Kaasjager warns marketers against jumping into esports just because it’s popular.
“I like when brands understand the concept they’re buying into,” said Kaasjager. “Some people just throw their brand at something and have no idea what they’re doing—they just want their name out there and don’t actually understand what the game or the community stands for. That’s one thing that SteelSeries does well—they know Quake and professional gaming in general.”
The moments that created an esports powerhouse.
— FNATIC (@FNATIC) October 25, 2017
When asked if corporate sponsorship adds additional pressure to win, Kaasjager said yes and no.
“It’s not just about winning,” he explained. “Sure, I want to do well, regardless of sponsorship. But knowing that corporate is watching me gives me perhaps some extra pressure. But it’s also about presence. I have a great story to tell. I have vast experience in the esports field and a long history of tournaments and so my goal as a player is not just to win matches but also to bring SteelSeries’ products to a broader public.
“I promote SteelSeries products. Not just because I should, but because I truly enjoy using them. I have been using their mousepads for probably over a decade and it brings me great joy watching other players use it.”