Last week brought the nigh-unbelievable news that Canadian streamer Felix 'xQc' Lengyel had signed a $100 million two-year deal with recently launched Twitch competitor Kick. The deal was notable not just for its sheer size, although wow, but the obvious connection between the hugely popular streamer's constant gambling, Twitch putting its foot down on the same topic, and Kick being part of an established gambling site (Stake.com).
The megabucks deal has needless to say invited plenty of comment from other big streamers, and inevitable drama as the potshots fly back-and-forth. Imane 'Pokimane' Anys said she would never stream on Kick, saying on a June 20 stream that she wouldn't even take $10 million (I'm not sure why this was the comparison figure, rather than the $100 million xQc's taken).
"Why would I compromise my morals and ethics for more money when I have money," said Pokimane. "Something about that is so cringe to me personally. Like, I understand if you need to make money, right, [but] for me to do cringe shit when I have money… I can't, like ew [...] it's almost embarrassing".
Pokimane has been an advocate for Twitch's ban on gambling in the past and, while she later went on to say her comments were about her own situation rather than intended as a direct criticism of xQc, that's kinda hard to accept. The context of why Kick is being discussed at all, the money, and mentions of his name elsewhere make the above comments feel a lot more focused than that: as does "I would rather make $0 and keep my dignity".
Never shy of a bunfight, in came xQc, who in a stream first of all reacted while watching Pokimane's comments from the previous day, and then was joined by Pokimane herself for a debate about it all (which stopped xQc watching… erm, a police pursuit of a pick up truck).
You can watch the full two-and-a-half hours below, but you won't get that time back. The long-and-short is that xQc has beef with "morals and ethics" being applied as an instant win condition in discussions about gambling (which he calls "gamba"). "It’s the same gamba equals the win argument," said xQc. "So instead of doing the win argument, it’s layering morals and ethics on top of that".
Pokimane tells xQc he's been "baited" and that her clips were taken out of context, and draws the distinction between her own brand and his. Referring to who ultimately owns Kick and just how much money it was spending on him had xQc rather bizarrely teeing-off about how this was somehow about the little man versus Amazon: "Are you for inhumane conditions for working, and no union, and all of that? Is that where your morals land?”
“I get it dude, but proximity to those kinds of things matters a little bit. Is Amazon perfect? Nope. What is this whataboutism?” Pokimane responded. "Maybe gamba a little bit bad, Amazon a little bit bad [but] for me to take money that comes literally directly from crypto gambling would be so silly".
"It seems like we're always moving the goalposts somewhere else," said xQc.
"My whole point with what I said is that the goalposts remain the same for me," said Pokimane. "If I start dick-riding Kick then the goalposts have changed".
On that bombshell the participants go on to discuss how the gambling site Stake is behind Kick, both being co-founded by gambling and cryptocurrency investor Ed Craven. Things get a bit petty (when xQc asks if she knows what a roadmap is in a business context, Pokimane points out she's founded two companies), and soon enough another popular streamer Hasan joins in the antics.
As more and more big streamers weigh in, the circular nature of the argument becomes obvious. One side points out Kick is linked to Stake; the other says Twitch is owned by Amazon. It's unethical and immoral to promote gambling runs up against the fact gambling is legal in most states (albeit with variances in how legal and how it can be promoted). And it's all a brand thing, too, with all the big players knowing exactly what stance aligns with their audience's expectations and delivering it.
Following the above debate, various further reactions appeared. "Flexing your morals and ethics on other people around you comes from pure insecurity," said xQc. "Nothing else". The hugely popular Amouranth, who's also recently signed a deal with Kick, had an even simpler rationale, referencing Pokimane's recent decision to step back somewhat from streaming:
"I think that the reason she mentioned [xQc] was because she was trying to farm clout and relevancy in an era where she doesn’t really have any at the moment," said Amouranth after watching the Pokimane clip. "Because she’s been AFK so much. So she comes back and just involves herself in the drama to be a part of the discussion still so she can keep getting views and traveling and not really streaming much. It’s smart. I’m not trying to hate on her but that’s just the actual reason.”
This isn't going anywhere, not least because xQc's now decided a good way to spend time is watching other streamers slag him off and then ranting in response, and naturally his crowd is lapping it up. "These guys, they want to dip their fucking bread into the sauce, and they want to also eat it then. And there’s a chance they might not be able to do that then if [Twitch] fucks up, and that scares them".
There's certainly time for Kick to have some buyer's remorse after a few scares of its own: since starting, xQc's streams include him watching Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight. Kick staff stepped in to stop that one. Two days later XQc streamed some episodes of Breaking Bad. It's like some kind of lawsuit speedrun, but that's what $100 million gets you.