Getting Rich And Famous As A Video Game Commentator

Millions of gaming enthusiasts tune in to YouTube videos of Wartek's live commentating on the gaming hit Call of Duty. Meet a new kind of Internet celebrity.

Anil B., a.k.a. "Wartek"
Anil B., a.k.a. "Wartek"
Boris Manenti

PARIS — "Hi gamers, it’s Wartek." The introduction is meant to be understated, but for those who know him it sounds like a battle cry. Each of the 350 videos Anil B. published on YouTube these past four years starts with this message.

The 24-year-old Swiss man, who also uses the pseudonym Wartek, prefers not to reveal his real name, for fear of being harassed by his groupies. “It’s never mean, but some can be insistent.”

Anil has 1.2 million subscribers on Google’s video platform, for almost 100 million views. He also has some 375,000 followers on Twitter, 294,000 fans on Facebook, 229,000 subscribers on Instagram… Numbers that will make your head spin.

Wartek is the star commentator of “Call of Duty,” one of the planet's most popular video games. Various versions of the war game have together sold 175 million copies and earned its publisher, Activision, $10 billion.

A walk in the aisles of the Paris Game Week exhibition shows the extent of the craze. Wartek is cheered by hordes of teenagers. “He’s very respected by "Call of Duty" fans and the gaming community,” confirms Julien Brochet, the head of the Electronic Sports World Cup.

It’s true that, with a controller in his hand, the young man displays an excellent set of skills. Falsely modest, he admits he was, for some time, “among the best sniper layers...but now, my level has dropped, I’ve grown older and my reflexes aren’t as good.”

Turning passion into a profession

His hair neatly styled, a three day’s stubble adroitly trimmed, a stylized tattoo of a “W” on his wrist, Anil doesn’t fit the usual image we have of the gamer. A conversation with him shakes up the stereotypes of the pimply-faced teenager glued to his screen, even when he admits he had an “addict period” around the age of 14, when he played about 15 hours per day to prepare competitions of the game “Gears of War."

Today, his days are much more diversified: two to three hours of gaming, often recorded, video editing, commentaries, community management on social networks, contacts with brands and sponsors, trips around the world to attend exhibitions. And a presence during the major events dedicated to video gaming, like on May 2 and 3 at the “Zénith” in Paris, where he commentated the “Call of Duty” World Cup.

“My life revolves around video games, but in a more professional way. YouTuber is a new job that requires various skills. A kind of video control room synthesized into one single person," he says.

For the past two years, Anil has been making a living from his online activity. He won’t talk about his pay — “confidential”, according to term in the salary contract signed with Google. “It’s a shared salary to the consumer’s advantage,” the American giant limits itself in revealing.

On average, YouTubers earn 1,000 euros per million views. Wartek says only that his revenues are “very far” from those of his Swedish counterpart PewDiePie, a major video game commentator on YouTube, who claims to earn 3.6 million euros per year.

“It’s a passion that became a profession,” says the young Swiss man, who receives his pay through his company, Smooth, based in Geneva.

Wartek with his fans at the Paris Game Week — Photo: Wartek

Anil realized the extent of what he does when Microsoft invited him to attend the Electronic Entertainment Expo, the E3, three years ago. “My dream of being part of this world was coming alive.”

Love in the time of YouTube

Early on he thought about doing game development studies. In the end, though, he decided to stick with the two things that fascinated him most: the game controller and the camera. His parents — his father, Italian, works in a nightclub; his mother, Indian, in marketing — didn’t approve, but they came to terms with it and show reasoned support for their son.

Wartek mostly counts on his girlfriend, Marie, to encourage him on his path to Internet stardom. The two are quite a match: the pretty blond is also fairly important on YouTube, where she posts videos dedicated to beauty and fashion, with the pseudonym EnjoyPhoenix. They're like the “Brangelina” of YouTube.

For the past eight months, the lovebirds have been putting on a performance in their respective videos and via soppy pictures on social networks. Wartek explains: “We want to live exactly like any couple of our age that shares its happy moments. But we carefully choose what we want to show.”

The two YouTubers say they distinguish what is real and what is virtual. In this sense, their story sounds ordinarily pre-Internet: Anil “spotted” and tried to get in touch with Marie two years ago, but it was only when a common friend introduced them to each other “IRL” (in real life) that the attraction become stronger than pixels. They now live together in Lyon, France, where they help frame and edit each other's videos. “We have the same job: I’m paid to play and she’s paid to put on makeup,” smiles Anil.

On YouTube, gender doesn’t determine the pay. Quite the opposite, in fact. Wartek won’t provide figures, but he says beauty videos are more lucrative. “They’re viewed by a much larger audience and attract more varied sponsors,” he says. During the latest YouTube Brandcast, the annual event of the Google branch dedicated to advertisers, EnjoyPhoenix made an appearance on stage along with L’Oréal representatives. Has Wartek found someone stronger than him?

The young man says he “won’t do that his entire life.” In addition to declining reflexes, the link with the angry viewers isn’t always easy. During the summer 2013, Wartek was intensely criticized after he recorded videos for a branch of Endemol, a Dutch entertainment company. “It was a very negative experience,” he says modestly today. “Comments are the first form of feedback of the subscribers. Some can be very harsh and hurtful.”

The master of virtual war reveals himself. “You have to learn to put distance in your work.” Even if he claims to be “still as happy” making videos, Wartek is now considering a career in digital marketing, “if possible, in video games.” The question now is, will Activision, the publisher of “Call of Duty,” get the hint?

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7 Ways The Pandemic May Change The Airline Industry For Good

Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.

Ready for (a different kind of) takeoff?

Carl-Johan Karlsson

It's hard to overstate the damage the pandemic has had on the airline industry, with global revenues dropping by 40% in 2020 and dozens of airlines around the world filing for bankruptcy. One moment last year when the gravity became particularly apparent was when Asian carriers (in countries with low COVID-19 rates) began offering "flights to nowhere" — starting and ending at the same airport as a way to earn some cash from would-be travelers who missed the in-flight experience.

More than a year later today, experts believe that air traffic won't return to normal levels until 2024.

But beyond the financial woes, the unprecedented slowdown in air travel may bring some silver linings as key aspects of the industry are bound to change once back in full spin, with some longer-term effects on aviation already emerging. Here are some major transformations to expect in the coming years:

Cleaner aviation fuel

The U.S. administration of President Joe Biden and the airline industry recently agreed to the ambitious goal of replacing all jet fuel with sustainable alternatives by 2050. Already in a decade, the U.S. aims to produce three billion gallons of sustainable fuel — about one-tenth of current total use — from waste, plants and other organic matter.

While greening the world's road transport has long been at the top of the climate agenda, aviation is not even included under the Paris Agreement. But with air travel responsible for roughly 12% of all CO2 emissions from transport, and stricter international regulation on the horizon, the industry is increasingly seeking sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based fuel.

Fees imposed on the airline industry should be funneled into a climate fund.

In Germany, state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that the world's first factory producing CO2-neutral kerosene recently started operations in the town of Wertle, in Lower Saxony. The plant, for which Lufthansa is set to become the pilot customer, will produce CO2-neutral kerosene through a circular production cycle incorporating sustainable and green energy sources and raw materials. Energy is supplied through wind turbines from the surrounding area, while the fuel's main ingredients are water and waste-generated CO2 coming from a nearby biogas plant.

Farther north, Norwegian Air Shuttle has recently submitted a recommendation to the government that fees imposed on the airline industry should be funneled into a climate fund aimed at developing cleaner aviation fuel, according to Norwegian news site E24. The airline also suggested that the government significantly reduce the tax burden on the industry over a longer period to allow airlines to recover from the pandemic.

Black-and-white photo of an ariplane shot from below flying across the sky and leaving condensation trails

High-flying ambitions for the sector

Joel & Jasmin Førestbird

Hydrogen and electrification

Some airline manufacturers are betting on hydrogen, with research suggesting that the abundant resource has the potential to match the flight distances and payload of a current fossil-fuel aircraft. If derived from renewable resources like sun and wind power, hydrogen — with an energy-density almost three times that of gasoline or diesel — could work as a fully sustainable aviation fuel that emits only water.

One example comes out of California, where fuel-cell specialist HyPoint has entered a partnership with Pennsylvania-based Piasecki Aircraft Corporation to manufacture 650-kilowatt hydrogen fuel cell systems for aircrafts. According to HyPoint, the system — scheduled for commercial availability product by 2025 — will have four times the energy density of existing lithium-ion batteries and double the specific power of existing hydrogen fuel-cell systems.

Meanwhile, Rolls-Royce is looking to smash the speed record of electrical flights with a newly designed 23-foot-long model. Christened the Spirit of Innovation, the small plane took off for the first time earlier this month and successfully managed a 15-minute long test flight. However, the company has announced plans to fly the machine faster than 300 mph (480 km/h) before the year is out, and also to sell similar propulsion systems to companies developing electrical air taxis or small commuter planes.

New aircraft designs

Airlines are also upgrading aircraft design to become more eco-friendly. Air France just received its first upgrade of a single-aisle, medium-haul aircraft in 33 years. Fleet director Nicolas Bertrand told French daily Les Echos that the new A220 — that will replace the old A320 model — will reduce operating costs by 10%, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 20% and noise footprint by 34%.

International first class will be very nearly a thing of the past.

The pandemic has also ushered in a new era of consumer demand where privacy and personal space is put above luxury. The retirement of older aircraft caused by COVID-19 means that international first class — already in steady decline over the last decades — will be very nearly a thing of the past. Instead, airplane manufacturers around the world (including Delta, China Eastern, JetBlue, British Airways and Shanghai Airlines) are betting on a new generation of super-business minisuites where passengers have a privacy door. The idea, which was introduced by Qatar Airways in 2017, is to offer more personal space than in regular business class but without the lavishness of first class.

Aerial view of Rome's Fiumicino airport

Aerial view of Rome's Fiumicino airport


Hygiene rankings  

Rome's Fiumicino Airport has become the first in the world to earn "the COVID-19 5-Star Airport Rating" from Skytrax, an international airline and airport review and ranking site, Italian daily La Repubblica reports. Skytrax, which publishes a yearly annual ranking of the world's best airports and issues the World Airport Awards, this year created a second list to specifically call out airports with the best health and hygiene standards.

Smoother check-in

​The pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards contactless traveling, with more airports harnessing the power of biometrics — such as facial recognition or fever screening — to reduce touchpoints and human contact. Similar technology can also be used to more efficiently scan physical objects, such as explosive detection. Ultimately, passengers will be able to "check-in" and go through a security screening anywhere at the airports, removing queues and bottlenecks.

Data privacy issues

​However, as pointed out in Canadian publication The Lawyer's Daily, increased use of AI and biometrics also means increased privacy concerns. For example, health and hygiene measures like digital vaccine passports also mean that airports can collect data on who has been vaccinated and the type of vaccine used.

Photo of planes at Auckland airport, New Zealand

Auckland Airport, New Zealand

Douglas Bagg

The billion-dollar question: Will we fly less?

At the end of the day, even with all these (mostly positive) changes that we've seen take shape over the past 18 months, the industry faces major uncertainty about whether air travel will ever return to the pre-COVID levels. Not only are people wary about being in crowded and closed airplanes, but the worth of long-distance business travel in particular is being questioned as many have seen that meetings can function remotely, via Zoom and other online apps.

Trying to forecast the future, experts point to the years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks as at least a partial blueprint for what a recovery might look like in the years ahead. Twenty years ago, as passenger enthusiasm for flying waned amid security fears following the attacks, airlines were forced to cancel flights and put planes into storage.

40% of Swedes intend to travel less

According to McKinsey, leisure trips and visits to family and friends rebounded faster than business flights, which took four years to return to pre-crisis levels in the UK. This time too, business travel is expected to lag, with the consulting firm estimating only 80% recovery of pre-pandemic levels by 2024.

But the COVID-19 crisis also came at a time when passengers were already rethinking their travel habits due to climate concerns, while worldwide lockdowns have ushered in a new era of remote working. In Sweden, a survey by the country's largest research company shows that 40% of the population intend to travel less even after the pandemic ends. Similarly in the UK, nearly 60% of adults said during the spring they intended to fly less after being vaccinated against COVID-19 — with climate change cited as a top reason for people wanting to reduce their number of flights, according to research by the University of Bristol.

At the same time, major companies are increasingly forced to face the music of the environmental movement, with several corporations rolling out climate targets over the last few years. Today, five of the 10 biggest buyers of corporate air travel in the US are technology companies: Amazon, IBM, Google, Apple and Microsoft, according to Taipei Times, all of which have set individual targets for environmental stewardship. As such, the era of flying across the Atlantic for a two-hour executive meeting is likely in its dying days.

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