Isn’t it fun when you find out that there’s some preteen out there who makes more money than you? Maybe “fun” isn’t quite the word. There are kids out there making millions from their toy review YouTube channels, or from the sheer luck of being born into the right family. Still, we’re satisfied with our lives, right? We quite enjoy eating cold beans out of the tin and having to rinse out toilet paper so we can re-use it, right? (We are kidding about this one. Promise.)
The latest under-10 to make money out of his hobby is Joseph Deen, a Californian eight-year-old who just signed a contract with Team 33, a professional eSports team based in his home state, according to the BBC. Deen has been playing Fortnite since he was four years old, and picked up the notice of one of Team 33’s scouts a while back.
“One of my scouts got in touch and said, ‘I’ve got to know this kid called Joseph and he is insanely good’,” Team 33’s CEO Tyler Gallagher told the BBC. “After a while my scout said ‘you’ve got to sign this kid. If we don’t, someone else will!'”
Deen looks up to fellow Fortnite players, naming Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf as his inspiration, who won $3 million (£2.2m) in the Fortnite World Cup back in 2019. “No-one took him seriously until he won the World Cup,” says Deen, “and I feel the same, as no-one took me seriously until I was signed by Team 33.”
Back in 2019, a pro gamer called Patrick “H1ghsky1” Bragaru was banned from Twitch when people discovered that he was only 11. A member of eSports team FaZe Clan, Bragaru’s age was revealed in a lawsuit from another FaZe Clan member, Turner “Tfue” Tenney, which alleged that the contract he signed with them had held him back professionally.
The difference between H1ghsky1 and Deen is that H1ghsky1 had lied about his age, though – and H1ghsky1 continues to stream from his YouTube account, where children under 13 are still allowed to make content as long as they are supervised.
As to whether or not Team 33 is once again breaking the rules, Tyler Gallagher isn’t concerned. “We made the signing announcement so the world knows Joseph’s age, and we don’t make a mistake like FaZe did with H1ghsky1,” he said, stating that Deen is “legally allowed to be in tournaments with no cup.” He also points out that the contract is flexible, and allows Deen to “pull out whenever he wants.” Their long-term goal with Deen is to “groom him to be a top-level player” and enter him in tournaments when he turns sixteen, like Bugha.
Despite Fortnite having a PEGI 12 and ESRB Teen rating, Deen’s mother Gigi isn’t too worried about her son. She lets him play Fortnite for two or three hours a day, and more at weekends, and says that her approach is to avoid nagging, since it turns kids into “rebels”.
Joseph Deen won’t turn 16 for another eight years – twice his current age. In the meantime, he will continue playing Fortnite, streaming on his YouTube channel, and selling merchandise to earn Team 33 back the $33,000 (£26k) they paid him as a signing bonus – which has been placed in a savings account by his mother.