Jeremy Wang, known as Disguised Toast on Twitch, has long been known as a shitposter. The streamer got his start doing trick plays and trolling players on the digital card game Hearthstone. In 2017, he joined OfflineTV, a content creation group co-founded by Pokimane and Scarra. Over time, he amassed some 2.8 million followers on Twitch and 3.7 million on YouTube by streaming games like Among Us alongside other talent like Valkyrae and Corpse Husband.
Now, he’s trying something new. He’s the founder and owner of Disguised (DSG), a Valorant team playing in the North American Challengers League. Polygon talked with Disguised Toast over Zoom about why streamers are expanding their presence outside of livestreaming, the challenge of starting an esports team, and why he would consider gambling sponsorships even after the Twitch controversy.
Disguised Toast told Polygon that he was surprised by how unprofitable esports is. “I had heard about it, but I didn’t really understand it until I dove into the nitty-gritty of things.” He said that he’s prepared to lose “like a million bucks” in the venture over the next two years, but that he would reassess after that. For now, he’s looking to make the venture more profitable — even if it means raising money in controversial ways.
Gambling, and the extent to which streamers should use their platforms to promote it, has long been a controversial topic among top content creators. In 2021, Disguised Toast said he enjoyed gambling for fun with friends, but called gambling streams “weird.” In a YouTube video, he said: “These streamers have the disposable income and they get fat stacks to gamble. I don’t think you guys comprehend how much these gamba streamers are getting paid.” Fast forward to September 2022, and a group of major streamers, including OfflineTV co-founder Pokimane, called on Twitch to ban gambling streams.
Earlier this year, on The Wisemen Podcast, Disguised Toast said that he wouldn’t accept crypto money but would be open to a gambling sponsorship, despite the controversy that surrounds it. “If it means now that my players can be covered for the next five years and they don’t have to worry, and my staff doesn’t have to worry, I would probably take it for good money, but if it’s going to keep me running for one year, it’s not worth it,” he said on the podcast.
Polygon asked why the streamer would be open to a gambling sponsorship. “I’m someone who always says, like, never say never,” he told Polygon, calling out the hypocrisy in the industry. “I think a lot of streamers like to be on high horses like, Yeah, I’ll never do X, Y, Z, and then they later do X, Y, and Z, because the money’s good.”
The roadblocks and relative unprofitability of his new esports team is costing Disguised Toast as much as $500,000 a year, he said in a recent YouTube video. In the video, he estimated paying the players and coach alone would cost him as much as $30,000 per month. As Disguised Toast broadens his options outside the safer and more profitable world of streaming, it calls into question why he’s taking the financial risk of starting the esports team at all.
“As far as my career goes, I’ve seen and experienced pretty much everything, like all the highs, all the lows. And I know being a professional gamer is a dream of many, many kids out there. And this is essentially a way for me to help five kids chase that dream of being paid to play a video game. And when I see the emotions they go through, it’s almost like I’m re-experiencing that.”
According to Disguised Toast, his team is giving some players the opportunity to compete and live out their dreams of playing Valorant. Polygon asked if he saw the venture as a sort of charitable endeavor, because he’s not currently making money and he’s giving some players a chance to continue to play. “Um, no, when I think of charity, I think like, altruism, really nice guys. I wouldn’t say I’m one of those. I’d like to think I’m more of an opportunist. But I try to do things in a nice way.”
Disguised Toast isn’t exactly known for being a serious figure. His edgy comedic style has led some to question his character — and prompted him to defend himself and his actions. His own team has a similar shitpost-style sense of humor that comes across as poking fun at the seriousness of other esports leagues. His team’s logo looks like it was handwritten with a mouse in MS Paint. Seeing him try to become a responsible business owner can be at odds with the image he’s cultivated so far.
“I’m very used to just bantering with people and being on the same level. I would like to do that but what I’m realizing is, when you work with younger talent, they kind of look to you to have your shit together to have an idea of what’s happening next. And truthfully, sometimes I have no idea what’s gonna happen next. But you have to almost act the part. That’s been an adjustment. So essentially, I have to act more mature, even though inside, I’m still pretty troll and I like to joke around. I mean, I play video games for a living. I’m not that mature. That’s an adjustment.”
Disguised Toast is ultimately one of a number of prominent streamers who have expanded their reach, and broadened their audiences, in recent years. Streamers like Rachell “Valkyrae” Hofstetter have gone on to become co-owners of content creation companies and even released lifestyle products like a skin care line. Félix “xQc” Lengyel released an energy drink. Others, like Corpse Husband, have moved to take on roles in other parts of entertainment, like music.
When Polygon asked why so many streamers seemed to be shifting to projects outside of streaming, Disguised Toast said that he thinks some streamers just like the challenge of marketing themselves and “building an empire.” In Disguised Toast’s view, top streamers hit a point where they have done everything they can and then get approached by their agency to make products.
“I think that’s why a lot of streamers get into that, because streaming is not forever. I think most streamers do it for like 10 years. And now what do you do after that? Right, so the streamers that think ahead, they want to get into business while they are still relevant, so they can leverage their platform into whatever they’re building.”