Bruno Bittencourt was in the right place in 2014. The young man born in Viçosa, a small city in the Brazilian State of Minas Gerais, wanted to create a game channel on YouTube. He chose to make a mobile game, because, as he explains, “it was what I was playing the most”. His preference anticipated and helped shape a scenario that, five years later, would lead him to start LOUD, achieve millionaire annual revenues and make him a reference in an industry that is still experiencing rapid growth.
Graduated in Computer Science by the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), Bittencourt, known in the virtual environment by the nickname PlayHard, has already accumulated significant numbers on his personal YouTube channel and a series of collaborations and deals with major brands. He has more than 10 million subscribers, more than a billion views of his many “gameplay” videos and actions with brands like Ford, Telecine and Supercell.
In one of them, he played Brawl Stars with Neymar Jr. and Marquinhos, Brazilian soccer players from the trendy PSG team, from France.
The creation of LOUD, at the beginning of 2019 with two other partners, was, for him, the natural path due to the recognition of his own gamer limitations.
“I always wanted to work with esports, but I was never a very good player because I wasn’t into training.Bruno “PlayHard” Bittencourt, CEO of LOUD
Both partners Jean Ortega, with wide experience in the digital influencer market and in advertising agencies, and Canadian Matthew Ho, connected to the idea of investing in the segment and expanding the business of streaming and content creation. The Brazilian Ortega, now lives in Las Vegas and serves as the chief operating officer (COO). Ho continues to live in Canada and serves LOUD as chief financial officer (CFO). Bittencourt moved to São Paulo and is the company’s CEO. “I brought the content and they brought the corporate experience, something I am learning now, being in the operational side of the business”, explains Bittencourt.
With less than a year in the market – the company started operating in March 2019 – LOUD’s numbers and recognition classify the company as successful. LOUD had its new YouTube channel (created in 2019) skyrocket, being featured in the platform’s traditional year-end video, YouTube Rewind; has an exclusive contract for live streaming with the Chinese streaming platform Nimo TV, where the team’s influencers broadcast daily to thousands of viewers; and, in early 2020, won the Free Fire America’s Cup, held in Mexico City.
Bittencourt says that their commercial success follows the audience’s exceptional numbers and the highlight positions on the competition podiums. He does not reveal precise figures but says that the expectation of revenue for the first year, of R$ 10 million, was surpassed a quarter earlier than expected.
It was not a smooth journey, however. Halfway through, LOUD had to make some adjustments.
At the start of the operation, for example, the hired players had to divide themselves between training sessions, competitions and live broadcasts. It didn’t work. The strategy was quickly changed and, today, LOUD has two teams dedicated to each acting front: one for competitions, formed by four players, and another one for transmissions and creation of online content, with 10 influencers.
Players and influencers’ payments come from a mix of sources, or “verticals of revenue”: prizes in competitions, sponsorships, image rights, advertising in streaming … “It is a very large universe and it varies from person to person; we try to understand the best way to leverage [the revenue potential] “, Bittencourt explains.
The Free Fire ride
So far, LOUD has focused entirely on Free Fire, the free mobile game that has swept Brazil in the past two years. “It’s the accessibility”, he starts by explaining the success of Garena’s game in the country. “It runs on any cell phone, it doesn’t consume much data franchise, and it is very compatible with the Brazilian market”. The global success of this genre, Fortnite, for example, requires advanced and expensive cell phones to function.
Despite the focus on just one game, LOUD doesn’t want to stop at Free Fire. “We saw this huge opportunity in the mobile market in Brazil, with no one positioning themselves in a very stable way, investing deeply, before we started”, recalls Bittencourt. “We came and showed the possibilities. Free Fire is brand new and is paying off, but we intend to expand.” Where? “We don’t know yet. We just know that we are not going to stay only on mobile.”