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How DrLupo rode the Fortnite rocket to success
We sat down with hit streamer Ben 'DrLupo' Lupo to talk about his background and the future of the battle royale genre.
Sitting awkwardly on the ottoman next to his dad’s recliner, Ben 'DrLupo' Lupo played round after round of Rainbow Six Rogue Spear on a tiny monitor nearly every day during one warm summer in Nebraska. It was his first taste of an online shooter and sure enough, he was addicted. Even with the janky experience caused by bulky equipment and old GameSpy servers.
“I’ve been playing games since I learned how to push buttons,” Lupo told me. “I’ve always had this fascination with tech, and that obsession got me on the path to where I am today.” Like a lot of other people that grew up around the same time as Lupo, the hardware that we see as lame now was a catalyst for his fascination with technology. It lead to a successful career as a systems engineer and a gigantic audience on Twitch.
Lupo is one of the most prominent streamers in gaming right now, with over 275,000 followers on Twitter, almost 470,000 subscribers on YouTube, and more than 30,000 subscribers on Twitch. He’s also a husband and father of one, making life as a full-time streamer that much harder. Lupo started his rise with the original Destiny, helping players run through the Trials of Osiris, before jumping into other games like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite.
It all started with a farm
Lupo first created his Twitch account back in 2013 to farm for experience in Diablo. “I would find a spot to stick around in, you know how they have AFK farm spots, and I would stream it to keep track while at work,” Lupo said. “If something went wrong I could text my wife, she would fix the position for me or even go and collect legendary items, I love that woman to death.”
He didn’t have a real purpose for his channel until the first Destiny came out. Lupo sunk more than 7,000 hours into Bungie’s shooter and got pretty good at wiping enemy teams in the Crucible, Destiny’s PvP mode. He got so good that he and a couple of friends started to charge other players for help getting through the Trials of Osiris by winning nine straight matches.
“Eventually, the list of people who wanted help got so long we had to cut if off,” Lupo added. “We decided to to stop charging people since they had already bought the game, we didn’t want to have them pay twice to really enjoy Destiny.”
Lupo continued to stream Destiny and help people reach the Lighthouse, a location that holds exclusive loot that can be accessed after the trial is complete. But eventually he decided to start streaming other games after becoming unhappy with how Destiny had changed over its three year-lifespan.
“When you switch games you take a big viewership hit, but I wanted to give it a shot,” Lupo said. “I played Overwatch a bit, jumped around some adventure games and whatever else I wanted to during the week of streams. I finally gave in to a friend that had been recommending PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.”
Taking the leap from 10,000ft up
PUBG was Lupo’s next primary game after Destiny, he streamed it for more than eight months after it caught his attention. “It captured something I was looking for in a game that I hadn’t found,” Lupo said. “That ability to have exciting moments that kept the viewer invested while keeping me interested.”
Lupo dug deep into PUBG, playing aggressively early in the game’s lifespan when it looked different to the game we know now. And while the thought of streaming full time had gone through his head previously, he was only beginning to seriously consider it. After six months and countless talks with his wife and manager, Sam, they decided to go for it. “I could have sat on this secure thing and watch my dream of playing video games fly by,” Lupo said. “I broke the news to my subscribers last March and the response was overwhelming, I had a few hundred more subscribers in like 20 minutes. It felt like a family.”
Only a couple months after making the transition, Lupo ran into a incredibly familiar streamer during a game of PUBG. “I was at the West end of Pochinki, following this guy that had no idea I was there,” Lupo said. “All of a sudden he splits around and starts lasering me, I had a grenade cooked and tossed it right towards him – it blew up right in his face.” You can watch that moment in the video below.
That led to a a huge influx of viewers and gave way to the beginning of a strong friendship with Tyler 'Ninja' Blevins, the top streamer on Twitch today. The two played duos on stream for PUBG and eventually Fortnite, helping one another gain followers even as Ninja exploded in popularity.
Riding the Fortnite rocket
Lupo has cemented himself as part of Fortnite’s tremendous growth by doing things like casting Ninja’s Las Vegas esports tournament and running multiple successful charity streams. “Fortnite has the stuff that no other game has right now,” Lupo said. “They’ve got resources and constant support, you can basically give 2019 to them as well considering Epic’s huge investment.”
Epic recently announced a US$100m investment into esports tournaments during the 2018-2019 season, an amount that easily rivals the other major contenders in the esports space. It’s news like that, alongside so many other elements, that has Lupo believing that battle royales are here to stay. “World of Warcraft has stood to this day, dominating MMOs for 15 years, and it's still up there,” Lupo said. “Heck, it still had a big player count 30 days ago. Battle royales are in a similar position. There’s a lot of positivity on the way.”
Even though Lupo is sure of Fortnite’s future, he doesn’t know where his place is as the game grows; all he knows is that he’s dedicated to his audience and is ready for anything. But Lupo has another reason to keep his stream going strong – his father.
“My father passed away this past March, of a heart attack in his office at work,” Lupo said. “The first person to be at the airport was Ninja – he was one of the first people I told since It felt like everything was falling down around me.”
Lupo’s tag, DrLupo, was based on a college joke about his father, a psych professor at the university he attended. “Lupo is my last name, but I’m not a doctor. I added that to it after playing Halo 2 in my dorm,” Lupo said. “My friends all took classes with him, they wanted me to change it so they could imagine being quickscoped while in psych class with my dad.”
All these years later, the name stuck and Lupo hasn’t wanted to change it. “I believe that people die twice, once with their body and once when their name is no longer mentioned,” Lupo said. “I like to think of ‘Dr Lupo’ as a memorial to my dad. He’s not here any more and it breaks my heart, but at least I get to hear him every day and get reminded of the huge impact he had on my life.”