Nick ‘NICKMERCS’ Kolcheff is one of the most popular streamers in the world, but he’s had to overcome many challenges on his journey from young Gears of War pro to Twitch superstar, making his eventual success feel that much sweeter.
There aren’t many bigger in the world of online gaming than NICKMERCS. With over 3 million followers on Twitch and nearly 2 million subscribers on YouTube, the 29-year-old belongs to the highest echelon of content creators – those who are big enough to qualify as celebrity streamers or YouTubers.
It’s easy to see why so many have found a home in his stream. Not only is he a charismatic and entertaining figure who isn’t afraid to speak his mind, but he’s also someone who deeply cares about his supporters, going above and beyond what most others in his position have done for their fans.
How did he get to this point? Well, NICKMERCS wasn’t an overnight success, and to say that his journey to the top has been challenging would be an understatement. However, he had the determination to battle against adversity, and now he enjoys the fruits of his labor. The hard work, dedication, time and effort he’s put in over the past decade has paid off, starting from his early days in Gears of War esports, through years of streaming Call of Duty, and now, of course, Fortnite Battle Royale.
Nick started playing video games at a young age, but competitive gaming was obviously not what it is today, and like so many other pros, he had a tough time convincing his parents that it was a viable career.
His father, Kevin Kolcheff, has a passion for sports and athletics, and he struggled to accept his son’s dream of becoming a professional gamer. Nick has said that his mother would often blame anything that went wrong around the house on him, simply because he spent time playing video games. She even went as far as destroying his Xbox.
However, he did not let such things stand in the way of his dream, and success at local gaming events made him even more determined to take the next step. So, while his parents believed his aspirations were nothing more than a pipe dream, Nick believed in himself and the path he had chosen.
With convincing his parents proving to be futile, he decided to take action and move out of the family home to join a group of young Gears players with similar dreams in Kansas City, Missouri. Moving to join TH3 NSAN3Z was perhaps the most crucial decision he ever made as it put him on the road to what would become a successful career.
Gears of War and TH3 NSAN3Z
Nick’s passion for Gears of War stemmed from his love of the game, but it was his aggressive, go-get-it attitude that meant he could compete at the highest level amid the intense atmosphere of the esport’s events. All the competitors were trash-talkers who got in the face of any opponent they beat, but this was actually the perfect environment for Nick, who’s not exactly known for having a filter.
He had chosen a good squad to join, as TH3 NSAN3Z became one of the most dominant teams of the time. He won three major MLG tournaments – MLG Anaheim, MLG Dr Pepper, and the National Championship at MLG Orlando. Those three victories, together with more wins at local LAN events and several third and fourth place finishes, saw him earn over $100,000 as a Gears pro, an achievement that’s pretty remarkable considering the era.
Halo stint and run-in with Ninja
Gears of War was not the only game that NICKMERCS competed in – he also had a relatively short stint in Halo esports as well. While he never gained the stature in Halo that he enjoyed in Gears, his time spent competing in the popular first-person shooter did produce a memorable run-in with Tyler ‘Ninja’ Blevins.
Fondly recalling their clash years later, Nick explained that their rivalry stemmed from a single GameBattles match in 2011, which Ninja’s team won before indulging in a spot of trash talking. A month later, when the two squads attended the same event, Nick confronted Ninja, who apparently hadn’t taken the GameBattles spat quite as seriously.
Ninja said: “[NICK] walks up to our entire squad as we’re walking into the venue, and kind of pushes us like ‘You wanna go?’ We were like, ‘Bro, chill, it’s GameBattles’. You can’t talk trash online and not back it up baby!”
Now, years later, the two are friends and occasionally play Fortnite together on stream, always chuckling every time their Halo rivalry gets brought up.
Full-time streaming and Call of Duty
Nick’s streaming career began in 2010 on Justin.tv, the predecessor to Twitch. He used his prominence as a successful Gears pro to build a loyal following, which he dubbed MercsFam after his gamertag.
As Justin.tv transitioned to Twitch and the streaming community began to grow, so did Nick’s success, as he eventually became partnered and turned his hobby into a reliable source of income. It didn’t take long for his active subscriber count to reach four digits – a noteworthy achievement at the time – starting the avalanche that would lead him to superstardom years later.
His first big leap as a Twitch streamer began when he switched to Call of Duty full time, starting with Ghosts in 2013. In 2014, during Advanced Warfare, he joined forces with two subscribers, Hayden ‘Nio’ Eller and Gauge ‘xAmpz’ Brown, forming a trio that he would be a part of for many years of his streaming career.
While the group never competed professionally, they were heavily involved in online tournaments and wagers, playing them for hours every night on stream while providing high quality, intense, and comedic entertainment for Nick’s ever-growing viewership.
By the time Black Ops 3 launched in 2015, he was already regarded as one of the biggest names in the Call of Duty community, which opened doors for the trio to team up with some top pro players in online competitions, including then-OpTic Gaming star Seth ‘Scump’ Abner.
Players came and went, but the triumvirate stayed together, which paid huge dividends in Modern Warfare Remastered. By the time the game’s life cycle came to a close in 2017, they were considered to be one of the most dominant teams, winning over 100 online tournaments and countless wagers.
Joining 100 Thieves and moving to Los Angeles
Considering that they were two of the biggest names in Call of Duty at the time, it came as no surprise that NICKMERCS and Matt ‘Nadeshot’ Haag became good friends. Their friendship eventually blossomed into a fruitful partnership that saw Nick join Nadeshot’s startup esports organization, 100 Thieves, in 2016. He didn’t join as just a content creator, either – he was one of the organization’s founding pillars, and it has been publicly documented that he, together with Haag, played a key role in securing the massive investment from Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert.
What followed was perhaps the biggest turning point in his career up to that point. In the summer of 2017, Nick made the impromptu decision to move to Los Angeles, where Nadeshot and 100 Thieves were based. This made sense logistically and personally as he felt that the move to LA would allow him to grow his brand beyond just his channel – and with his girlfriend moving to California from Florida, he would also be able to develop their relationship.
Fortnite Battle Royale and Twitch superstardom
Fortnite Battle Royale was released on September 26, 2017, which may very well go down as the most important date of NICKMERCS’ streaming career. While he didn’t immediately switch to streaming the game full-time, he slowly implemented it into his daily schedule – starting off with Modern Warfare Remastered and wrapping up with Fortnite. What really helped seal the transition was the release of CoD: WWII in early November 2017, as it didn’t take Nick long to realize that he wasn’t enjoying the game very much. After a few more weeks of balancing the two, he ended up switching to Fortnite full-time in early December.
He has admitted that numbers-wise, the transition was difficult, as there was a noticeable dip in active subscribers and viewers. However, he stuck with Fortnite, not only because he enjoyed the game a lot, but also because he had an inkling that there was something special about the game and he just had to weather the Twitch storm.
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Turns out, he was right! As the calendar flipped to 2018, Fortnite began to gain more and more popularity, and with it, so did Nick’s channel. Epic Games’ collaboration with Twitch Prime to give viewers exclusive in-game items started a stampede of new subscriptions, the likes of which had never been seen before. On February 6, 2018 he hit 8,000 subs. Two weeks later, it was 10,000. It seemed as though each month brought its own new sub record for the channel, and by the time July came around, he had over 28,000 active subscribers. In September, he hit another incredible milestone, becoming the 12th Twitch streamer to have over 3 million followers.
But why Nick? Sure, he’s always been an entertaining streamer, full of energy, comedy, and intensity, but what really set him apart from all of the other Fortnite streamers was the fact that he played with a controller. It’s important to remember that controllers did not nearly have the capabilities they have today in the battle royale, which is why most big streamers played with mouse and keyboard. Everyone except for Nick. Sticking with the gamepad quickly turned him into the face of the controller player-base, giving them a voice – a pioneering role that he’s held to this day.
Despite the technical disadvantages of using a controller, Nick and his squad quickly put their names in the record books. He and Nio set the world record for most eliminations in a Duos lobby on console with 46 kills, a record that still stands to this day. The two, along with xAmpz and a subscriber named CoDezmond, also set the world record for most Squads kills, getting 54 in December then 55 a few weeks later.
At the time, many in the community remained unconvinced that controller players could make any noise in the competitive scene. Yet such doubts started to wither away when Nick, playing with fellow streamer SypherPK, placed first in what was arguably the biggest Fortnite tournament up to that point – KEEMSTAR’s Friday Fortnite. Since then, he’s gone on to place top-20 at the Summer Skirmish Finals at PAX West 2018, ninth at the Fall Skirmish finals at TwitchCon 2018 (partnering with Ghost Gaming’s Aydan), and sixth at the Secret Skirmish in early 2019 (partnering up with ‘Harmful’).
Fall out with Nadeshot and leaving 100 Thieves
Not all partnerships are destined to last, and unfortunately for both NICKMERCS and 100 Thieves, their association came to an end in 2019. He announced his departure on May 24, and while the news stunned the world of esports, the split had been something he’d hinted at as early as March, when he said: “The 100 Thieves thing is like, you know, it’s supposed to be a lot different than the way it is today – a lot different.”
As for why he decided to leave such a prestigious organization, Nick caused controversy with some bold statements, claiming that he had been hard done by Nadeshot, who had apparently made some major promises early on that he ultimately failed to fulfill.
He claimed: “[Nadeshot] made some promises to me, as a friend, how we were going to do it, how he was going to take care of me. It just didn’t even happen man, you know? I don’t hate the guy, I definitely don’t hate him, but I don’t like him. He and I are not cool, we’ll never be cool. I don’t want nothing to do with him, I’ll never do business with him, I’ll never sit down at a table with him ever again.”
According to Nick, he and Nadeshot had come to a verbal agreement at the very beginning of 100 Thieves that he would receive 5% equity of the company. However, following the massive investments the org received, the contract he was offered had “substantially less”. At the time that he left, Forbes had 100T valued at approximately $100 million, a figure that reportedly surpassed $140 million a few months later. While Nadeshot himself never publicly confirmed or denied whether any or all of the allegations were true, 100T investor Scooter Braun did months later, defending the CEO and claiming the he “never broke his word on anything he did.”
Moving back to Michigan and joining FaZe Clan
Nick never settled in LA, realizing that it wasn’t for him just months after moving out to the west coast. So, with the 100 Thieves departure already in motion, he packed his bags and moved back home to Michigan, where the majority of his family resides. It was the chance for him to start over and show what he’d become. While things didn’t pan out as he’d envisioned in California, he has admitted that it was a growing experience for him and one that he learned a lot from.
However, neither leaving 100T nor moving back home was the biggest news he’d reveal during the month of May. Barely a week after relocating, he announced that he had joined FaZe Clan, a move that CEO Lee Trink called “the most important player signing in the history of esports, period.” Both sides were still recovering from massive controversies – Nick with 100T and FaZe with their former star Turner ‘Tfue’ Tenney, but it seemed that they had learned from their previous experiences and decided that this was the perfect match.
“FaZe reached out and immediately expressed a commitment to supporting Nick and the MFAM community,” said Justin Miclat, Nick’s manager at the Kinetic Group. “Their desire and ability to support the things that matter the most to Nick is ultimately what makes us so excited to begin this journey alongside them.”
Nick instantly became one of the leading faces of the org’s already star-studded roster of content creators and competitive players. With such a big weight lifted off his shoulders, he could focus on doing what he does best – providing quality entertainment and gameplay on stream, all while knowing that he had the backing of arguably the biggest esports organization in the world.
Leaving a lasting legacy
Anyone who knows Nick will tell you that he’s a very family-oriented man, deeply rooted in principles that compel him to make sure those closest to him are always taken care of. He regards his community, the MFAM, as part of his family, which is why he’s led a tremendous effort over the years to give back to all those who have made it possible for his wildest dreams to become reality.
Last summer, he organized a $100,000 barbecue and picnic event, open to all members of his fan-base, something that had been unprecedented for a streamer of his stature. For the holidays, he’s planned a massive $20,000 giveaway for his subscribers, continuing an annual tradition that has seen him give away $10,000 worth of products for Christmas 2018 and $5,000 the year before that.
Then there’s the MFAM Project, a series of charitable efforts aimed to raise awareness and money for causes near and dear to his heart. The first MFAM Project charity stream, which took place on December 8, 2018, was for Prader-Willi Syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes obesity, intellectual disability, and shortness in height. His cousin, Marco Kolcheff, is a PWS patient, so it was a priority for Nick to use the far-reaching platform he had built to help out Marco and many others like him. He raised over $50,000 in that single stream, all of which went to the Foundation for Prader-Willi Research.
Nick is a unique streamer in many ways. He’s never been one to seek affirmation or pats on the back for his accomplishments and efforts. Instead, he’s always gone about his business without fanfare, keeping his inner circle tight and letting his work speak for itself. With the decade now wrapping up, the sky is the limit for NICKMERCS in the 2020s, as his fans eagerly anticipate the next chapter of the star streamer’s career.