How a Valley teen became a $50K/month YouTube star

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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

The latest Call of Duty game, Black Ops 3, has been out less than a week and it's already the biggest gaming launch of the year, bringing in $550 million in its first 72 hours. 

The popular gaming franchise boasts more than 100 million players, and that fanbase is fueling booming business in our YouTube generation. In fact, two of the Forbes Top 10 YouTube millionaires are gamers. 

3TV found a Valley teen who just graduated high school and is now getting paid to play. He’s got a 401k and is already making more in a month than most college grads bank in a year.

While it’s almost every teen’s dream today to be the next YouTube star, we set out to get a little perspective on how to know when your kid’s obsession has the potential to become a profession.

Eighteen-year-old Alex Prynkiewicz is “FaZe Adapt.” He’s famous for making YouTube videos with his friends, girlfriend and even his little sister. From pranks and challenges to pointless videos of him eating sushi, going to the gym or shopping, people can’t seem to get enough of his posts.

Prynkiewicz has more than 65,000 followers on Snap Chat, 440,000 followers on Instagram and 580,000 Twitter followers.

The real money comes from his YouTube success.

With more than one million subscribers on YouTube and 200 million total video views, Prynkiewicz is rolling in paid advertisements, sponsorships, contracts and endorsements.

“I have a clothing line, too, called Adapt Apparel,” he said.

“We didn't ’t even know that there was anything like this to where you could have a business,” said his father, Peter Prynkiewicz.

His parents were more than skeptical.

“It’s just surreal because we just look at him as, you know, our Alex,” said his mother, Nancy Prynkiewicz.

His fast success first sank in on a family trip to Disneyland.

“Our family’s trying to get pictures with the characters, and we have people trying to get pictures with him,” Peter Prynkiewicz said.

Then there was the impromptu fan meet-up Alex tweeted out on social media. Hundreds of kids showed up from all over the state, from as far Tucson and Prescott.

“We were swarmed by people, caught off-guard. We were like, not prepared.” Alex Prynkiewicz said. “They brought shirts and controllers for us to sign. That was one of the first times I realized, wow, this is crazy!”

“We have nothing to compare it to when we were young. There was nothing like YouTube or Instagram, Twitter or any of this,” Peter Prynkiewicz said.

Peter Prynkiewicz, an attorney, never thought he'd be approving contracts for his son right out of high school. He's earning almost six figures in six weeks and outpacing celebrities for Instagram followers.

“To see him and Larry Fitzgerald right next to each other - Alex is nine and Larry Fitzgerald is 10," Peter Prynkiewicz said. 

So what’s the secret? Because, let’s face it, not every kid who wants to be a YouTube star can do it.

Alex Prynkiewicz started by tapping into a built-in fanbase. He is one of the most well-known gamers for one of the most popular games out there - Call of Duty.

“I kind of like built up this whole persona and fanbase through gaming,” Alex Prynkiewicz said.

He started out by sharing his Call of Duty trick shot secrets on YouTube.

“Then I started experimenting with other things, like making real-life videos,” Alex Prynkiewicz said.

“He came to me and asked me to set up a PayPal for deposits,” Peter Prynkiewicz recalled.

“The first time I got a YouTube payment, it was for like $150, and I was super psyched,” Alex Prynkiewicz said. “I was like, ‘Damn, I earned this all myself.”

If you can target a specific following, like Alex Prynkiewicz did, and the numbers keep growing, the sponsors come to you, Peter Prynkiewicz said.

“They see you have an audience, and they want access to that audience," Peter Prynkiewicz said. 

It also takes dedication and self-motivation, Peter Prynkiewicz said.

“He had a plan. He was always like that though, persistent - ‘I’m gonna do it’ -  just the kinda kid he was I’m just so proud of everything he’s accomplished,” Peter Prynkiewicz said.

Like any professional athlete, Alex Prynkiewicz worked to hone his skills, gaming almost obsessively.

“Anytime I could play, I would,” he said.

He said he saved his lunch money to buy Call of Duty, but the store refused to sell to him because of its M for mature rating.

His parents finally caved and bought it.

“We got the call from school saying he’d fallen asleep during AIMS. He started snoring,” Nancy Prynkiewicz said. “So then we went into his room and that’s when we saw. He had set the alarm for 3 in the morning! He’d been waking up in the middle of the night to play.”

The first recruiting call came from Faze Clan.

Alex Prynkiewicz joined the elite team of Call of Duty gamers during his junior year at Pinnacle High School. 

“They helped me get an even bigger following. Every month, I was gaining over 100,000 subscribers,” Alex Prynkiewicz said.

Since graduating, he splits his time between living in his parents’ basement in north Phoenix and living rent-free in a six-bedroom house in Long Island, NY, complete with a car and maid service.

“Even with the success, we wonder, how long’s this gonna last?” said Peter Prynkiewicz. “I’m still trying to talk him into school.”

Alex Prynkiewicz convinced his parents that college can wait while he rides this wave  And with more than 1 billion people on YouTube, the demand keeps growing. 

Top YouTube millionaire PewDiePie made $7 million last year. This year, he brought in $12 million. 

"Like every parent, you want your kid to be happy, you want them to do something they love and to be able to get paid for it," Peter Prynkiewicz said.  "You want them to be more successful than you, you just don't think it's gonna happen in high school."

"I'm gonna stay on top of it. [I'm] always working on something, thinking of something, trying to further myself and my brand," Alex Prynkiewicz said. 

Copyright 2015 KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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