Imagine getting to play video games the whole day, while interacting with people over the internet and getting paid for it. Aah to live the dream! Well, the fact of the matter is that there actually are more and more people turning to careers in gaming everyday. The first and foremost thing required is to change your own approach to the scene and stop thinking about it as something other than a “real job” – becoming a professional streamer is a real job if you choose to make it so.
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably got some idea of what video game streaming is. If you have no idea at all, here’s the gist, recently a lot of gamers have started broadcasting their gameplay live for thousands, maybe millions, of people to view.
With the gaming industry on the rise globally, audiences for streaming are also increasing. Some streamers have reached levels where they make $100,000 from streaming alone, however, these are only a few personalities that have reached the pinnacle. As is the case with any field or skill, from acting to sports, music to business, not everyone will reach these heights. Having said that, if you set realistic goals, you could make a full-time job of being a professional streamer. We’ve broken down the basics for you to get you started:
Choose a game to start with
Unless you’re a famous personality, streaming a variety of games is not the best idea. When you’re starting out, people are mostly watching your content for the game, hence, when you switch titles, they’re very likely to check out someone else’s streams to carry on watching that game. However, sticking to one game title increases your chances of garnering more viewers.
You could maintain a contingency plan and avoid the risk of dying out if and when your game dies out – it has happened to streamers before. After you’ve dedicated some time to one game, improved your skills and earned some followers, you could probably keep one day in the week to play variety. This will keep you buoyant even if your game of choice starts to sink.
Choose a platform to stream on
Streaming is a global thing now and there are millions of people logged in at any given point in time. Streaming platforms and streamers can be credited a lot for the growth of the esports industry in general. The success of streaming is such that over the last few years several platforms have come up enabling it, each with their own pros and cons. Picking the streaming service of your choice to start your channel is the first important thing you’d want to do.
Even giant names like Facebook and Youtube have their own streaming services now with Facebook Gaming and Youtube Gaming respectively. However, the undisputed leader in this segment is Twitch. They gained even more notoriety back in 2014 when Amazon purchased the platform for $970 million in cash. Twitch now has more than fifteen million daily active users and nine million channels.
Launched in 2011, Twitch.tv has become the main hub for gamers, artists, musicians and various other streamers. Being that it is the biggest platform also means that there is that much more competition between streamers. So starting out as soon as you can is good as it may take some time to really break through on the platform.
Gear you’ll need to start
Getting started with streaming is really quite simple, there’s no fancy setup required. Technically, you could start streaming with just a phone and good wi-fi. However, if you’re serious about a career in streaming, you’d ideally want to do so through a PC – so you will need some more stuff.
A decent PC with Windows 7 or newer consisting of an 8GB RAM and Intel Core i5-4670 processor or better. Your graphics card will depend on what games you’re planning to stream, just know, the better your card, the better the quality. But if you’re just starting out, it’s okay to acquire all the high-spec stuff as and when you can at a later stage. You’ll need a good internet connection to avoid buffering while you’re playing. Other than these you’d want to invest in a mouse and keyboard, a gaming headset with a microphone (or an external microphone for good audio quality), a webcam or high-depth camera and maybe a mixer to control sound overlays.
You could also stream with your PS4 or Xbox. For the PS4s, simply connect your Twitch profile to the device and go live using the share menu. For Xbox users you just need the Twitch app and again, just go live. The draw back of using these to stream is that you will not be able to customise your stream like you can with a PC but this a very good, cost-effective way to start your streaming career.
If you plan to stream using a PC you will need streaming softwares to broadcast your screen. There are several choices out there to consider, of these some of the most popular are Streamlabs, Xsplit and of course, OBS.
Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) is the favoured choice of most professional streamers. It is an open-source software that provides the option of pre-made set-ups which make it super easy to use. It enables you to choose the layout of your choice and switch between screens and sources with little or no trouble. You could even add sources like recent followers, top donators and bit counter – once you’re an affiliate.
Making money as a professional streamer
Typically, this is the main concern for anyone considering to go all-in; Is there enough money to be made? How do I make it and is it easy? There are several ways to rake in moolah as a professional streamer. How easy it is to make money is very subjective and largely depends on the individual but you should know that there are professional gamers, like Shroud, that make a lot of money on Twitch. Reportedly, he makes more than $100,000 a month from subscribers alone, then add in other money-making techniques like ads and the like and it’s easy to see how handsomely top-notch Twitch influencers earn.
A common way to earn money online is through affiliate programs and since Amazon has the best affiliate programs and owns Twitch it is particularly easy for Twitch streamers to work as Amazon affiliates. Twitch streamers sign up to affiliates that sell products that interest them and other gamers. If any fans click the widget and eventually buys the advertised product, the broadcaster receives a percentage of the sales revenue from it.
Twitch broadcasters could also resort to selling customised merchandise but it helps if you’ve got a sizeable following. If you do have that, you could set up an online store and promote it on your feed.
Any company that sells products that “gamer-types” might be interested in buying could benefit from Twitch sponsorships. In addition to gaming companies and arcades, brands that sell products like computers, gaming consoles, phone, accessories, website hosting, food, drinks, takeaways, fashion, music and more niches could be approached. Being that these deals are made outside Twitch, there is no requirement for being a Partner or Affiliate. You would, however, need to be influential enough for a brand to work with you.
There are some income sources available to Twitch affiliates and Partners only, but you do need to meet the criteria to join these. The criterium is:
- Stream for at least 8 hours in the last 30 days
- Stream on at least seven days in the last 30 days
- Have an average of 3 viewers per stream
- Grow your audience to 50 followers
Fulfilling these points automatically gets you an invite from Twitch to become an affiliate. After that you could flat out ask your followers for donations so as to be able to spend more time keeping them entertained. The platform has a type of mini donation, virtual currency called Bits. Twitch pays their affiliates and partners one cent for every Bit fans spend on their channels. Viewers can Cheer with their bits which enables him or her to participate in a chat on a gamer’s channel. Bits can also be used by viewers to buy emojis. Set up a PayPal account or any other payment processing system and make direct requests. You could even set up a donations goal and display your progress as an incentive for your fans to help.
Twitch also has the option of ‘Subscriptions’. Twitch Subscriptions provide streamers with a recurring income. You could encourage followers to pay $4.99, $9.99 or $24.99 to subscribe to your channel and the money is split 50/50 with Twitch. There are a few streamers who have negotiated and gotten higher percentages.
Unlike the affiliate program, Twitch Partnership program is exclusively by invitation. All you can do is initiate the process of requesting that they consider you. Other than that, there is no real published criteria of how they select partners. The factors they do consider, by their own admission, are:
- Content – Twitch partners should be producing the best content.
- Average concurrent viewership – While high viewing levels translate to a good chance of being offered a Twitch Partnership, Twitch also notices your behaviour and interaction with your community on other social platforms.
- Stream schedule and frequency – To become a Twitch Partner, you are expected to stream at least thrice a week, at scheduled times.
In addition to all the afore mentioned ways a professional streamer can make money, Twitch Partners have a few more advantages. They could sell games and in-game items and receive a 5% share of the revenue. Partners can also sell t-shirts on the official Twitch t-shirt store.
Twitch Partners can also run ads on their streams, it helps when they want to take a break in between the hours of streaming. As a partner, you share advertising revenue with Twitch and the more money the streaming platform receives from advertisers, the more you get paid.
That being said, many professional streamers realise how much their fans dislike these ads and opt for alternative, less intrusive sources of income, even on Twitch.
Networking and Promoting yourself
When you start as a professional streamer you will most likely have zero followers. Ask your friends (and maybe relatives) to join the channel and hang out. But, like any other brand, you will need to network and promote yourself on other social platforms as well to grow your channel.
It’s not unfamiliar to think of gamers as similar to introverts, sitting by themselves playing for hours on end with as little interaction with people as possible. But to make it to the top-levels as a professional streamer you are required to network, quite a bit.
Attending cross-streaming and gaming events is a very good way to show off your skills and connect with other players, fans and streamers – exposing you to a wider audience and potentially new followers. At these events you could also discuss cross-promotional ideas with fellow-streamers.
Being active in the Twitch community is another great way of connecting with streamers and audiences. You could visit other streamers broadcasts and interact in a natural, friendly way – as opposed to spamming them with your channel. Just remember to visit broadcasts that are similar to the games you play and stick to streams with smaller view counts. This way you will be able to stand out more instead of getting drowned out in the crowd.
Another great way to draw attention to your stream is through relevant online forums. There are several all over the internet and gaming is one of the most sought-after topics of discussion. All you need to do is converse, answer questions and insert mentions of your stream whenever you can – just don’t overdo it.
Twitter is a great platform to post content announcing your schedule and when you’re live. If you’re having giveaways then you could announce that too on Twitter and use images, videos and GIFs to make it visually appealing. Youtube is another great tool for a professional streamer to make use of. You could use it to make highlight reels of your stream showcasing your personality, gaming style, funny or memorable moments of achievement, etc. Other platforms to use would include Facebook and Instagram. Discord is an online chat platform that is dedicated to the gaming community and is used to socialise and discuss games with other gamers and publishers – it even allows for posting videos. In all posts, on all platforms, always make it easy for fans to find your channel by leaving a link to it.
Cross-promotion is one of the best ways to get yourself exposed to new audiences. There are several ways to do this, one is hosting other steamers that you know and like when you’re not live – this is also a good way to keep viewers on your channel. Being that it is a ‘cross’ promotion, the streamers are expected to reciprocate this. Stream Raiding, similar to hosting, is when you redirect your audience to another channel just before your own stream finishes. The third way to cross-promote is playing with other streamers broadcasting it on the channels of everyone involved. This is a great way to boost your awareness and get you in front of new people while showcasing your gaming style and skill.
Build your success
Success is a word that gets thrown around a lot but ever so often people tend to forget that it means different things to different folks. Which is why it is very difficult to cull out sure-shot methods of reaching it.
Look at success as a building in completion. In order to get to complete it, individual bricks needed to be added – one at a time – everyday, to form the first wall, then the second and so on. Success needs to built in the same way, day by day, piece by piece. Hence, practice and consistency is of utmost importance to your chances of reaching success. As a professional streamer, showing whether you’re happy, sad, exhausted or just not in the mood is just part of the job. The audience can see through it all and the slightest dent in your personality on any given day could put a chink in your shiny armour. Remember you’re not being watched to simply sit there and play a game, there are many other good players out there, you’re watched for your personality and how you entertain them – that’s what they pay to see.
Personality is an extremely important factor in determining your success. You may have someone who knows the ins-and-outs of a game but he or she might not be what everyone wants to watch. Charisma counts for a major part of people liking, watching and interacting with your channel. On the flip side, when you find things not going your way just know that it’s okay to feel upset – it’s all a part of the learning curve. Rishaan Govind, Performance Coach at Squid Academy, says it is important to “Be vulnerable with yourself in the most honest way possible to determine what is preventing you from achieving greatness.”
Lastly, as overstated as it may be – find your niche. Don’t choose the most popular game there is or the newest game out in the market and follow a fad. Perhaps you’re into retro stuff or you just want to break a world record, maybe you’re good at humour, whatever it is, stick to your guns and you’re more likely to be successful. Find your niche and focus on delivering your speciality.
In the end, just know that becoming a professional streamer, like any other profession, is challenging and takes time. So set yourself up as well as you possibly can, be yourself and enjoy the process instead of chasing an outcome. It may take weeks, months or years but if you’re having a good time it’ll hardly matter and your perseverance will pay off.