All You Need to Know to Make Your Passion Pay You For Playing

gamer playing online game on an internet cafe

Image: by Jamie McInall, via Pexels

The fascinating world of video game streaming and how to start!

Video game streaming has become a major source of entertainment for children and teens in recent years.

As one would expect:

It's also become a major source of revenue for those who do it and the platforms on which they stream.

In short: Video game streaming can change your life.

Case in point:

In 2018, popular video game streamer Tyler "Ninja" Blevins claimed that he makes more than $500,000 per month.

That's a massive change in income from his previous job at Noodles and Company.

Let's figure out how to get into this video game streaming gig.

The World of Video Game Streaming

Video game streaming is an adventure that goes beyond single or multiplayer because you can bring others along for the ride.

Remember gaming sessions when you were a kid? You'd be glued to your TV playing your game of choice with your friends sitting on the couch watching you? While you played, you engaged in banter with your buddies.

video game controller

Image: by lalesh aldarwish, via Pexels

And of course:

You'd get to enjoy the fact that someone was watching you blow things up.

Video game streaming is the modern day equivalent of that experience -- but the "couch" expands to include the entirety of the internet, and you could potentially have thousands of "buddies" watching you at any given time.

And that's not all:

Unlike the previously mentioned scenario, you never have to give up your precious controller so someone else can have a turn.

Video game streaming allows someone to show off their skills while also becoming an internet star and even an industry opinion influencer.

Simply put, streamers are people who -- as a hobby or profession -- allow others to watch them play games.

Origins

Video game streaming started, like many things related to gaming, in Japan.

While these days you can't spend two minutes Googling video games without running into someone showing off their skills on a live stream, the origins of this phenomenon can be traced to the GameCenter CX TV show.

This variety show invited Japanese celebrities to sit and play games while the audience watched and enjoyed their commentary.

While today you can watch this happen in real time on virtually any device, this was not something you could easily do when GameCenter CX first aired in the early part of this century.

And here's the kicker:

You had to be a celebrity already to find yourself on the show.

Video game streaming became popular in the mid-2010s thanks to services like popular website Twitch.

The vision behind Twitch was simple:

Audiences didn't quite enjoy the "reality show" vibe, but they loved the thought of using the website to show off their gaming prowess. So the site expanded and changed to accommodate that vision.

Now, video game streaming is among the most popular things on the internet. Millions tune in every week to watch their favorite internet personalities play virtually any game one can think of.

How video game streaming works

All you need to participate in video game streaming is an internet connection and a device capable of playing video like a smartphone or a tablet.

If you can connect to the internet, you can enjoy someone's broadcast -- whether they are giving you hints and tips on a game you like or just playing for the sake of playing.

While you'll find numerous technical aspects behind the concept, at its core, video game streaming is a straightforward process.

Like this:

  • The person you're watching has a computer they built to seamlessly broadcast their game via a website like Twitch or YouTube.
  • You'll see what they are doing on the screen. In many cases, you'll find an overlay window that shows the actual gamer playing the game you are watching.

As the viewer, you'll be able to interact with the player via a chat window.

Why it's popular

There's no single reason why video game streaming is popular. But enough people grew up deriving enjoyment from watching their friends play games that this alone can partially explain the popularity.

Some folks watch streamers to learn how to be the best at a game they like. Others become invested in the personality of the streamers they like.

Ultimately, the popularity of streaming can be explained by the same logic behind the popularity of watching NFL games live:

Playing a game is fun, but watching someone else do it -- especially at a high skill level -- is also quite enjoyable.

There's no single reason why video game streaming is popular. But enough people grew up deriving enjoyment from watching their friends play games that this alone can partially explain the popularity.

Some folks watch streamers to learn how to be the best at a game they like. Others become invested in the personality of the streamers they like.

And in many cases:

It's about the journey. You can look up some insanely impressive gaming clips on YouTube. But why watch the "highlight reel" alone when you can be there when everything goes down?

There's just something special about the excitement of watching someone accomplish a feat -- and being there to cheer them on.

"I'm very goofy; if you ever watched any of my streams or YouTube videos, I do impressions and stuff like that all the time and just crazy shenanigans. I think the combination of that [game skill and entertainment] is really fun to watch."

-- Tyler "Ninja" Blevins

Effects on the gaming industry

Video game streaming has changed the industry more than many software and hardware innovations. Overall, streaming has a positive impact on gaming.

Consider this perk:

Companies have begun providing popular streamers with free copies of new games. This isn't a new idea in and of itself. It's the same thing game companies have done for reviewers since seemingly the beginning of time.

But a video game review is just that -- a review. By giving streamers complimentary access to games, companies can allow people to see a game actually played.

It's a crapshoot, but...

If all goes well, a popular streamer might encourage their followers to go buy that game.

Did you know: Popular streamer PewDiePie managed to bring Skate 3 back from "the dead" in 2014 after he featured it in his videos for a while.

Because of his influence, the game reappeared on the U.K. charts. And this was when streaming was still a relatively new concept. At the time, PewDiePie had 35 million fans -- a fraction of the number popular streamers have today.

Remember the crapshoot?

Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. If a popular streamer doesn't like a game, they can greatly damage sales.

We are seeing game companies increasingly push "early access" both as a chance to get people hungry for more by playing it themselves and as an opportunity to get the world's video game streamers to put their game in front of potentially millions of eyeballs.

eSports

With the rise of streaming has come the rise of eSports.

While competitive gaming has existed ever since cavemen invented Pong, streaming has pushed it mainstream. Gone are the small. $100-prize tournaments at a local arcade one would expect in the 80s and 90s.

They've been replaced with extravagant events with audiences that number in the millions. And these events happen right in front of you, on whichever device you choose.

And get this:

People can even build careers from competitive gaming, with some gamers managing to turn their hobby into a seven-figure income with endorsement deals that would make most baseball and hockey players jealous.

This isn't a small-time phenomenon, people.

Marketing analytics company Newzoo estimates that almost 400 million people will watch eSports this year, with 165 million watching frequently.

At this point, it's fair to call eSports a "billion-dollar industry." In 2018, revenue surpassed $900 million.

While games like Call of Duty, Madden, Fortnite, and League of Legends have traditionally been popular, software company Blizzard took things to new levels with Overwatch League.


This has everything you would expect from traditional sports. You'll find:

  • Organized, salaried teams
  • A defined schedule
  • Finals
  • And all the usual bells and whistles

The only difference is that the "athletes" are sitting comfortably in a DX Racer gaming chair.

And the concept works. The opening week of Overwatch League in 2019 boasted a viewership of 13 million.

Yeah, I said 13 million.

While some detractors can say that it's "just video games," the reality is that eSports are a large part of the future where games are concerned.

Popular Streamers

Some of the most popular streamers come from humble roots. They're people who worked "9 to 5"...

until they were able to realize the dream of making their true passion -- video games -- their primary source of income.

They're the people who didn't listen when everyone told them that "sitting around and playing video games will get you nowhere in life."

If you're thinking of getting into streaming, you should study what these folks do.

Tyler Blevins, or Ninja, had an estimated net worth of more than $3.5 million as of September 2018.


Ninja

But, of course, he didn't start there:

When he was just starting out, Blevins was just an everyday college student who liked to play soccer and rewarded himself for success in his studies with video game time.

Blevins started by attending (and winning) gaming tournaments. But he truly rose to prominence by streaming the popular "battle royale" games, Player Unknown's Battlegrounds and Fortnite, on Twitch.

Back when he started streaming in 2014, he barely had 800 viewers at once.

And now:

As of 2018, his streams regularly attracted more than 90,000 concurrent viewers.

Ninja is so popular that he was chosen to participate in a tragic and weird Fallout 76 promotional stream with rapper Logic and these two:

Shroud

Shroud is another of the most popular streamers on Twitch, regularly attracting more than 30,000 viewers in a single streaming session. This Canadian gamer boasts more than 4.2 million followers as of the end of 2018 and has a net worth of over $1 million.

Like Ninja, Shroud plays a lot of shooters like Player Unknown's Battlegrounds, Counter-Strike, and more.

He started as a pro, but:

He moved to streaming in 2017. He rocketed to the top largely, according to fellow popular streamer DrDisRespect, because people were getting some "serious skill" from him.

"He's literally the best at everything he does play because he was born on a mouse and keyboard," the Doc says. "He showcases something very special, that no one else has."

DrDisRespect

Since we've already mentioned him, it should be noted that DrDisRespect has a net worth of more than $500,000 and almost 3 million followers on Twitch.

You might wonder why:

Guy Beahm, or "The Doc," is known for a few things:

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his mirror-lens sunglasses

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his mustache

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his unique and erratic personality

All of these things make him a lot of fun to watch.

Like the other two, he's known for playing shooters -- though he has been known to smash in some skulls on League of Legends.

Popular Streaming Platforms

When it comes to finding someplace to watch video game streamers, your possibilities are seemingly endless. But you're probably going to see your favorite streamers on one of three platforms: Twitch, Mixer, and YouTube.

All of these platforms provide gamers and their fans the opportunity to connect. But there are, naturally, some differences between the platforms.

Twitch

More than two million people stream on this site monthly. More than 17,000 of them make money doing so through the Twitch Partner program.

Twitch is the largest of the streaming platforms. It was founded in 2011. While Twitch originally focused on video games, it now includes talk shows, art, cooking, and more.

unique and erratic personality

And here's what you want to know:

Streamers can offer paid subscriptions with extra features, place ads in their broadcasts, and do more to maximize revenue.

Users can donate "bits," a form of in-site currency with monetary value, to their favorite streamers.

And that's not all:

They also earn money from ads and even kickbacks from game sales through their profiles.

It's also interactive! Users can message one another, chat among themselves and with streamers, and even post status updates.

And because of the site's social features and popularity:

it's a spectacular place for a streamer to earn money -- and for their viewers to participate.

Mixer

Mixer is the "new kid on the block," but it has a lot going for it. This service enjoys native integration into Windows 10 and Xbox One.

While the population is lower than on Twitch, Mixer regularly gives away free Microsoft Store games during special events.

Think of it this

The lower population can work to your advantage as a streamer, as higher-quality content stands out more and there is less competition.

Mixer has an interesting feature that allows multiplayer co-streaming. Streamers who are in the same game can easily share their content on the same page.

And the best part is:

Once your account is monetized, you'll receive a portion of ad revenue, subscription fees, monthly codes to give away products, as well as Xbox promotional opportunities.

Unfortunately, fewer viewers mean less ad revenue. 

YouTube Gaming

YouTube Gaming is Google's version of a video game streaming website. Unfortunately, both streamers and users may find some issues.

Overall, YouTube's video game streaming site is less attractive than Twitch and Mixer, but that could change in the future.

Like the other services, you can earn money from ads. You can also insert "cards" in your streams and videos, which you can link to fan funding websites like Patreon.

For instance:

Subscriptions on YouTube Gaming are separate from the main site, so followers don't carry over.

How Can I Make Money Streaming?

Making money with video game streaming is easy -- once you meet all the requirements and build an audience.

But it's not easy:

You should expect a lot of work before you're able to turn a profit. Most streaming services have a minimum subscription, viewership, and other requirements before you can monetize content.

While you can receive tips and insert ads in your content, your main source of income will be through sponsorships with various companies that make gaming-related products.

To that end, you'll want to maintain a "clean" channel that will be attractive to potential sponsors.

You'll want to make your channel look nice, keep the chat well-moderated, and ensure that the screen has as little clutter as possible. 

While you can wait for sponsors to find you, you can also reach out to them via services like Hello Gamers and PowerSpike.

And you should.

If you're the particularly enterprising sort, you can search out the appropriate contacts at various companies you like and approach them about sponsorship. Be sure to always write a polite and attractive proposal email that tells the company:

  • What marketing objectives they could accomplish by sponsoring you
  • The sort of audience you have
  • How your brand can benefit theirs

Ensure that you're not too robotic in your email. Companies want to see your personality, as that is largely what they are sponsoring.

If you get a response, you can then begin to hammer out the details like:

how much you will get paid, the frequency of the sponsorship, when you will get paid, and more. 

Once you have the details hammered out, you're ready to sign your contract. Be sure to have a lawyer read it thoroughly and offer advice.

All of this is, of course, in addition to advertising revenue and other ways to make money that we have previously mentioned.

How Can I Get Started?

Getting started as a video game streamer can be difficult. It's easy to set up your accounts, but you're going to need to do a lot of prep work if you're serious.

That's right, it's just like any other business.


And you should, of course, prepare to make lifestyle changes to deal with the strenuous schedule.

Most importantly: Prepare for failure.

Because here's the hard truth:

Most streamers don't make it, and you can't expect that you will ever make the sort of money Ninja does even if you do find success.

If you do decide to have a go at it, the first thing you'll want to look at is equipment. You'll also need social media accounts for your persona, a passion for gaming, and the ability to deal with playing for an empty room while you're getting established.

Equipment

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High-Quality CPU - This helps ensure lower loading times and smooth performance

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16GB RAM minimum - enables you to run more programs in the background

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Graphics card - Important for providing excellent video quality

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Solid-state Drive - Reduces loading speeds

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Webcam, Green screen, and lighting - to show your face to the world

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Microphone - For better sound quality

Whether you're streaming console or PC games, you're going to need an excellent computer. This will be your largest startup cost, as you can't afford to skimp here.

Ideally, your computer will have a high-quality CPU. You'll want chips with high core counts and clock speeds like newer Ryzen and Intel chips.

The Ryzen Threadripper is popular with streamers but can be very pricey.

Also, you're going to want high-quality storage. A solid-state drive will reduce load times and give you and your viewers a better experience.

Next, you'll want a high-end graphics card like the Nvidia GEFORCE GTX 1070 Ti.


The good thing is:

The benefit you receive is the ability to use high-quality software encoding without sacrificing framerate or resolution.

Also, you'll need a lot of RAM. This allows you to have a lot going on in the background without freezing your computer. For most people, 16GB of DDR4 RAM is sufficient. But you can bump your RAM up to 32GB just to be safe.


You've probably noticed that many streamers have a capture of them sitting in their chair overlayed on top of the game footage.

To do this, you'll want to buy a green screen with suitable lighting. Fortunately, most capture programs make using a green screen easy.

If you need a good capture and streaming program, you'll be glad to know that Open Broadcasting Software is one of the best and that it's free.

Other things you'll need

Bottom line:

You're going to need to love what you do. If you don't enjoy gaming, you're not going to be very fun to watch. Also, especially in the beginning, you'll need always to bring your "A-game."

Almost every viewer will be seeing you for the first time, so a messy stream is something you can't afford. First impressions, and all that.

And you need a presence:

You'll want social media accounts to promote and enhance your brand across all platforms on which you stream.

Please pop this out: Twitter is excellent for promotion.​

YouTube is great for posting videos of your streams to expand your brand awareness.

And although Reddit isn't good for promotion, there are subreddits focused on game clips where you can post your more impressive plays. You can also use that platform to connect with your fans and potential fans.

Legal concerns

You'll need to be very aware of intellectual property rights. This is so important that Bethesda published a list of songs that will get streamers "dinged" for copyright infringement in Fallout 76.

While streamers can shut off music on their personal in-game radio, they can encounter radios playing these songs while exploring the world.

Fortunately, there's good news:

This developer included code that automatically mutes these songs if you are streaming directly from consoles.

But unfortunately:

This does not help if you are using your PC to stream.

And worse yet:

Not every company does this -- so copyright compliance can be a chore.

You'll also want to avoid using other streamers' work to enhance your own. Just as you have rights, so do they.

Plus, you should also be aware of "Fair Use." If you haven't heard that term or need a refresher, you can find information here.

Time to Put Yourself Out There

Now that you've prepared yourself, it's time to get out there and start streaming.

As long as you're aware of the costs, your responsibilities, and the amount of work required, you're ready to go.

The most important thing to remember is to have fun. If you're truly enjoying your passion, then you've already found success.

Do you watch eSports? Are you serious about being a streamer? Tell us about your favorite game to watch or play in the comments!

Featured image: by Olichel, via Pixabay

John Prager

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