Rambling my way around the PUBG partner party, I was shocked to learn not every streamer was committed to Twitch full time. These partners held professional careers as nurses, web developers or illustrators - only using Twitch as a creative outlet or stress relief.
This stuck out to me for a number of reasons, primarily because these creatives had, in my eyes, ‘made it’. They were invited to official parties, had sponsorship and affiliate deals yet hadn’t made the leap to full time.
I also assumed that anyone with a large following on Twitch had started out streaming rent free from their parents basement or boldly declared ‘I’m going to be a full time streamer’ while sitting on a pile of disposable cash. As I met streamer after streamer who balanced a full time gig with a rigorous streaming schedule, I realised this was not the case.
GumdropsTSM started streaming specifically about the in-game economy of the popular MMO World of Warcraft. His notoriety in this niche lead to an opportunity to join Ubisoft so he now juggles a full time job, stream schedule and events like TwitchCon.
Funnily enough, this was the most inspirational part of TwitchCon for me.
It validated that you can make a name for yourself on Twitch without ripping away that security blanket. There are some who manage to succeed without one, but they seem to be the exception, not the rule. If you’re thinking about giving Twitch a good crack, you don’t need to jump in with both feet in order to get some sponsors or get flown out to TwitchCon. Dust off that webcam, prioritise streaming where you can and see where it leads you.
The most common theme across all panels was this - be authentic to yourself and to your brand. Almost every workshop, regardless of streamer or content fell back to this core concept. The push of authenticity from these pro level streamers seems to stem from the influx of shady mobile game deals that are saturating the gaming space. Mobile games generate an absurd amount of revenue and have an accordingly absurd amount of ad spend available to promote their games. Let’s be clear that taking a mobile sponsorship in itself is nothing terrible if the alignment is there - a Diablo 3 streamer taking a sponsored stream for Diablo Immortal makes perfect sense. An Apex Legend streamer taking a sponsored stream for “Bunny Bash Bonanza” does not.
The key thing to identify is if the sponsored opportunity aligns with your brand and is something that your viewers will enjoy. Dr Disrespect and Gilette might seem an odd combination, but he makes it work (core audience is male, males shave, Dr Disrespect manscapes his mo). Also, if you are doing a sponsored stream be transparent about the fact. You need to pay the bills and there’s absolutely no shame in promoting ‘sellout time’ every once in a while. Chat should hopefully understand that and (xxxx) argued that this transparency actually improved the stream quality. XXX announced he was trying to save for a house, and ads were a necessary way for him to make that happen. His community understood and actually encouraged him to take on more sponsorships. Win win.
One of the concerns raised by the more experienced streamers was taking sponsored streams as a newbie. All agreed getting that first sponsored spot is an incredibly exciting, exhilarating and validating experience. ‘I can say I’m sponsored! I’m getting paid to play Vidya gamez!’ Those dollar bills staring them in the face led them to overlook contracts (sometimes not even requesting one), and mis-judging how poorly their community would react to an improperly aligned game. They were accused of being shills, selling out, and losing loyal, financially contributing viewers.
While some seemed of the opinion ‘you have to do what you have to do to pay bills’, the overwhelming majority were of the opinion that your brand, your authenticity, is one of the most vital aspects you bring to the stream. Taking a few hundred euros for a stream now may have long term financial repercussions due to damaged brand equity. Your viewers need to trust that when you’re having a good time, you are. If they’re in doubt that the feedback or reactions you’re having are fake, that trust diminishes and they’ll be less inclined to tune in again.
In short - focus on the content and your own authenticity. Do not take sponsorship deals that don’t align with your brand values. Everyone needs to pay their bills, but being transparent about any brand deals that come your way can help alleviate community tensions.
Twitch confirmed at the opening Keynote that they’re committing to making your content more discoverable to potential viewers. They’re completely rebuilding the search functionality and encouraged streamers to tag their content appropriately. This is going to be vitally important in helping someone find your “Dance Dance Revolution mukbang” stream. If you’re doing something niche or unique, tag it as such and the viewers will come to you.
If you’re going to try make a living off Twitch, you’re going to have to implement multiple revenue streams. Running ads on your streams and vods is an excellent way to get started before you start thinking about alternate avenues such as merch, sponsored streams, affiliate links, brand deals etc. Many streamers from the “Make money and have fun” panel where shocked at how much money ads were making them. GumdropsTSM stated that he makes between 40-50% of his revenue from ads on his Twitch vods because they contained valuable information people would go and frequently rewatch.
This diversification also extends to Twitch as a platform for two reasons. Publishing content across YouTube, instagram, twitter, podcasts, heck even a personal blog will allow you to cast your net a lot wider, reaching many more potential viewers. The idea is to cross pollinate your communities, bring your YouTube viewers over to Twitch and vice versa. It’s a tried and true way of expediting channel growth. Not putting all of your eggs in one basket also ensures some security should one of your accounts get shut down. Social media is an unstable place, accounts get demonetized in a flash and the processes to remedy this aren’t always clear. Diversifying will not only help you grow, but also act as your safety net to ensure some semblance of financial security.
Gaming is a huge part of my life and I don’t shy away from that (anymore). When there’s no controller physically in my hand, I’m watching gaming news, reading the latest studio developments or chilling in chat. The problem with that however is that it’s mostly a one way street. Gaming is largely a consumption based hobby and as we all know, it’s more fun with friends.
TwitchCon gives you the opportunity to meet a highly niche subset of gamers who live and breath the same things you do. They’ve travelled hundreds of miles for the same reason you have, maybe watch the same things you watch, even stream the same things you stream. Did you just become my best friend? Yup! Damn right you did!
From a networking perspective it also provides incredible value. Never will you get a chance to meet more receptive industry contacts and build relationships with eager sponsors. They’re there to meet you - a warm handshake and a smile is much more meaningful than a cold email titled ‘Can I haz keyboard’. Do however try to create and build meaningful relationships, and whatever you do, don’t polymorph that potential goldmine of business cards into an amalgamated ball of sludge in your jeans pocket come laundry day.