So you heard someone say something about Twitch again. Maybe it was a friend of a friend, maybe it was a 6 foot, 8 inch behemoth with an impressive mustache at spin class, or maybe it was a red-headed body builder at the bar, but you heard the same thing “I play video games on the internet for a living”. I’m guessing you probably called BS on that being a real way to make a living, but your curiosity got the best of you, and that’s how you found your way here. Believe it or not, professional streamers are very much a real thing, and some of them make a pretty good living by streaming their gameplay online for the world to see. Here’s the different ways that streamers make an income:
The first big component to a streamers income is the donations they receive from their audience. This is done through a third party, generally PayPal, who takes a cut. When a streamer receives a donation, donators can leave a message, which the streamer can then read aloud, on-air. These donations may range anywhere from a dollar up to an amount in the thousands. One of the prominent streamers on Twitch, DrDisRespectLive’s biggest donation is just under $10,000. Watch some of the biggest streamers on the platform like DrDisRespectLive or Shroud and you’ll hear and see an insane number of donations constantly trickle in through their games of PUBG and Fortnite. Even watching a speed-running streamer, like Calebhart42, with a much smaller audience, you’ll see a massive influx of donations every session.
The second major component of how a streamer makes a living is subscriptions. These are monthly contributions ranging from $4.99, $9.99, and $24.99 per month, in addition to Twitch Prime subs (one free $4.99 sub per month for a Twitch user that has Amazon or Twitch prime). For a $4.99 sub, the streamer sees $2.50. Subs are critical for streamers, as these are hardcore followers who are more likely to donate as well. Looking at someone like Shroud, who has over 25,000 monthly subscribers, the income there is $62k per month, or $744k per year (more than Dallas Cowboys Quarterback Dak Prescott made this year). This is an extreme example, and very few streamers make this kind of money on subs, but it does show how quickly the income can escalate. Even 1000 monthly subs equates to $2.5k per month, or $30k per year. For some of the more popular streamers like Shoud and DrDisRespectLive, you must be subscribed to participate in the chat channel. Other benefits include avoiding advertisements (covered later), and an icon next to a subscribers name in chat denoting how long they’ve been subscribed to the channel.
Twitch has a proprietary value of currency they use to “cheer” a streamer called Bits. The conversion here is 100 bits for $1.40, or about 1.4 cents per bit. Viewers can cheer with any number of bits they want, which is treated as another donation with the bits going to the streamer. Some of these bits can get quite large quite fast, such as CalebHart42’s top bit donation at the time of writing, which is 25000, or $350. These cheers also show up as an icon next to a viewer’s icon in chat. These cheers also include an animated emote at the same time.
The dirty word that everyone hates: Advertisements. These 30 second commercials that interrupt gameplay can be run by streamers for additional income. These are blocked by anyone with an ad block, Twitch Prime, or subscriber to the said channel. Most streamers with a high enough sub count don’t run ads, but they can be handy when it comes to generating a few extra dollars here and there.
Many of the big name streamers have an audience always wondering what kind of gear they’re rocking. It may be the mouse they’re using, their keyboard, chair, headphones and microphone, or even the energy drink they’re drinking. All of these result in free swag for the streamer, as well as the monetary compensation for the advertising the streamer is doing for the company. In addition to swag and income, in many cases, if a viewer of a streamer clicks through a link and then purchases one of those products from the streamer’s page, they get a finders fee for that sale.
Just because a streamer plays games live doesn’t mean they can’t monetize the actual recording they take from their sessions. These videos can generate even more income in the form of simple YouTube views as well as advertisements played before the videos. For example, DrDisRespectLive puts out a highlights videos from his sessions, while CalebHart42 puts his best speed runs on YouTube to be viewed by anyone who may have missed his record-smashing runs.
What’s the easiest thing to design and make? T-shirts, and a few of these streamers sell quite a few. When a streamer plays a character and puts on a show (which many streamers do), they have a wide variety of things to use as t-shirt designs, which their viewers gobble up.
So there you have it, lots of options for Twitch streamers to make money, especially when they break through and have a good following behind them. To clarify, there are tons and tons of people who don’t make a dollar streaming, especially considering how saturated the market is, and how hard it can be to break into. Next time you hear about a streamer with a Lamborghini Diablo VT that rolls out a literal red carpet when he gets out of it, yes, that’s for real. And now you know how it’s possible.