Twitch. YouTube. Mixer. Pretty much everywhere you turn, there’s a streaming service filled with thousands and thousands of people playing games. From streams that can’t get viewers no matter how hard they try to ones that have millions of people checking in each day, the world is filled with gamers looking to entertain us while they sit in front of a monitor and geek out.
It isn’t easy building an audience on a streaming service like Twitch. This isn’t like Netflix or Disney+. There’s no marketing team helping get your name out there. There’s no crew working behind the scenes to make sure you look good from every angle or writing a script for you to read from. The vast majority of streams are just a single person doing their best to make something. They ramble on and on about whatever comes to mind. They explain every choice they make in the game they’re playing. They overreact to moments, working to build up excitement for their viewers.
And with some luck, some random kid in Wisconsin will see their stream and like it. That kid tells their pals, who also check it out and like it. Word spreads, slow at first but building. And if the streamer has the talent, patience, and personality to really stand out, they can make a good living playing games.
How good of a living? Well, it’s rare – VERY RARE – but for some streamers, we’re talking thousands to hundreds of thousands to millions.
Take Ninja for example. Tyler Bevins started out as a Halo 3 pro in 2009 before taking a liking to streaming in 2011. He started his streaming career playing H1Z1 before moving to PUBG. For a while, he would switch back and forth between the games, but in 2017, Bevins started to play Fortnite. The game became massively popular, and Bevins rode that popularity straight to the top of the streamer ladder. In 2018, Ninja set a Twitch record when 635,000 people watched his stream with everyone’s favorite Canadian rapper, Drake.
In 2018, Ninja made around $10 million dollars. Does that sound like a lot? It is, but it isn’t the most a streamer has made in a year. Ninja beat his own yearly revenue by bringing in $17 million in 2019.
That’s a lot of scratch.
And he isn’t the only streamer to make millions.
Felix Kjellberg started his career as a YouTuber in 2006 as PewDie. In 2010 he rebranded himself as PewDiePie. Things started slow for PewDiePie, and he worked at a hot dog stand to make a living while creating his videos in his free time. By the end of 2011, he had 60,000 subscribers. By the end of 2012, he had 2 million subscribers. To put that in perspective, 1.7 million people live in Idaho.
These days, PewDiePie has over 100 million subscribers, which is just under 3x the population of California.
But things aren’t all sunbeams and lollipops for PewDiePie. In 2017 he stepped into a big old controversy when he hired two people on the website Fiverr to hold up a sign that read “Death To All Jews”. PewDiePie claimed that he was trying to point out how “crazy” Fiverr is and that it was meant as a joke. What that joke could possibly be is beyond me.
Still, 2017 wasn’t done with PewDiePie yet! After offending the Jewish people of the world, PewDiePie went ahead and screamed out the N-word while live streaming PUBG.
Looking to clean up his brand, PewDiePie pledged $50,000 to the Anti-Defamation League this past September. Then, in a move that can only be called stupid, he canceled his donation when his fans voiced their distaste to the donation. Because in terms of distasteful, donating money to the Anti-Defamation League is apparently worse than paying people to hold up anti-Semetic signs or yelling out the N-word? Somehow that makes logical sense to PewDiePie and his base?
All this controversy didn’t hurt PewDiPie’s wallet. In 2019 he pulled in 4.5 billion views and made $15 million dollars.
According to Forbes, the ten biggest streamers brought in over $120 million. And looking to the future, it doesn’t seem like the popularity of streaming will be dying down anytime soon. We’ve entered a period where streamers are now being signed to streaming sites. Ninja walked away from his 14.7 million followers on Twitch and signed a deal with Mixer. Currently, Ninja has less than 3 million followers on Mixer, so Microsoft may be feeling some buyer’s remorse. But then again, the second biggest streamer on Mixer – Shroud – has less than a million followers, so by comparison, Ninja is killing it. Jeremy “DisguisedToast” Wang left Twitch and his 1.3 million fans when he made a deal to stream exclusively for Facebook Gaming. He currently has 213 thousand followers on the platform.
Guy Beahm, better known as Dr. Disrespect, didn’t make it into Forbes’ top ten list, but he did pull off something none of the streamers on the list have – he got himself a TV deal. Beahm is working with Skybound Entertainment, the production company behind The Walking Dead, to create a series based on his life.
Where the future of streaming will go is unknown. After all, it’s the future and none of us can see it (except for Miss Cleo, but she died so we’re all screwed). What we can be sure of is that as long as all you need to stream is a solid internet connection and a camera, the “new” form of entertainment won’t be going away anytime soon. Sure, Twitch probably won’t always be the top dog, but there always will be a top dog where all the kids go to watch people play video games.