There are thousands of creators on Twitch every day, some very successful, some not so much. Some do it to earn a living, others to pursue their passion. Livestreaming is more respected today than ever before, and more and more young people are choosing to become streamers.
But what is the profession of "steamer" all about? Where do you start, what skills do you need, how much money do you have to invest for a good setup? How can you monetize your activity as a streamer? How to become a streamer? We'll answer all these questions in this detailed tutorial, which aims to give beginners who want to become a streamer an understanding of the topic and to show that you can't become the next ninja or pokimane overnight, but that there's a lot more to being a streamer than just "gambling until the doctor comes".
1 What is streaming?
In the broadest sense, streaming means nothing more than a live transmission in video form. What is transmitted and who transmits it is irrelevant. It can be shows, talk shows, movies, series or IRL content. However, today we would like to focus on the type of streaming that most people probably associate with the word "streaming", namely the live broadcast of gaming content. Here, what you see on your screen while gaming is transmitted in real time to a streaming platform such as Twitch or YouTube. Viewers therefore have the opportunity to watch others play video games.
To make the experience more interactive and exciting for viewers, streamers have created a few tools over the past few years. For example, most comment on their gameplay live with a microphone, providing an additional source of entertainment alongside the game itself. The use of a so-called facecam is also commonplace among most streamers nowadays - here, the creator films himself using a camera while he plays the game and inserts the corresponding image into the stream.
2 How did streaming come about?
In the late 1990s, the medium of video games became more and more popular and consoles and PCs slowly started to become so powerful that the content displayed became more and more realistic. As popularity grew, so did the media's interest in covering it. GIGA Games, a show that emerged from the GIGA(NBC) channel founded in 1998, was the first television show to revolve around the topic of video games. Here, live and uncut games were played, reported and discussed on various topics. Although GIGA came to an abrupt end as a TV station in 2009 due to the global financial crisis, it would turn out a few years later that pioneering work had been done here.
In the late 2000s, the term "Let's Play" became better known and gamers from all over the world saw the fairytale rise of YouTube & Co. as an ideal opportunity to upload their gameplay in video form to corresponding platforms. As the medium of video games grew in parallel, the interest in corresponding content on this topic also increased. What 10 years earlier could only be glimpsed in printed form from video game magazines could now be marveled at on the Internet free of charge and in an unprecedented abundance - as video. With the advent of the first streaming portals (Justin.tv, OWN3D.TV), anyone who wanted to could start a live broadcast with little effort and present the game to their viewers.
E-sports organizations in particular took advantage of the full potential of streaming platforms, as they could broadcast matches and tournaments for viewers and provide live commentary. Instead of recording the match and then uploading it after the fact, viewers could suddenly be presented with a live experience familiar from other sports. This development has been instrumental in making e-sports such a prominent part of society today. From a relatively small bubble of interested gamers, a gigantic market developed within the next few years with Twitch & Co. whose development can no longer be stopped. Today, around 3 million users broadcast their gameplay on Twitch every month.
3 Becoming a streamer - Is streaming even a profession?
Basically, it can be said that streaming can definitely be a profession. However, in order to earn enough money with your streams to call it a significant side or even main source of income, you need to have already built up your own community that allows you to have a certain number of viewers on a regular basis. There are creators who entertain thousands of users with their streams almost every day and earn a corresponding amount of money with it, but with millions of others who also want to become streamers, this is rather the exception. Most of the great streamers have built up their community over many years and initially pursued their activity as a creator alongside their job in their spare time.
4 Important skills you should have as a streamer!
As with any other profession, you should have a variety of skills as a streamer. It's not done with gaming all day while chatting a bit. It mainly depends on what games you want to play in your streams, because especially for e-sports titles, you should have a certain level of skill. No one wants to see a streamer who is so bad that he loses every round. This can be quite entertaining for a few hours, but in the long run it does get very monotonous. But besides what's happening on the screen, you should also be aware that proper organization is essential. This includes, for example, analyzing the numbers, planning content, being present in social media and handling finances correctly.
In addition to the aforementioned hard skills, soft skills should not be neglected, because if they are not right, you can actually leave it alone with streaming. These qualities cannot be learned and should be in your cradle. As a streamer, you are self-employed, which means that you are responsible for your success and you determine how much you put into it. So you should have a certain level of motivation and stamina, because you won't have 2000 viewers overnight. In addition, as a solo entertainer, it would of course be an advantage if you are not at a loss for words and are communicative. Of course, there are also successful streamers who are rather quiet, but even then you should always make sure to communicate interactively with your chat and your viewers. To come up with new projects and ideas, you need to be creative and always open to new things. It's also an advantage to be able to change your mind quickly, because if an idea doesn't work out after a lot of trial and error, you should be able to quickly come up with something else for your viewers.
5 How to become a streamer?
This question is not so easy to answer, because it always depends on what you want to stream, how big your ambitions are and how you define the term "streamer". Are you already a streamer if you go live once a month and present a new game to three of your friends?
Basically, you don't need much to stream - if you break it down to the essential components, a PC with the appropriate software or a current game console is enough to get started. Of course, you should also have a good Internet connection, because a lot of data is exchanged to transmit a live stream in full HD quality. For a good, smooth 1080p stream, you should therefore have an Internet speed of at least 10 Mbit/s. If you can't meet these requirements, you'll have to lower the quality of your transmission accordingly.
In most cases, however, this is not enough to make things a bit more professional. To become a streamer, you should get to know the different platforms, the games and the content you want to show. In order to be found off stream and provide content to your viewers, social media channels are extremely important. You should set up Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts and keep them active. These tools are not only important for marketing, but also to let your followers know when the next streams are happening and what you have planned in terms of content. The appropriate streaming setup also plays a big role. Very few creators on Twitch & Co. broadcast their shows without a microphone and/or camera, so setting up the setup should be a high priority.
6 What streaming platforms are there?
Twitch is by far the largest streaming platform in the world. The portal has been around since 2011 and has been growing steadily ever since. Every day, hundreds of thousands of users are on Twitch, streaming themselves or watching others do so. Since its founding, the basic concept has remained the same, but practical features and tools have been added regularly. With a variety of interesting features, Twitch is especially interesting for gamers and gaming enthusiasts.
Most people know YouTube as the largest video platform in the world, but many are not even aware that YouTube is also used as a streaming portal. In fact, YouTube Live is the second largest streaming platform on the Internet. While the Live division is not quite as gigantic as Twitch's, some of the most famous creators are on YouTube. Of particular interest to streamers is the seamless link between streaming and VOD content production, as it allows subscribers to be united and bundled on a single platform, which can be very practical and profitable in certain cases.
Facebook Gaming is what's left of Microsoft's streaming platform, Mixer. After the large-scale project to give Twitch & YouTube a run for their money failed, Microsoft allied with Facebook and unveiled Facebook Gaming in 2019. It is far behind Twitch & YouTube the third major livestreaming portal and a descendant of Facebook.
In addition to the aforementioned streaming platforms, there are also many other small platforms, but their user numbers are manageable. If you want to become a successful streamer, it is therefore advisable to try your hand at one of the aforementioned platforms.
7 What setup do I use as a streamer?
Besides the basic things like PC or console, there are other components that belong in a decent streaming setup. To be able to offer your viewers a great experience, you should think about offering additional insights besides the actual gameplay. Microphones and cameras are particularly suitable for this purpose.
A microphone is used to comment live on the stream and entertain the viewers with his personal and unique way. Although the built-in microphone of the obligatory gaming headset can be used for this, this option should only be considered if you want to slowly approach the topic of live streaming at first. The reason for this statement is quite simple: the microphones of gaming headsets leave a lot to be desired in most cases. Good USB microphones, which have a much better sound, are already available from about 50 € and can significantly improve the experience for the viewer. Speech is much clearer, so you will be better understood in the future, the sound image is not so distorted and sounds in your livestream like you sound in real life and not like on the phone.
The second important factor for the professional streaming setup is the camera. The use of a so-called facecam has become almost normal nowadays. So, the image of a camera pointed at your face is inserted into your stream and users can see your facial expression while you are gaming, in addition to the gameplay. However, the use of a camera is not so much to see how you pucker your mouth when you concentrate, but rather to give your stream a face - keyword: personal branding.
More and more viewers want to see who is entertaining them and what that person looks like. This way, as a creator, you can build a much closer bond with your community and appear more approachable than hiding behind your gameplay like a ghost. When choosing a camera, make sure that it supports at least 720p resolution and can display a good image even in a dark environment. Corresponding models are already available from about 100 €.
In general you can say that IF you want to integrate a facecam, buying a really good camera is more important than buying a high-end microphone. A bad camera will have a much more negative effect on your stream than no camera at all, whereas even cheap microphones usually sound pretty good, unlike headsets.
8 What are the most popular games and categories being streamed?
The list of the most popular games on Twitch is constantly changing with the constant changes of the fast-paced internet world. So depending on which game is hype at the moment, the numbers can vary greatly. But there are also games that have been extremely popular for years and are regularly high up on the Twitch home page. Here is a small overview of the absolute streaming classics:
- League of Legends
- Counter Strike: Global Offensive
- The "Call of Duty" series
- Grand Theft Auto Online
- World of Warcraft
- Rainbow Six: Siege
As you can see, the most popular games are all multiplayer titles. Most of the major streamers focus on these types of games for the most part, simply because they offer a very high replay value and can potentially be very entertaining. While story-based video games are also very popular, streamers who focus on single-player games tend not to appeal to as many users as those who play a multiplayer game with others.
To stay on top of the game, it can be helpful to constantly adapt to what's going on. Thus, it is never a bad idea to join a hype and present the respective game in the stream. You should still make sure to give your stream program a certain thread by focusing on a certain genre (shooters, RPGs, strategy, etc.), for example. Try to find a healthy middle ground between current games and your favorite genre. Ultimately, though, you should play what you enjoy! Because your viewers will immediately notice if you're just slogging through a game because it's hyped and you're not enjoying it yourself.
In addition to the individual games, Twitch also offers space for other categories that have nothing to do with gaming in the broadest sense. These include, among others:
- Just Chatting
- Science & Technology
- Special Events
- Talk Shows & Podcasts
Even though Twitch still sees itself as a gaming portal, other content such as shows or talk rounds continues to grow. On Twitch, artists can draw in front of live audiences, musicians can record songs, and teachers can impart knowledge. In recent years, even some well-known politicians have used the platform to connect with the people. The endless possibilities make Twitch a huge provider of interactive entertainment, even if you're not into video games.
9 What does a streamer do to earn money?
The main source of income for any Twitch streamer is subs, which are subscriptions that viewers sign up for. The motivation to subscribe can have different reasons for a viewer - they want to support the streamer financially and help them grow, or they want to take advantage of the benefits the streamer gives them when they sign up for a subscription. So subs are paid subscriptions, 50% of the price of which goes to the streamer himself - but there's a catch: the use of Twitch subs is so far reserved for Twitch affiliates and Twitch partners. To become an affiliate or partner, you have to have a certain number of regular viewers over a certain amount of time. So if you want to make big money with Twitch right away, you're going to have to start thinking about how to build a steady and loyal community that will be willing to sign up for paid subscriptions for you.
Another way to earn money with Twitch is to collect donations. Viewers have the option to send you an amount of money of their choice and thus support you. This method is also voluntary, but unlike subs, the viewer has no advantages. Especially well-heeled and generous viewers like to donate 4 to 5 digit amounts, but this is rather the exception. Donations are great, but they also have a clear disadvantage for you: You can't plan with them, because every donation you receive comes out of the blue, which means that it can happen that you receive 200 € on one day and not a single euro on the following day.
With the right marketing and motivation, you can also make money selling merchandise. However, this method only turns out to be somewhat profitable when you have already built up a solid following.
If you want to know more about how to make money as a streamer, be sure to check out our comprehensive tutorial "Making Money on Twitch".
10 How to become a streamer - Specialization
You can show special skills in a certain subject area? Very good! Because then you can specialize in this topic as a creator and become a respected internet personality within this field. Since the possibilities here are also very diverse, we would like to give you a few examples of these specializations:
- Retro-Gaming (NES, Snes, Sega Mega Drive, GameBoy etc.)
- Sports games
Speedrunners, for example, are extremely different from the rest of the Twitch content in terms of content, but they still have a huge growing community with their own rules, terms, and a very specific meta. On Twitch, they then broadcast how they train or try to set new world records. Almost every game is now suitable for speedruns, which has ensured that the community has grown so large in recent years.
So in order to become successful as a streamer, it can be quite helpful to commit to a certain topic and make a name for yourself within this community.
11 Future prospects
Livestreaming is growing and growing - in 2020 alone, 7.5 billion hours were streamed on Twitch, YouTube & Facebook Gaming. This rapid development shows that streaming has long since ceased to be a niche market and can easily keep up with TV, Netflix and the like. The gaming industry is also getting bigger and is now on a par with Hollywood! The fact that everyone can find the right content for themselves on these streaming platforms or get creative themselves has proven to be a major advantage over traditional media in recent years. If we look at the development of the last few years, we can expect further drastic growth in the future. The portals come with more and more sophisticated, user-friendly features, making it easier and easier to enter the world of streaming.
There are always streamers who appear out of nowhere and break all records. While you can't speculate on such a situation, we want to tell you that basically anything is possible. What the future holds can only be roughly guessed, and the streaming market is far from having finished its development - it's still in its infancy right now.
You can become a streamer overnight, but you have to work hard to achieve success. To stand out among the gigantic number of competing creators, you need not only patience, but also a certain amount of stamina, self-discipline and creativity. Especially the topic "streaming as a profession" is a tricky one, because you should neither romanticize nor talk down the whole thing. Working as a streamer can be quite stressful and nerve-wracking at times, and if you don't have a correspondingly thick skin and the necessary determination, you can quickly be disappointed by the creator's dream.
It's best to approach it with a certain detachment and light-footedness, because there's no point in starting streaming with the intention of getting rich within two years. Only very few people have managed that so far and it's comparable to winning the lottery. Stream because you want to live out your passion for gaming and entertain other people - from the heart. We wish you a lot of fun and success in becoming a streamer and would be happy to see you on Twitch or on another popular streaming platform!