Wouldn’t it be nice if instead of working for the man you could just sit at home and play video games all day and get paid to do it? I’m sure many of you have had this thought, especially since some of the most popular game streamers out there are making very comfortable six-figure incomes, or perhaps even more to go along with the worldwide stardom. But let’s bring it back down to earth for a minute here. If you, the average gamer, was willing to put in the time and effort to stream, how much could you reasonably expect to make? And just where does all this money come from anyway?
So here we go. You’re a smaller-time Twitch streamer. We’ll focus on Twitch since they’re a market leader right now. You’re just getting starter and through a combination of good game play entrancing charisma and devilishly good looks, you built up a small base of viewers.
Become a Twitch Affiliate
Congratulations. If you’ve gone up to 50 followers, you can become a Twitch affiliate, which at some point will give you a share of the pre-roll ads that Twitch runs against your stream, but that typically isn’t much money in the grand scheme of things. Much more important is that it gives you additional monetizations options, with one of the most significant ones being subscriptions.
On Twitch, subscriptions work a little differently than they do on sites like YouTube. Although streams are free to view, some fans choose to subscribe to streamers that they like, which not only supports the streamer financially but gives the subscriber perks like special emoji and badges for use in the chatroom, as well as the ability to watch streams without any Twitch advertisements.
So at the time of writing, Twitch subscriptions cost between $5 and $25 US dollars per month depending on how much the viewer wants to pay. With that money being split half/half between the streamer and the Twitch platform and viewers can also purchase what are called bits, which are essentially animated emoji that appear in the chat window. When your fans cheer with their bits, you will receive a cut of that money they spend on those bits.
Viewers additionally have the option of simply donating their contribution directly to you without subscribing. The benefit of this method is that there’s no revenue share with Twitch. So for some streamers, this can be a big deal. But this comes with a drawback that there’s no auto renewal, so it can be a little unpredictable.
Affiliate programs, not to be confused with being a Twitch affiliate, are yet another popular source of income. This is why many Twitch streamers have the links to the streaming gear they use, the games they play, products they feature on their stream or just a box about random crap on Amazon. Every time a viewer clicks on one of these links and buys something, the streamer will get a small kickback.
Twitch Partner Status
Now, to be clear, if you’re just an affiliate running a smaller channel, you won’t be looking at any life changing sums of money from anything I mentioned so far. However, if your stream becomes popular enough, let’s say you regularly have 100 or even a couple hundred people watching your stream at once, you can apply to become a Twitch partner, which has the potential to give you much more exposure in your application is approved. You’ll get the monetization features we just talked about. But because Twitch will start recommending your stream to viewers, actively putting your content in front of more people, you’ll not only make more money from subscriptions and donations, but you might also get offers for sponsorships that you can run on your stream, such a banner, product placement opportunities, like a specific brand of gaming chair, merch stores that will help your fans buy hoodies with your face on it and give you a cut, or even invitations to conventions like Pax where you can get paid for making an appearance.
But the road to becoming a streamer this caliber can be hard, long and hard, because the competition is fierce. And even if you’re genuinely really talented, building up a loyal base of fans doesn’t happen overnight. Many pro streamers have cautioned against trying to break into the professional streaming scene if your primary motivation is money.
How Much Does an Average Pro Make?
Let’s ignore that for a moment though and finally answer the $64000 question. If you do make it as a pro, what kind of income can you be looking at? Funnily enough, 64000 bucks might not be too far off the mark, as many full-time streamers who have found sustainable employment in playing video games for an audience might make between 3000 and 5000 bucks per month, not exactly baller money but certainly enough to think about doing it full-time rather than as a hobby.
As for the very successful streamers, they can use their popularity on Twitch to land deals with outside sponsors and sell even more merch, meaning six and even seven-figure incomes aren’t unheard of. But if you wanna dream of reaching that level, make sure that in addition to your gaming skills you have something to offer your viewers, whether it’s a quirky sense of humor, a silver radio voice or even fashion advice. Anything that helps you stand out is a good thing. I even heard about one guy who made it big online thanks, in part, to his trademark socks and sandals look.