With esports growing rapidly, the demand to watch other people play video games live has also increased. But what is live streaming and how can you get watching – or even streaming – yourself?
Video game streaming is one of the key areas in esports that allows fans to get closer to the action – and for pro gamers and entertainers to make some extra income.
People who make it to the top in streaming and have many concurrent viewers can make a living off of streaming alone.
So what is it? Streaming is where someone will record their game or show by broadcasting it via streaming platforms live over the internet. Streamers can add custom graphics to their stream, interact with viewers via a chat room, try to educate and entertain the viewers.
They can reach a vast number of viewers right from their bedroom or home studio. Streamers will often save certain recordings or clips, and some will upload these for viewing at any time on YouTube or another video platform.
Viewers can chat to one another and the streamer during the broadcast.
But it isn’t just as easy as pressing record and immediately having 10,000 viewers. It takes a lot of hard work and time to build a fanbase.
How do streamers and platforms earn money?
Platforms such as Twitch will usually place 30-second pre-roll ads at the start of a stream.
As well as selling this advertising space, Twitch will also strike big deals with esports tournament providers, game developers and other companies, and may sell advertising space and sponsorship around those tournaments.
In terms of the streamers themselves, viewers can ‘subscribe’ to their channel by paying around $5 a month. Of this, the streamer will usually take around 50% and Twitch the other 50%. Subscribing will remove ads and give the subscriber other benefits such as unique chat emotes and the ability to type in a ‘subscriber-only’ mode.
Streamers can also make money by accepting donations or ‘cheers/bits’ mid-stream. Fans will often write a message along with the donation, which gets read out by a computerised voice during the stream, allowing them to directly communicate with their favourite streamer.
How much do streamers earn?
It varies, but the very best and most popular streamers can earn hundreds of thousands – or even millions – of pounds every year.
This is on top of any sponsorship deals or other areas of revenue generation, such as YouTube ads/Google Adsense, merchandise sales and so on.
But this kind of money is usually only made by the most popular streamers who have tens of thousands of regular viewers.
What are the different streaming platforms?
Twitch is the largest video games streaming platform. It has 15 million viewers per day.
Twitch has enjoyed enormous growth in recent years. It was bought by Amazon in 2014 for around $1 billion, and allows millions of people to watch games live, chat with each other and broadcast their own stream to others.
This is Microsoft’s streaming service. It’s similar to Twitch and not as popular, but Microsoft is aiming to go big with its offering.
In 2019 Mixer brought Twitch’s most popular streamer of the past year or so – Ninja – across to its platform.
Caffeine is another social broadcasting platform aiming to offer an alternative to Twitch.
YouTube has a live streaming service on its website. It works very much like Twitch but has the ability to play back while the live stream is happening. It also saves the video to the streamer’s YouTube channel.
So for users who already have an existing successful YouTube channel, streaming on YouTube is much more convenient. However, the potential for a larger live audience is still much higher on Twitch.
Smashcast is another streaming service similar to YouTube and Twitch, but less popular.
AfreecaTV is another streaming service, one that is another based in South Korea. There’s also the Chinese service YY.
Facebook can also be used as a streaming service, but it’s not as common as Twitch or YouTube to be used in this way.
The rise of interactivity
Most streaming platforms have a built-in live chat for viewers to send messages in. This lets the broadcaster see how their audience is reacting to the content that is being produced live and they can respond to individual messages in the chat. This helps to make the audience feel more involved with the stream. Even if they don’t get a response from the broadcaster, they can join in with the spammed messages in the chat.
Broadcasters can set up commands in chat to give viewers information. For example, if a viewer types ‘!schedule’, a bot will reply with the streamer’s schedule. The broadcaster can also set up giveaways, polls and much more just by using chat plugins.
The big benefit to streaming live is the way you can interact with social media. Tournament broadcasts, such as the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS), have fan votes during the broadcast. For example, the fixture is Fnatic vs H2K. You can tweet using #FNCWIN or #H2KWIN. Each tweet to these hashtags will count as a vote that can be seen live during the broadcast.
The broadcaster will also encourage viewers to tweet questions or comments with hashtags, to ask questions that may be answered live on the show.
How can you start streaming?
In order to stream you will need broadcast software, such as Xsplit or OBS.
The following specs are recommended for streaming:
- Intel Core i5-4670 or AMD Equivalent
- 8GB DDR3 SDRAM
- Windows 7+
- A graphics card that supports Direct 10X and above
- 3MB+ internet upload speed
You will then need to create an account with a streaming platform. Extras such as mics and web cams will help you engage more directly with the audience.
There are many streaming guides out there online that may give you more detailed information and advice, but for now we hope this article has given you a good starting point.