Want to play video games for a living? You might have stumbled onto a lucrative career path.
More than one hundred million people watch people play video games on the website Twitch.tv every month, which makes Twitch.tv the fourth largest website in the US in terms of peak traffic, just behind giants Netflix, Google and Apple.
What’s more, the top streamers (people who play video games for others to watch) can earn a very good living. An article in Forbes estimated that top streamers can make upwards of $US300,000 a year.
Another way you can get paid to play video games is to create YouTube content related to video games. This type of content has millions of passionate subscribers and hundreds of millions of video views. And YouTube will pay you for every view you get.
I interviewed a handful of Twitch.tv’s top streamers, as well as the people behind some of YouTube’s top gaming channels. I asked them how they broke into gaming as a full time career. Then I asked them how others could follow in their footsteps.
Study your audience, study other popular gamers’ audiences
“Gamers are programmed to try to break YouTube or Twitch.tv,” says Matthew Patrick, known to his fans as “MatPat.” (Matt owns and runs the YouTube channel, “The Game Theorists.”)
“It’s interesting to see gamers have such success on all these platforms because we’re very much in that mindset of, ‘YouTube is a game, Twitch is a game. How are we going to optimise our performance on these platforms?'” he tells us.
For example, Matt often looks at retention graph data for his YouTube videos to figure out where his audience is engaging or losing interest. When he realised viewers lost interest when he flashed a specific graphic, he simply removed the graphic.
The results? Every video after that moment had 10% higher retention and 80% of his audience was watching until the end of the video.
“That was the moment I realised I can use my passion for numbers and data to help grow what I’m doing,” he says. “I thought, ‘If this was one thing, what else can I do?'”
Start creating content
When you think of playing video games full time, you probably imagine the professional gamer: The man or woman who plays in tournaments or streams him or herself playing games online.
But there are many ways to create content for the video games you love, and people have found success using all of them.
Octavian Morosan, better known to his fans as Kripparrian, says he’s good at what he does, so he can make YouTube videos that teach others to be good too.
Sean Plott, known to his fans as “Day9”, has a much different content strategy. He streams a single, structured show each and every day, while Kripparrian streams eight-hour-long gaming marathons.
But the most important thing is to use your channel to represent who you are and what you can do.
MatPat tells us he had an opportunity at Google that mysteriously fell through last minute. The economy, he said, was at a low point, and he wasn’t sure how he was going to market himself to prospective employers. He then decided to start his YouTube channel as a portfolio to showcase his work. He wanted to show people he could build a brand that others engage in — a skillset that might be desirable to his future employer.
You have to work hard to beat the best and be the best
“The biggest thing to be aware of is what games are out there,” says Plott. “You have to know what that means to produce content in those various areas.”
This also means knowing who you’re competing with. If you want to make videos of yourself playing League of Legends, you have the benefit of having a large audience of people who want to watch that game. But remember, thousands of people already stream content for that game.
“Being first to market is really important and having differentiated content is really important,” adds Plott.
Kripparrian echoes this sentiment. “It’s hard on a platform like Twitch,” he says. “Because if you’re not the best at a game or the most popular at a game, it’s really hard to get people to watch you.”
It’s not all fun and gaming
Gaming for work is just like any job: it’s stressful, and there are aspects of it that are sometimes less than enjoyable. There are lots of spreadsheets. There is lots of research.
There are no weekends.
“Each Game Theorists video takes around 100 hours to produce,” says Patrick. “Between all the research, the audio editing, the video editing, optimization, all that stuff.”
“You have to have raw output,” says Plott. “A lot of people are inconsistent, some weeks they will stream 30 hours and the next week they will stream 4 hours. That’s never going to get you an audience. Ever. That just does not work, period.”
You won’t survive just making one good video. You have to continue to create good content that people want to watch and share.
Playing video games for a living is now a viable career choice. Not only for players as talented as Kripparrian, but also for entertainers like Day9 and MatPat. Not to mention everyone else on the spectrum.
If you’re willing to create unique content, bond with an audience and pay close attention to the business side of gaming, you can now earn a full time income playing video games.
As Plott says, “As long as you’re really working at it, you can make money doing anything.”