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Meet the new generation of superstars, ‘game streamers’

There’s a lot of competition, and the fact it’s so cheap to start streaming only fills the field of prospective gamers more.

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Image: KnowTechie

Gaming streaming has become big business, and it’s not just within the games industry. The boom started with Twitch, a platform that allowed people to broadcast their gaming sessions live to the world, and have large audiences tune in to watch people play – and talk about – their games. A number of gamers got very large audiences doing this, and that made companies outside of the traditional gaming sphere very interested.

Twitch was a platform largely for gamers, by gamers. But then YouTube, Microsoft, and, most recently, Facebook got involved, and suddenly it has become possible to become a celebrity playing video games for an audience that covers the full gamut of people who use those very general-interest platforms.

Meet Natalie Acquisto

One example of this is Natalie Acquisto. A local Aussie, Acquisto gained 20,000 followers in just three months through Facebook Gaming and has since become a commercial partner to the platform. She now has over 300,000 followers — and that’s a paying audience, too, with fans paying $7 a month to watch her play. 

They also purchase her merchandise and she earns additional revenue from Facebook itself. Acquisto doesn’t have as many subscribers as she does followers (it’s around 700), but even after Facebook takes its cut, it’s enough that she is earning around $40,000 per year from gaming, and is now a full-time, professional gamer.

Video games have substantially broadened in their appeal, and what was once considered a male-dominated, youth-orientated industry is now enjoyed by people of all genders, ages, and orientations. 

Tapping into the various sub-communities out there, gamers are able to build themselves sizable “niche” audiences outside of the norm, with plenty of gamers now able to enjoy the work of professional gamers from their own community that they can relate to.

Getting into pro gaming

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Image: Red Bull

The other reason that there is such an interest in streaming games is that it’s quite an accessible space. With a (free) Facebook, YouTube, or Twitch account, and a PC or game console connected up to the internet, you’ve almost got everything that you need to start streaming. A good quality microphone and a specialized game capture and streaming device, are really the only hardware purchases that you need to make.

It should also go without saying that a good internet connection is a must. It’s not just the size of game downloads (though with big games now regularly going over 100GB in size, that is certainly a factor). It’s also the impact that updates and uploads when streaming has. Games are frequently updated via “patches” that can also be large in size, and slow down an internet connection while they’re downloading. Streamers can’t afford to have their schedules disrupted every time one of the games that they play has an update. Meanwhile, streaming is an upload-heavy task, and many lower-end internet connections aren’t fast enough with upload speeds to handle the demands of seamless video and voice broadcasts.

Normal players vs experts

Of course, it matters what games you play on the stream. There is an audience for just about everything, from the biggest blockbusters through to the oldest of retro games, but streamers looking to earn the big dollars need to go where things are popular. 

The added benefit to doing so is that the popular games get ongoing support from the developers behind them, leading to sponsorship and other opportunities to further monetize the stream. 

Unlike esports athletes – another emerging force in professional gaming – streamers do not need to be expert gamers themselves, and indeed the relatability of a “normal” player is a big draw for many. Being merely competent and hobbyist-standard as a gamer is enough with the right pitch to the audience.

Summing up

Becoming a professional streamer is a challenging process. Of course, there’s a lot of competition, and the fact it’s so cheap to start streaming only fills the field of prospective gamers more. But there is also a large audience out there who enjoy watching people playing games, and tapping into that audience can result in an enormously lucrative and successful career… all for simply playing the games that you love.

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