By Mike Wehner, Tecca
For many kids and adults alike, playing video games is something to do when not burdened with things like school or work, but as internet age continues to shape our lives, some players have been able to take their passion for gaming and turn it into a career of its own. Streaming video games on the internet for viewers to watch has become a popular trend. So much so, in fact, that streaming site Justin.TV — which launched in 2007 and features categories including sports, nature, and science — recently spun off its gaming section into TwitchTV, a site where gamers of all kinds can showcase their skills and personality for fans around the globe, and get paid to do so.
We recently spoke with Justin Kan (pictured right), co-founder of Justin.tv and TwitchTV, about the new site and what the popularity of streaming video games means for both fans and would-be broadcasters alike. To get an idea for just how big the movement is becoming, we'll let Kan give you the figures: "Each month, over 35,000 individual accounts stream content," Kan notes, "The high watermark for concurrent streams (simultaneous broadcasters streaming at the same time) is around 1,450."
Broadcasters range from competitive Call of Duty players to casual MMO fans. Some players dedicate their time to mastering a specific title, while others hop back and forth between various games. The site is structured to allow viewers to search for specific broadcasters, or browse the streams based on what game is currently being played. Users can "follow" broadcasters that they enjoy and get alerts via email when that player has begun streaming.
The viewers, who number in the thousands for popular channels, can offer tips to the broadcaster, ask questions about the game, or simply chat with each other. Moderators — who are chosen by each individual broadcaster — are tasked with keeping the atmosphere positive and weeding out anyone in the chat room who is being disruptive.
The community is growing
Simply visiting any one of TwitchTV's thousand or more channels — some of which stream nearly non-stop — will give you a good idea as to how large the community has become. The site now tallies over 12 million unique visitors per month and continues to grow at a rapid pace. Because of the community's immense size, the company can offer partnerships to dedicated broadcasters looking to make a few bucks — or even a career — out of playing games for others to watch.
"What we're seeing is that, yes, this is becoming a viable career path," Kan says, "It's something where the content creators, who are oftentimes pretty young, in their early 20s, can make $5,000 to $8,000 a month just streaming games. I think that's pretty awesome. In 2010, you were making like $100 a month, maybe, if you were one of the top guys. In 2011 that went up quite a bit, and as the audience grows we think that will continue to go up."
TwitchTV also teams up with tournament organizers, offering on-site technical support to ensure that high-profile streams meet their full potential for the thousands of people who regularly tune in. But with over 1,000 partners who have little or no affiliation with such organizations, TwitchTV has become a hotspot for unique personalities to gain an audience of their very own, allowing them to make a living simply by playing the games they love.
In order to become a TwitchTV partner — and have a shot at making gaming your main source of income — the company looks at several metrics including views per month and average audience size. Dedicated followings from other sites such as YouTube and Twitter can also help you get a foot in the door, and give you a jump start before you even start broadcasting.
So what's the secret to becoming a TwitchTV all-star? According to Kan, it's about being consistent. "People are watching you for a reason," Kan explains, "They may be watching you because you're the best player in the world at a certain game, or because you build really awesome stuff in Minecraft, or because you're doing really advanced raids in World of Warcraft. There's many different reasons why people would watch, but just being consistent and entertaining is really the key to being successful."
Partners also have the ability to offer subscriptions to viewers for $4.99 per month. These subscriptions cut out any ads that a non-paying viewer might see when viewing a channel, and some broadcasters offer additional perks as well. Towelliee, a popular MMO player on TwitchTV, holds a weekly event called Subscriber Sunday, where the paying members of the channel can cast their vote for a game they want to see. On a normal day, you might find Towelliee running high-level raids in World of Warcraft or Star Wars: The Old Republic, but Sundays are a different story. Chosen randomly, the subscriber-suggested games have included everything from Battlefield 3 toHello Kitty Online.
A dream come true
TwitchTV is offering gamers around the world the best chance yet at living the dream and playing video games as a job, and the site shows no signs of slowing down. If you think you have what it takes to become a major player in the streaming scene, you can set up your own broadcasting account in a matter of minutes, and if you gain a following, requesting partnership is as easy submitting a brief application. Who knows, a few months down the road you could be quitting your office job and spending your days in a digital world while hundreds of fans peer over your digital shoulder.
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