How to Make Game Streaming a Job
The modern dream: To play games for a living.
But it's not an easy job, and it's not really just “playing games” for a living. Any kind of content creation – streaming or otherwise – is an intensely involved process that rarely gives breathing room. This is especially true in those early growth phases; don't expect to climb the ranks quickly and rest on your laurels. There's always new content to work on, and if you don't work on it, someone else will.
In this article, we'll talk about how to round the corner from casual streaming to professional game streaming or becoming a “YouTuber.” Before diving into this guide, we'd also suggest reading our “How to Get Sponsored” guide and “Sponsorship Email Templates” article.
Let's look at some aspects of professional game streaming that are often overlooked:
Time & Skill
Game streaming or YouTubing requires a tremendous skill set. You need to learn how to use something like OBS or XSplit (or other software) to capture gameplay, learn bit-rates, scenes, camera positioning, and the subsequent Twitch or YouTube interface. Obviously, there's also a time investment required to learn the game itself – more stream viewers will seemingly materialize just by nature of being good at a game. “Good” in this case also doesn't necessitate competitive skill, though that can appeal to a wide audience, but can just be a reference of general ability to convey what's going on in-game. Commentary is a good example: It is possible to be an entertaining commentator without necessarily being a competitive player.
And that's not an easy, low-time process.
Going into this, know that you'll need to gradually ramp-up time investment in the channel. Start with one or two set, consistent weekly days for streaming, then expand onward until creating content on a near-daily basis. Remember, if this is a job, you'll have to work at least as much as the average “normal” job would require – and often far more than that, in the early stages of growth.
Investment & Expense
Streaming or YouTubing is a business. Businesses have expenses, which are necessary for growth. For every time you settle on “good enough” quality, someone else has decided that it wasn't – and they're creating something higher quality. Don't be the one who settles for low-quality content as merely “good enough” – shoot higher.
A few items to consider, in order of importance (in our opinions):
- Invest in a high-quality desk mic. HQ audio is among the most critical aspects of content creation.
- Invest in a 1080p webcam or entry-level video camera, depending on if you'll ever be filming stuff “IRL.”
- Buy new games as they come out; you want to be in the early queue of players to increase content visibility.
- Consider a one-time expense for a logo, branding, and/or animated introductions and end-slates for your channel.
Each of these can be had for relatively cheap. A decent, entry-level desk mic might cost ~$60, though you could just go straight to the high-end for around ~$200. That'll give you nearly radio quality voice (just learn how to use and position it properly). A 1080p webcam goes for about $70 these days, also pretty cheap. New games, well, we all know what those cost.
And these are worthwhile investments. Let's create a scenario just to reinforce the idea: Pretend that a new game mode for Overwatch is released, and everyone's interested in it. You happened to be at the computer when it launched and are now one of the first players with the patch installed, while other folks want to watch streams or YouTube videos. A viewer can only realistically consume content from one stream at a time; if it's between you and another streamer, the difference between watching and bouncing will often be made by stream quality. HQ audio and video will help close that gap. Every single viewer counts. Don't lose them to something resolvable with a small investment. Remember, this article is about making game content creation a job – it's no easy (or free) feat.
And viewers would search for more than just initial gameplay footage of this patch, too – they'll be looking for guides and strategies for weeks after. Be the resource that comes up first.
Travel & Sales
As the stream grows in popularity, it's time to start looking outside of smaller purchases. Hopefully, you're not bringing in enough ad revenue to justify domestic flight and travel expenses to events. Events are king in this industry; that's where all the sponsors go – Catalyst Mints, for example, made a huge showing at QuakeCon this year, and we kept an eye out for new streamers to sponsor.
The US is home to many popular events, like PDX LAN, QuakeCon, and PAX. Try to attend one semi-close, and go in with a battle plan. Make contacts at companies, hustle your stream, and be sure to produce videos live from the show. That's your chance to get truly early access to content, and to make important connections with industry representatives.