Has Gaming become a viable career choice?

Posted: February 10, 2015 in Games
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The internet has truly revolutionised the way money can be earned. Whether it’s the one hit wonder viral videos on Youtube or unsigned musicians using the internet to circumvent record labels and radio. With more than 3 billion internet users worldwide it really can be a great launch pad for business start ups and creative individuals alike. The internet has changed the face of every industry in the world, none more so than the gaming industry. The explosion in the number of internet users has transformed gaming from a mere past time into a potential career path.

Although people have been earning money from gaming since the CounterStrike era and pro gaming has been a staple in Korea for well over a decade now, the rest of us have been somewhat lagging behind. This soon changed with the emergence of Twitch TV (and other sites like it), which helped propel pro gaming from niche to mainstream. Twitch was launched in 2011 and simply allows gamers to live stream themselves playing. Since launch Twitch has been pulling some extraordinary numbers; they get an astonishing 45 million unique viewers each month! And according to Forbes “Twitch.Tv is the website that takes up the eighth most bandwidth in the entirety of the internet”. So it’s clear that there are a substantial number of people who enjoy watching other people playing games. To further illustrate just how big the audience is, the most viewed Youtube channel is one dedicated to gaming, PewDiePie’s channel has a whopping 7.7 billion views and counting.

Obviously like any profession, not every streamer turns a profit; streamers often have to put a huge amount of time and creativity into their stream in order to make it a profitable venture and even then success is not guaranteed. Just like Youtube, in order to earn money on Twitch you have to become a Twitch partner first. Before you can apply you need to have at least five hundred or more regular viewers, and you must broadcast at least three times a week. In terms of the advertising revenue the streamer has to earn over the minimum threshold, which is £66.50 before they start getting paid. How frequently the ads are shown is entirely up to the streamer, however most choose to play 2-3 ads per hour. Twitch then pays the streamer £2.32 (minus their cut) per 1,000 people that watch the advert, so streamers often encourage their viewers to turn adblock off in order to support the stream. Take some of the top League of Legends streamers for example Nightblue3, Trick2g and Hi Im Gosu. An average stream has about 10-15k viewers at any given time, however I have seen that number doubled even tripled at times. They stream for about 7-10 hours 5 days a week, so with these figures in mind you can see the potential advertising revenue is quite substantial. Both Nightblue and Trick have over 80 million views on their channel and Gosu has around 37 million. To have amassed such impressive viewership these streamers don’t merely play the game and record themselves. With the exception of the enigmatic Gosu, Nightblue and Trick both give highly informative and entertaining commentary while playing the game at the highest level.

Another earner for these streamers is subscribers. Subscribers pay £3.32 a month and get access to sub only chat which allows them to ask questions and talk directly to their favourite streamer; they also get the pleasure of ad free viewing. However with some channels, subscribing gets you a little more than merely asking the streamer questions that may go unanswered. Nightblue and Trick also run Sub Games on their channel from time to time. It allows subscribers of all skill levels to play against one another while the streamer commentates. Although it may not seem that exciting to most of you, to the players it’s the equivalent of playing 5aside football with Ronaldo and Messi watching on. As you can imagine, when the Sub Games are live it’s hugely popular so if you really want to get into a game you can pay extra in order to skip the queue. This leads me to another way in which streamers earn money, donations. You can donate any amount from £3 upwards towards the stream. If you donate you will have the chance to send the streamer a message which he will read out while streaming. It’s important to note that these donations are not a freak occurrence, they happen throughout the stream ranging in amount. On top of donations, subscribers and advertising, top streamers are sponsored. The streamers advertise their sponsors all over their Twitch channel and on all their social media outlets. Due to the private nature of these contracts one can only speculate at how much they earn, but I am sure the top players are getting a fair whack. Recently a top tier streamer Iamqtpie reportedly earned a staggering $8,000(around £5,250) in just one month from streaming alone.

The other avenue available to players is playing for a professional team, which brings its own sets of benefits and drawbacks. The jury is out on whether or not streaming is more profitable than going pro. It definitely provides more financial security than streaming does, as pro players get a salary. Pro League of Legends team Team Dignitas players get a basic salary of £30k a year. They are eligible for bonuses by hitting certain targets, like getting a top three spot at the end of the season etc. Their top player Scarra reportedly earned somewhere in the region of £124k last year. However one notable drawback is that playing for a team is hugely time consuming, players often have to spend upwards of 10 hours per day training, whether it’s studying other team strategies or working on their own. Streamers at least have the freedom to steam whenever they wish; I think this is the main reason why many streamers choose not to play for professional teams.

Whatever they choose, whether it’s streaming or playing for a professional team, it’s clear that “real” money can certainly be earned gaming. Of course for something to be a career choice money isn’t the only thing that matters, things like longevity are equally important. Although pro gaming is very much a young man’s game currently, I think if the industry continues to grow at the rate it has been then this is will definitely change as more and more options open up to the players.


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