As the gaming and eSports industry grows, more and more gamers are beginning to make a career and earn a livelihood out of it. eSports gamers who don’t even belong to the top tier earn money out of streaming their videos live on online platforms and in this piece we are looking to tackle a very common question we hear people ask; how much money are eSports streamers earning?
There are times when critics of eSports ask if it’s a career worth taking a risk with, not to mention the question whether eSports is a sport in the first place.
Make no mistake, this is still very early days in eSports despite it having grown to be a billion-plus dollar industry. However, more and more avenues of making a decent living out of eSports are revealing themselves and over the next few years this only looks like improving.
One interesting and a highly lucrative way of earning out of eSports is by becoming a streamer but before we get down to understanding how much can one earn doing that, it’s important to understand a few other things related to eSports streaming. For starters…
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What Does an eSports Streamer Do?
If you want to have an in-depth understanding of who is an eSports streamer and what does that eSports job profile incorporate, you can check our guide here.
For the short answer, an eSports streamer records and streams his or her own video while playing an eSports game using platforms like Twitch and YouTube. And who would have thought, but this has become quite a lucrative career for a lot of streamers.
In the passage below we look at an eSports streamer’s salary or earning based on our chats with those in the industry. So if you are looking to understand whether eSports streaming is the right career for you based on the money streamers make, this is a good guide to use.
Which are the eSports Streaming Platforms?
There are dozens of streaming platforms which allow gamers to upload their live and recorded gaming streams on to them. Some of the top ones include:
- Mirrativ etc
How does an eSports Streamer Make Money?
While there could be slight differences between how the eSports streaming websites work, the effective earning model remains somewhat similar for most of them. What we have done is used the most famous streaming platform, Twitch, to explain how streamers can earn in eSports.
- Sponsorship: Most top streamers earn chunk of their money through sponsored placements from top brands associated with gaming, eSports and anything peripheral.
- Subscriptions: Platforms like Twitch pay their streamers for the number of paid subscribers on their channel.
- Advertisements: Twitch and other platforms allow streams to be punctuated with advertisements. These could be pre-roll, post-roll or in the middle of the streams when the streamer opts to press the Ad button.
- Donations: Viewers are allowed to donate money directly to streamers as well using a PayPal or Credit Card option most times.
- Uploading Recorded Videos Elsewhere: Live streams can be recorded and edited and posted on other platforms like YouTube and streamers earn on a CPM basis.
- Live Chats & Shows: Famous streamers can be called on to meet fans or do live chat shows online and get paid “appearance money” for such stuff.
- Affiliate Marketing: Streamers can promote someone else’s products or services using a URL link associated with the individual streamer and get paid every time a user uses that URL to make a purchase of that product/service.
- Sale of Merchandise: Some streamers also look to bolster their income by sales of their own merchandise.
- Indirect means by getting hired by eSports teams for an annual retainer contract
It was pertinent for you to understand how these streamers make their money before we got down to how much these eSports streamers earn. In the sections below we will now tackle the second and more important question from a point of this piece.
How Much Money Does an eSports Streamer Make?
Most people do not refuse to reveal their earning, and more so streamers. This is why this exercise of getting the exact income of eSports streamers becomes very difficult. However, given that a lot of the methods of earning money as an eSports streamer is known, it becomes slightly easier to predict their earnings.
You are just starting out as a streamer, have streamed a handful of games and expecting to hit payday? Well, sorry to burst your bubble but it doesn’t work like that. And while that’s unfortunate, it also provides an entry barrier to higher success, which make that very success, when achieved, a sweet one.
Also, beginner streamers aren’t made Twitch affiliates, which means majority of the aforementioned revenue streams are anyway absent for them and hence, technically, they do not make any money.
But that is more a technical point. Because I would like to deviate here to give an analogy with blogging, something that has been close to my heart. So, bear with me.
Depending on whom you ask, there are on an average 500 million blogs online. To set a self-hosted blog up these days needs less than $100, which makes the entry barrier a non-starter.
What happens when the entry barrier is that low is a sharp increase in the competition and a huge ‘waiting time’ before the business takes off. Same with the blogging industry.
Typically, about 6-12 months of consistent blogging gets you to a stage where you see a growth in traffic and an average blogger needs even more time than that to see any kind of revenue. Not to mention the blogger needs to be good enough with his/her content and marketing and promotion.
The initial period of those six odd months is the toughest where the requirement is that of consistent content but the result is nearly zero traffic. It’s a ghost-town for the blogger as far as readership goes.
Those who make it through that initial period hold a far greater probability of succeeding than those who, understandably, feel the early pinch and give up.
It’s not too different for eSports streamers.
Let’s talk about Twitch alone. While exact numbers aren’t known, more than 2 million broadcasters stream eSports on Twitch. That’s a huge number and growing.
Partly, the reason for that is it’s not too difficult for anyone to stream live once one has sorted one’s technology. Other than that, it’s not just Twitch but other platforms like YouTube and all the aforementioned websites which help make user-generated content easy to post.
Just imagine you TV has 20 news channels. Not all would similar traction now, would they?
What if there were 20,000 news channels? Or 200,000?
Now compare that with the 2 million Twitch streamers. It is nigh impossible to expect most of them to get any kind of viewership and, as a result, to earn anything out of it.
At least at the very beginning.
Beginners Who Become Twitch Affiliates
As I said earlier, we are restricting our discussion to Twitch for the moment because it’s the most popular website for eSports streamers. For someone to earn with Twitch, one needs to become an affiliate and to do that there are some qualifications the platform has set out. They are:
- You must have at least 50 followers
- You should have broadcast at least 500 minutes in the past month
- You should have broadcast over at least seven different days in the past month
- And average of more than three concurrent viewers in that same period
When a streamer reaches the level of a Twitch Affiliate, you can start earning money through bits, subscribers and donations. Typically, bits (which is a sort of a currency used on Twitch) and subscribers do not earn streamers too much money and many earn majority of their pay through donations.
Having said that, do these beginner affiliates at Twitch earn a lot? The answer is no. That ghost-town I spoke about earlier might not exactly remain that but the earning numbers do not change too much.
Speaking to those in the know, early affiliates, unfortunately, earn less than $100 a month (and in some cases not even $10/month).
Twitch offers partnership to those who move to the next rung of streaming. By itself the earning model doesn’t change once you become a partner, but Twitch allows its partners extra perks over affiliates other than the fact it needs affiliates to step up from the point of streaming to get to the partner status.
For that, the streamer needs to have gone through the following:
- Broadcast for at least 1500 minutes in the past month
- Broadcast for 12 different days in the past month
- Have an average of 75 average viewers in that same period
At this stage, more and more viewers are expected to subscribe to your channel and that, in turn, helps you earn 50% of whatever revenue that Twitch earns through subscriptions.
At the time of writing this, there are three subscription tiers available to the viewer, costing the subscriber $4.99/month, $9.99/month or $24.99/month. 50% of that could be a decent sum of money if you can get more people to subscribe to your channel.
Other than subscribers, partners also earn through ads and according to various online sources, the CPM rate for these adverts is around $2-8. What this implies is the ad companies pay between $2 and $8 for every 1000 views of their ads.
Considering an average CPM of $5 and 50,000 views in a month to your streams, the ad companies would be paying $250/month of which you get to keep half.
And assuming the channel has about 100 subscribers, that should pocket you about $500/month as well. Add the bits and donations to this, and Twitch Partners could earn $1000/month with that kind of traffic and subscribers.
Please remember, this is a very indicative figure and is subject to the amount of time you stream, the subscribers you have and the views you get.
The Top Streamers
This commission of 50% goes up to nearly 70% if you are a top streamer and as you grow on to attract more subscribers your earning obviously goes up.
Once you have gotten out of that early sandbox and are getting viewers and adding subscribers, if you stick to your schedule of regular streaming, the chances of making a substantial sum out of this start getting more and more realistic.
At this stage you might have to take that call of pulling back on the other work around you, as you look to crank things up a notch and aim to try and get to the six-figure mark on an annual basis. It won’t be easy even for top streamers with 100s of subscribers but it’s a good shot.
This isn’t to say most streamers get to this level of earning and it sure is a lot of hard work along with being at the top of your game – the streaming game that is – but it is achievable.
The Creme de la Creme
This is the absolute best, the top streamers, who are probably as famous as some of the top eSports gamers themselves and they make a killing. Like most professions, these form a very, very minuscule percentage of all the streamers and the rewards are extraordinary if you can get to this stage.
According to GrooveWallet.com, some of the top eSports streamers earn more than a $1 million/year with the spot for the highest-earning streamer going to Ninja who topped the $5 million mark in 2019.
And to get to those levels of earning Ninja has 14.7 million subscribers currently, and some of his broadcasts have earned him more than 200k views including one that went up to 1.2 million views!
How Much Time Can it Take to Start Earning as a Streamer?
The short answer to this is it can take a long time, months to more than a year, to build yourself subscribers and traffic to your streams, whichever platform you prefer to use. It is a game of patience but one which you should get into only because you love gaming and streaming and not because you want to earn money.
For the purpose of this discussion we will stick to Twitch but it wouldn’t be too different for most other platforms.
Most streamers take anywhere between a few weeks to months before they can even become Twitch Affiliates and then take some more time before they become Partners. And it’s not just about weeks or months but about regular streaming.
Most streamers we have had a talk with stream their games 5-6 hours/day for five to six days a week and then some! That is a lot of time to dedicate if you don’t love doing what you are doing, especially if you aren’t going to be seeing any traction earlier on.
Again, I will come back to the blogging example; traffic doesn’t come easily and naturally to begin with but once a streamer becomes more and more famous because he/she is doing a stellar job, there is an exponential rush in viewers and subscribers.
Typically that’s because most platforms also try and promote their top gamers more than the guy just starting out. Makes sense too because if a platform has to earn money and it has a finite set of resources to promote, they would prefer suggesting people to watch the best streamers, right?
Which is why if you are looking at early traffic while starting out, do your own promotions, push your own videos across different social media platforms and if you find you are getting traction on another website then leverage it to send traffic over to your streaming.
Quick Advice for Potential eSports Streamers
Our advice here, as mentioned earlier, is to not fall into the trap of approaching this the wrong way – i.e. thinking of money before the enjoyment. Focus too much on that and you might find it very difficult to get to that goal and even if and when you do, it wouldn’t have been too much fun.
One of the best ways to start earning in the longer term as a streamer is to give up on short term gains; ignore that temptation of pushing that advert button every now and then, make streaming as much about your potential viewers as it is about your own self and by that I mean, don’t measure your success from a monetary standpoint.
This might sound counter-intuitive but the fact is the one good way to make something out of this is to make streaming about the community and try not talking about money or subscriptions a lot. If viewers like your service they would be glad to help anyway.
Lastly, we have compiled a list of tips you can use to garner more traffic to your channel as an eSports streamer here. Do have a read!