Let’s face it, many people think that earning money playing video games is easy. Right? Let’s dissect every major streaming platform and see how game streamers make money.

Game streamers make money by running ads, offering membership subscriptions, donations, posting affiliate links, sponsorships and in other platform-specific ways.

Twitch

Twitch is, nowadays, and without the shadow of a doubt, the go-to platform for all things streaming. I mean, it is owned by Amazon and Jeff Bezos doesn’t do anything halfway. If you ask me, though, Twitch is just warming up and it’ll grow to gigantic YouTube proportions in the following years.

But let’s deal with what we gathered here to talk about: how can you get a bite of this growing cake? In other words, how can you make money streaming your games through Twitch?

Monetization options

Twitch Affiliates program

This is the lowest tier of monetization within Twitch. To qualify for this scenario, you need to:

  • Stream for a minimum of 8 hours in the last 30 days
  • Stream for at least 7 days in the last 30
  • Have an average of 3 viewers on each stream
  • Have a total of 50 followers or more

Once you’ve met the above criteria, you’ll receive a notification from Twitch inviting you to join their Affiliates program. At this moment, you’ll have to provide Twitch (actually Amazon) with your tax details and what account you want them to send it to. For example, you could choose PayPal and collect your Twitch money there.

Twitch Partners program

This is where it gets really interesting; you could consider the Partners Program to be the Tier 2 in your monetization race at Twitch. Although there are certain criteria we’ll be seeing in just a paragraph, you’re not granted partnership status upon reaching it. This is very different from the Affiliate program in which you’re automatically granted the name as soon as you accomplish what’s asked of you.

So, without further ado, these are the criteria for the Partners program:

  • Stream for 25 hours
  • Stream on 12 different days
  • Average of 75 viewers (excluding raids, embeds, and hosts)

All of this should occur within 30 days. If you happen to meet the needed criteria, you’ll receive an “Apply” button. Then, you’ll be redirected to a form and upon completing and sending it, Twitch will review it manually. Indeed, it sounds so 20th-century but it really is true. What is more, that process will take the company up to 7 business days.

If you get a negative response from Twitch to join their Partners program, don’t despair, you’re welcome to try again as many times as you like.

Now, the above achievements will allow you to monetize your channel. Although the Partners program will grant you access to many more perks like subscriber-only emotes and badges, subscribers’ revenue applies for both programs.

How does this work? Well, people who follow your streams can subscribe for $4.99 (or more) a month and receive special treats for it. For example, some gamers even give out personal Snapchat accounts to subscribers.

Regardless of what you offer them, you shall receive half of what subscribers pay monthly. Yes, Twitch divides subscribers’ money with the user half and half. This is unless you are in the platform’s top tier (10,000 viewers per stream or more) In that case, you get to keep 70%.

Just as quick mathematics, let’s say you are Ludwig, the Twitch account with the highest number of subscribers today: 135,146. You are in the top tier; hence you make 70% of each subscriber which is close to $3.5.

135,146 subscribers X $3.5 = $473,011

This means that Ludwig cashed in $473,011 on subscribers only. I know, it is a huge number, but it is also a huge player. The tenth person in that same list, to give another example, has 31,745 subscribers, which will translate into $111,107, still a lot of money.

You can check this list updated daily here.

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Fun facts: Oldest Youtube Gamer

These numbers are super high, but as soon as you turn into an Affiliate, you’ll be granted at least $125 a month because you’ll get $2.5 from each subscriber.

Subscribers’ cheers & donations (Twitch bits)

Another way you can get money at Twitch is through direct mini-donations. These are called Bits and each of them is worth a cent. But what is exactly your supporter buying when they buy a bit? Well, they are buying Twitch’s currency to cheer for you. For example, if you happen to be streaming on your favorite game and win, your supporters can show some cheering love using their bits in your chatroom.

Bits can be bought by Twitch users and then spent any way they like. Some users set a minimum amount to avoid fans from spamming their chat with cents (it is always better to get spammed with dollars).

A very common reason for awarding Twitch Bits is to have the streamer read the name of that person aloud during the stream. This is because a customizable animated gif appears in the chatroom featuring that person’s name. Usually, gamers stop what they’re doing and thank this person with their names, which is a great way of giving back the love received.

Ad revenue

Just as many other streaming platforms, Twitch plays an ad before every video. If you happen to be in the Partner Program you can send ads at any time by pressing “the ad button” on your side. As you might have guessed, the more you press the button, the more money you make. But, as you might have also guessed, you need to have some balance or you’ll lose all your followers.

Although only Partners can launch ads inside the stream, Affiliates also get ad revenue from the ad playing at the beginning of the clip. In this sense, Twitch pays CPM (cost per mille, the cost every 1,000 views) and this number varies in different moments of the year. For example, when holidays and big releases are coming, gaming companies are happy to pay more.

Some streamers give their subscribers the benefit of ad-free streaming. This is a delicate move that can cost you a lot of money. But when done right, it can be a great bait to have people subscribe. You can make up for the lost money on ads with the new subscribers.

If you want to hear Disguised Toast, a famous Twitch Streamer, break down his own revenue, you can check this video:

YouTube

Do you know which the biggest search engine in the world is? Easy, I know, Google. But do you know which the second biggest is? Well, technically is still Google, but under the name of YouTube. Does it ring a bell? Well, if you are a gamer, and you’re good at it, you have to try YouTube as a monetization platform for your talents.

Let me tell you more, it is the strategy of many of the top Twitch streamers to generate YouTube content. They can gather larger traffic and also be more “findable” by the common audience who hasn’t made it to Twitch yet.

Monetization options

Let’s take a look at some of the options to start making money with your YouTube channel. But before we get to them, let me tell you that there are two main pros to having a gaming channel on YouTube:

A) The average gaming video goes for about 9 minutes and a half. The average comedy video goes on for 3 minutes. This means you can cash in on more minutes than most other genres.

B) Average content creators need 30,000 followers to be eligible for the Partnership program and access monetization options. Gaming channels only need 1,000.

YouTube Partnership Program

As with Twitch, YouTube also offers a Partnership Program. Also as with Twitch, you need to meet certain criteria to be eligible for this program:

  • Live in a country or region where the YPP is available
  • Have more than 4,000 valid public watch hours within the last year
  • Have more than 1,000 subscribers
  • Follow all the monetization policies
  • Have at least one linked AdSense account

Also same as Twitch, you can be either accepted or rejected from the YPP. In the case your access is denied, you can re-apply in 30 days. If you do get accepted, you’ll be granted access to the following monetization tools.

Ads

Ads run in four formats on YouTube

  • Skippable video ads
  • Non-skippable video ads
  • Bumper ads
  • Overlay ads

All of these become optional for you when at the creator’s studio. Just like Twitch, YouTube pays on a CPM basis and that number fluctuates depending on country, time of the year, and product. The more ads you play on your gaming videos the more you’ll annoy your viewers and the more money you’ll make, so it’s another delicate balance you have to achieve.

Channel Memberships

Being channel members allow your fans to get access to special perks. You can of course choose what those perks shall be; they can range anywhere from a simple badge and channel-exclusive emojis to previewing your content before anyone else.

For every $4.99 member, you get you can keep 70% of the money. This means that YouTube pays you as if you were a top-tier Twitch streamer.

Super Chat & Super Stickers

When in your chat feed, sometimes, users want a little more attention than the rest. They can indeed buy that attention from YouTube by purchasing Super Chats and Super Stickers. This way, when they do, their name and message will get highlighted in a specific color and stand out from the rest.

Many YouTube gamers read out loud that person’s name and thank them in real-time. This gesture, which might seem small, can mean the world for a follower.

Merch Shelf

For those with over 10,000 subscribers, the Merch Shelf is a great way of selling merchandise directly through YouTube. You get up to 12 slots and your fans can buy directly from the YouTube platform. The company teamed up with Teespring and together, they can take care of everything merch for you.

YouTube Premium Revenue

Much like the Spotify freemium design, YouTube now offers a new plan in which, for a small fee a month, members can watch uninterrupted videos.

But what happens with the content creators who are part of the YPP and want to monetize their videos with ads? Well, every time a premium member watches one of their videos, they’ll see it without ads and the YouTuber will be paid as if the ads were seen by the user.

Google’s support center can surely quench your thirst for further info on this subject here. Also, if you want to see small gaming channel revenue, you can check this video.

Facebook

Facebook is the Connor MacLeod (AKA Highlander the immortal) of Social Media. New platforms are coming out all the time, but the one that started it all is refusing to leave. That being said, Facebook offers a very interesting deal for gamers who want to monetize their streaming.

Monetization options

Facebook Stars

Just like Twitch Bits are Twitch’s currency, Facebook uses Stars. Why? Well, I guess they are more glamorous than just bits, aren’t they? Anyway, these work identical to Twitch Bits and are even worth one cent as well.

When using them on Facebook, the larger the number of stars donated, the larger, noisier, more colorful the animation will be on the screen. Plus, after using stars for the first time, donators get a “Star Sender” badge right next to their name in the chat window. Finally, they can add messages to that donation and scream loud and proud how much they love you and your content.

Bear in mind that, just like in Twitch, users pay a little more for Stars than the money you get. For example, if they want to buy 100 stars (1 dollar to you), they will have to pay $1.4.

Eligibility

To be able to receive Stars you’ll have to join Facebook’s Level Up Program. To qualify for it, you need to meet these criteria:

  • You have streamed at least 2 days of the previous 14
  • Have at least 4 hours of streamed content
  • 100 page followers

Once you meet these criteria, you have to go to the “Level Up” tab on Facebook Gaming and apply.

Facebook Supporters

Just like the famous Twitch “Subs” and YouTube members, you can have your own legion of supporters on Facebook. What is very important, as a difference, is that Facebook has announced it will not take a cent out of subscriptions at least until August 2021. In other words, for every supporter you manage to get, you can keep the full $4.99.

Bear in mind that this is only on desktop since you’ll only get $3.50 if they do it from the mobile app. Also, you need to have an account balance of over $100 to withdraw the money and get it, just like with the other platforms, 30 days later.

Eligibility

The tricky part of Facebook Supporters is that to be eligible to receive them, you need to be in the Level Up program and also have 250 returning viewers per week.

Donations & Ads

Donations in Facebook are done off-platform and hence, all you have to do is set up a button and link it to, for example, a PayPal account. There are no criteria to meet and all you lose is the PayPal fee ($0.3 + 2.9% for every transaction).

As for Ads, Facebook is still testing them in BETA mode for Level Up streamers. That being said, if you have over 10,000 Facebook followers and have several 3+ minute videos generating 30,000 1-minute views in total in the past 60 days, you qualify for Facebook’s Partnership program. This allows you to access ad monetization in three ways:

  • Pre-roll ads – These play before the video
  • Mid-roll ads – Playing in between the natural breakpoints of a long video, for example
  • Image ads – A static image being shown below the content.

Just like Twitch, Facebook uses CPM to pay for ads. This varies depending on the country, the product, the time of the year, and more. Streamers in the US could expect a CPM anywhere between $2 to $5.

Since the recent acquisition of Mixer in July 2020 from Microsoft, Facebook has been scaling in the gamer territory rather quickly. Those who made the change were awarded Partner status at Facebook.

How do streamers make money?

Other monetization options

Besides these in-platform options, there are more ways in which gamers can make money from their talent. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular ones excluding Patreon, which could take a post on its own and you can check here.

These are just a handful of ideas, and as far as imagination goes, the sky is the only limit.

Affiliate links

Affiliate links are a great way of making money because you don’t need anything to get started but imagination and a good eye for what your followers like. In case you are not familiar with them, these are links to Amazon (or other store) products that leave a percentage for you when people buy through them at no extra cost to them.

For example, you could put together the “ultimate gamer combo” of Amazon products and promote it in your streams to make money out of it when people click on “buy”.

Merchandise

Merchandise is another great way to make money selling goods that represent your brand. For example, if you like playing and drinking coffee, you could get some mugs made with your logo and advertise them every time you sip while streaming. The same goes for t-shirts, stickers, and even old-school pin-back buttons.

Beware of the timing in this category since people have to get to know you and your brand before they are willing to spend some dollars on your image.

Sponsorships

Sponsorships are another amazing way of making money as a gamer. For example, a big videogame company could pay you some serious money to play their new creation online for an hour. In the Disguising Toast video used as an example above he explains how he only plays games that he finds interesting and that his lowest fee is $1,000 an hour but it can go as high as $10,000 an hour.

Brand partnership as an influencer

Finally, last but not least, you can make money promoting other brands in your content. For example, it is very common to find YouTubers and other gamers talking about brands who sponsor their videos right at the beginning. Also, there’s another more subtle way of doing so by simply wearing or using those products live and getting paid for it.

In this particular case, it can branch out to any and all social media platforms. For example, you can be hired to take a photo in a pair of good Levi’s Jeans in your Instagram account and get paid by them even if you are a gaming celebrity on Twitch. This is what we call “influencer money”. You can use your public leverage to sell other items not related to your channel’s main topic.

Conclusion

There has never been a better time to monetize on your gaming passion than right now. There is a lot of competition, that’s true, but there are plenty more options you can access from the comfort of your home than ever before too.

One thing I have to say before ending this piece, though, is that it is a long and windy road to the top. Don’t rush it and enjoy the scenery of the path, otherwise, you’ll get frustrated right away and might even abandon the race.

It might take some time to build a community and it all has to come from a real, legit place. Let me tell you that once you do, you’ll love your job more than any other you’ve had before.

Happy gaming!



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