Some of us of a certain age might remember the golden days of watching our best friend play their brand-spanking-new Nintendo 64 in their parents’ living room on a 29-inch tube TV.
This memory isn’t unique to a specific generation of gamers, apparently, as the modern, internet-based equivalent Twitch.tv is a cultural powerhouse today.
If you’re looking to get started as a content creator, you may be grappling with where to start. Looking at established streamers and their channels, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Twitch doesn’t have room for another heavy hitter, but you’d be wrong. There’s a place for you in the streaming economy, but you’ll need to play it smart to turn this into a full-time gig.
Monetizing Twitch in 2023
Let’s get this out in the open: Most people don’t make any money whatsoever on Twitch. Just like becoming a famous athlete or musician, only those who are willing to stick it out and be consistent on the platform can make it a part-time or even full-time job. This doesn’t mean you can’t do it; it just means that it’s going to take some time.
Your first dollars and cents earned on the platform are likely to come in the form of donations from a few loyal followers. Maybe it will be from friends taking pity on you at first, but these can add up over time. With the recent introduction of Bits to the platform’s economy, users can now cheer you on and support you at the same time — you’d be surprised what you can achieve with a small but dedicated following.
Most successful Twitch streamers make their money from subscribers, but you’ll need to become a Twitch partner first. To become a partner, you need to reach 50 followers, stream for eight hours, stream on seven different days, and have an average of three viewers.
You can earn money from ads if you go through the Ads Incentive Program on Twitch. Ads Incentive Program offers from Twitch vary, but once you start stacking ad revenue on top of subscriber revenue, Twitch starts looking more lucrative.
Once you’ve got an established channel and some semblance of a personal brand, you can pursue paid brand sponsorships. Not everyone is going to end up sponsored by Razer or Nvidia, but there are plenty of smaller companies looking for a face to put their brand behind.
The Ideal Equipment Setup
Playing today’s top games is hard enough on modern PC hardware, and adding streaming increases your computer’s workload. Just having a good gaming rig isn’t enough, though; you’ll need other gear to complement your main streaming setup, and this is where things can get confusing for many would-be streamers.
Your Gaming PC
Your main PC is the heart of your streaming setup, and you’ll want it to be able to handle anything you throw at it. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a top-end machine, especially if you’re just starting out, but keep in mind that with 31 million active daily users on Twitch, any little edge you can give yourself can only help you expand your channel.
Recommended PC specs for serious streamers:
- Solid-state hard drive (for OS)
- Processor: Quad-core CPU (Intel Core i7-4770K or comparable)
- RAM: 16GB RAM
- GPU (graphics card): DirectX – Version 12, GeForce RTX 2070, or similar with at least 8GB Video RAM
Ideally, you’ll want a multicore processor such as one from Intel’s i7 product line or AMD’s Ryzen 7 series. You’ll also need at least 8GB of RAM, but 16GB is better.
You’ll also want to ensure that your graphics card is equipped to handle the games you’ll be playing. This can often be one of the most expensive parts of your gaming rig, so don’t be afraid to hunt for deals or try to get the most bang for your buck. You’ll want something with at least 8GB of video RAM (VRAM) to keep your graphics card from becoming obsolete too quickly. When people watch streams of the latest games, they want to see the game in at least 1080p with 60fps, so make sure your card can keep up!
Speed matters, so you’ll want at least your OS (if not everything) on a solid-state hard drive. In addition to these components, you’ll want to be sure to include plenty of cooling options in your build. To truly make a living streaming, many users on Twitch pull long hours on their channels, and having adequate cooling will ensure that your computer parts are safe during these stints.
A fancy router and modem are nice, but for most streamers, simply plugging into the modem directly via Ethernet can make a big difference in performance. Wired connections outperform Wi-Fi and prevent variable bandwidth share.
While you can stream using an Xbox Series X/S or PlayStation 5, using a console instead of a gaming PC further complicates the process.
Mic and Audio Gear
In terms of which mic is best, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed just by surveying the options. Keep in mind that you don’t have to go out and spend big on this side of the spectrum right off the bat.
Any decent gaming headset should work just fine to start. Once your channel starts to grow, you can justify mic upgrades and a better audio interface, but consider this frosting on the cake, not the main course.
Internet Connection: What Do I Need?
The two specs that matter most for streaming on Twitch are latency and upload speed. Without sufficient upload speed or with too much latency, your stream won’t make it to your audience with enough video quality to ensure a fun viewing experience.
Regardless of your type of internet connection, your best bet is to hardwire your gaming rig to your modem using an Ethernet cable. This will ensure you’re getting the fastest, most stable connection to the internet. Any broadband connection type, like fiber-optic or cable internet, should be sufficient for streaming on Twitch. Just make sure your upload and download speeds are adequate. You’ll have to tinker with some settings to make DSL work, though.
There are two main flavors of software that streamers use: the software that records and broadcasts their stream and the overlay software that lets them further customize their stream.
The recording software allows you to set up your stream and customize it to look and feel the way you want it to. One of the most popular options out there for beginners is OBS, which is a free and open-source streaming service that comes with a variety of customization features like scene transitions, filters, and custom audio mixing. Other alternatives such as XSplit include many of these same functions, so pick the one that looks easiest for you and start with.
If you want to include some flair in your stream to stand out, most popular services include features like the ability to remove the background of your room entirely, like a Zoom virtual background would. This requires a bit of extra time and money, but the benefits translate to a more polished stream that can attract a more long-term audience.
Overlays allow you to add custom polls, donation markers, animations, alerts, labels, and chat boxes to your stream. These features let you involve your audience in totally new ways, and when done correctly, they can go a long way toward building a brand identity that can be explosive for you in terms of growth.
Many popular overlay suites exist, but none are quite as ubiquitous and accessible as StreamPro, which lets you quickly set up entirely modular display overlays with a cloud-based editor. StreamPro will let you display things like Twitter feeds and custom chat boxes. If you’re serious about making Twitch streaming a full-time profession, you’ll probably need to use an overlay to augment your daily content.
With so many streamers vying for the attention of the masses, it can feel like an uphill battle trying to gain a foothold on Twitch in 2023. Let’s take a look at just a few ways you can be building out something that provides real value to your viewers below.
Building a Streaming Audience in 2023
With so many streamers vying for the attention of the masses, it can feel like an uphill battle trying to gain a foothold on Twitch in 2023. Let’s take a look at just a few ways you can stand out from the competition.
Carve out Your Niche
In the world of online streaming — and everything else, really — personality is king. Anyone can watch a dude sit at home and play a horror game in his basement, but what if he was hooked up to an EKG while he played? You don’t have to go this extreme, but find a way to make your stream stand apart from the sea of other streamers.
Learn From Your Competition
Maybe you don’t look at other streamers as competition, and that’s great! You can learn from them, though. See how they run their streams and interact with their audience. If you see another streamer doing something you like, try a version of it on your stream.
Consistency Is Key
More than anything, building a bustling Twitch channel takes time and dedication. You’ll need to stream consistently in order to keep your numbers swelling. Stick to a regular schedule that viewers can count on, and always have your game face on when you are live.
Twitch Streaming: The Long Road to Success
Almost nobody who currently streams for a living will tell you that it’s an easy, bump-free journey to the top. Creating killer content at a breakneck pace week after week is not for everyone, and many users burn out before ever collecting a single donation dollar. All the same, if you’re committed to growth and you let your unique personality guide your content, you’ll be able to gain a foothold on the platform over time.