How Much Do Twitch Streamers Make? Playing Video Games for Cash
Twitch is the massively popular live streaming video website that allows people who play video games — both professionals and amateurs — to broadcast them to fans in real time. Popular streamers have taken the platform and become crossover stars: The gamer Ninja has been featured on TV specials and has massive endorsement deals.
You don’t have to be a famous gamer to start making extra money on the platform, however. Anyone with subscribers can make money playing video games on Twitch. In this article we’ll dive into several questions, including: How much do Twitch streamers make? How do they make their money? And can you make it is as a Twitch streamer in 2019?
We’ll also give a brief guide to the Twitch platform, plus look at how steamers can diversify from just one source of income to multiple. Finally, we’ll share the rough amount of money top streamers make in the field.
A Brief Guide to Twitch
Twitch is a live streaming video platform. People can use the site either as a broadcaster — someone who puts out a live stream — or as a viewer. Most broadcasters use Twitch to live stream themselves playing video games, but you don’t necessarily need to be playing a game to have a Twitch stream going. Videos on the site can be watched either in real time or later, on-demand.
The appeal for viewers is both the immediacy and the access. Viewers can sign on and watch celebrities, professional eSports athletes, or friends take part in real-time gameplay of popular video games. No matter when someone logs on, they can watch gamers play Fortnite, FIFA, Call of Duty, and many other games.
One of the biggest features of the site is the chat feature, which allows viewers to hold a conversation in real time and to ask questions that the Twitch streamer can answer via the feed.
It’s also massively popular. By May of 2018, Twitch had over two million broadcasters putting out content monthly with 15 million daily active users on the site.
Twitch Partner vs. Twitch Affiliate
Anyone can start a Twitch stream. To make money, though, you will need to become a Twitch Affiliate or a Twitch Partner. These are ways for streamers to “level up,” so to speak. They can get more perks and earn more money for streaming.
Both of these designations have requirements that you need to hit before you’re labeled an “Affiliate” or “Partner.”
To become eligible for the Twitch Affiliate program, you must have broadcast for at least 500 total minutes in the last 30 days, had at least seven separate days where you broadcasted in those 30 days, and averaged three simultaneous viewers or more over that time period. You must also have at least 50 followers.
When you’ve hit that mark, you should receive an email from Twitch, letting you know you’ve made it as an Affiliate. This is an automated process, but if you feel like you should be an Affiliate and haven’t received an invitation, you can reach out via their Help platform.
Twitch Affiliates get perks that allow them to start earning money through the platform. For one, they get a button they can embed on their page to allow users to “subscribe” to their channel. Subscribers, unlike Followers, pay a monthly fee to get access to your channel. You will also be able to accept Bits. (More on the difference between Subscribers and Followers, as well as what Bits are, in the next section.)
Becoming a Twitch Partner is a bigger deal entirely. To become one, you must apply through the Partners section of the Twitch website. Twitch Partners have all the revenue tools that an Affiliate has, along with more customization, verified chat, and more. Partners are Twitch super users, and you have to have a strong following before you apply.
How Twitch Streamers Make Money
Twitch streamers can create multiple sources of income when it comes to making money. These revenue opportunities are divided up into either on-platform (through the Twitch website) sources of income, or ones that are off-platform (via other, outside sources). Here’s a look at the on-platform ways that Twitch streamers make money.
Twitch has advertisements. Just about every Twitch stream has what’s known as a pre-roll ad, usually a short video advertisement that plays before each stream begins. Twitch streamers earn a tiny, tiny percentage per each ad impression (less than a cent), but if you get thousands upon thousands of views, those small numbers add up.
After the initial ad, Twitch gets out of the way. But there are still more ways to make money through advertisements. Twitch Partners are allowed to insert ads into their streams to increase their earnings. There’s a bit of strategy involved here — some streamers want to maximize earnings by getting in as many ads as possible. Others don’t want to anger their viewers with lots of ads and will look to make money other ways.
The biggest revenue source for most Affiliates and Partners is through Twitch subscribers.
The subscription program is a pay-as-you-go model where viewers pay $4.99 monthly to subscribe to your Twitch channel. About half of that will go directly to the streamer, with the other half taken by Twitch. (Top streamers can get that number up to around $3.50 per subscriber, but that revenue deal is reserved for only the most popular streamers.)
If you’re wondering why viewers would pay to watch a free stream, you have to remember that for many Twitch viewers, this is a major source of their entertainment. Many people happily pay monthly Netflix subscription fees and watch Netflix movies a fraction of the time that many Twitch viewers spend on the platform.
While Twitch streams are free, subscribers get perks, including loyalty badges and sub emotes — special emoticons that can be used anywhere on Twitch and are reserved for subscribers. And some streamers only allow subscribers to access the chat feature.
Twitch also has a Twitch Prime membership, which allows Amazon Prime members to link their accounts and get one free subscription every month. Streamers still get their usual cut, even if the member is a Twitch Prime subscriber.
Bits are tiny, cheap ways for viewers and subscribers to show their appreciation for streamers. Buying 100 Bits will run you about $1.40, and you can “cheer on” your favorite streamers using Bits. For streamers, each Bit you receive is equivalent to about one cent of revenue. For small streamers, Bits are often not much of a revenue source, perhaps a dollar or two per month. For streamers with thousands upon thousands of followers, it can add up to a decent chunk of change.
Other Revenue Sources
Making money through Bits, Subscribers, and ads aren’t the only ways to bring in revenue as a streamer. Let’s dive into some things outside of Twitch that top streamers can use to make serious money.
Donations are Twitch streamers’ other big way of making money. Twitch allows streamers to request donations directly through their PayPal account, which allows them to maximize revenue because they get to keep the full donation. PayPal does have bank fees occasionally, but these are tiny compared to the big cut that Twitch takes with their subscription fees.
Asking for donations is a line that many streamers have to walk. Some constantly ask for donations, while others turn their noses down at it, viewing it as a form of begging. Most of the top streamers find a way to walk the line, asking for donations when it feels natural, but not forcing it.
Top streamers often make serious money off-platform through partnership deals. Some will have deals in place to only drink Red Bull while playing video games, while others will share coupon codes to online retailers during live streams. Others will sell sponsorships for streams and regularly mention the sponsor throughout their broadcast. These typically only happen for very popular streamers.
Have a big following? You can always design and sell merch. Streamers have emblazoned hoodies, jackets, headbands, t-shirts, mugs, and more with their logos, and sold them through the site.
Other Video Platforms
Many Twitch streamers will utilize other video platforms to increase revenue opportunity. Some will post sessions as YouTube videos or reserve certain streaming times each week to play live on their YouTube channel. Others will post exclusive content to Snapchat or other social media platforms to increase reach and find other revenue streams.
How Much Do Top Twitch Streamers Make
Popular Twitch streamers can make serious, serious money in the field.
The numbers below don’t even include donations, merch sales, partnerships, or other revenue streams, so this is a low guess as to what they’re actually making. These numbers were calculated by eSportsTalk.com and were arrived at by taking a rough estimate of subscribers and concurrent viewership last year via Twitchstats.net, and assuming that each streamer airs about 100 ads each week. They give $3.50 for each subscriber, the rate for top streamers. (Most streamers earn $2.50 per subscriber.)
Remember, these are top-tier streamers, the 1% of the 1%. This should not be compared to how much money Twitch streamers make on average. These are the true stars of the field.
- Ninja is one of the major crossover stars of the Twitch world. With an estimated 45,000 paying subscribers and an average concurrent viewership of 47,000 people, eSportsTalk estimates that Ninja makes $162,200 monthly, just from subscriptions and ads.
- shroud is another major Twitch star with an estimated 44,000 paying subscribers and 27,000 average concurrent viewership. eSportsTalk estimates that shroud makes $156,700 every month purely through Twitch.
Again, these are the top of the top. Using a similar calculation (except with $2.50 per subscriber), a streamer with 500 subscribers would make roughly $1,500 a month. Not a bad amount, but not millionaire money, either.
Earning Money on Twitch
Finding an audience on Twitch is hard to do. So many gamers are now turning to the platform, many of whom have the resources and following to make it as a full-time Twitch streamer. More and more influencers with big followings on other platforms are now on Twitch too.
But if you’re committed, hard working, entertaining, and get to Affiliate status, you can bring in some additional revenue playing games online. At the very least, you can have some fun and try to turn a passion of yours into a side hustle.