I enjoy playing video games. I enjoyed them when I was a kid and I enjoy them even today.
When I was younger, my mom would frequently remind me that I couldn't play video games forever. She wasn't trying to be a killjoy, back in the 80's and 90's, she was right. You couldn't make money playing video games, even if you were one of the very best.
But it's different today. Not only can you make money playing video games, you don't even have to be particularly good at it.
There are people who make thousands of dollars streaming their playing sessions on Twitch and uploading their games on Youtube.
How much do Twitch streamers make?
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Become a Twitch Affiliate & Partner
First things first, to start making money you have to become a Twitch Affiliate. That's the name of their partnership program. You start as an Affiliate and if you get your viewership statistics up, you'll be invited to become a Twitch Partner.
To qualify as an Affiliate, you need:
- 50 followers,
- 500 total minutes broadcast in the last 30 days,
- 7 unique broadcast days over the last 30 days,
- average of 3+ concurrent viewers over the last 30 days.
You start earning money when you reach the level of Twitch partner – that's when you get access to many of the monetization methods listed below.
How do you get to Partner? You have to:
- Stream for 25 hours in the last 30 days
- Stream for 12 unique days in the last 30 days
- Reach 75 average viewers in the last 30 days
Once you do that, you can apply and applications are reviewed manually within 7 business days.
As we discuss how Twitch streamers make money and the different methods, it's important to remember that not everyone will be making the eye-popping figures you see below. That said, there is money there and if you can build up a following, you can earn a pretty solid living.
How Twitch Streamers Make Money
Twitch streamers have a variety of different ways to make money but four ways make up the bulk of their income:
Donations are the oldest form of support that's ever been known – it's when viewers just give money to the streamer.
The Twitch currency is known as “bits.” You can think of them as being worth roughly a penny each but that depends on the current purchase price. As of this writing, you can get 1,000 bits for $10 but buying 100 bits will cost you $1.40. Oddly enough, buying 10,000 bits will cost you $1.26 – which is a higher per bit price than buying them in 1,000 chunks.
The streamers gets a penny for each bit. Twitch's cut comes on the purchase of bits, not on the donation of bits, which makes logistical sense. As a viewer, you donate bits through cheering and other more visible methods in the chat.
Outside of Twitch, you can always make a direct donation to the streamer.
The amount that makes it to the streamer will depend on the platform you use. Many of the platforms don't take any percentage outside of what it costs to process the charge, usually credit card fees. For example, Streamlabs doesn't charge any fees on donations and so the streamer gets it all minus Paypal or Stripe fees (usually for credit cards).
Whenever you start a stream, there's almost always a thirty-second advertisement. Sometimes, on big promotional pushes, you may get two ads before a stream.
Then, whenever the Twitch streamer wants, they can press an Ad button that delivers a 30-second ad. Usually, you'll see them do it when they get something to eat or have to get up to use the bathroom.
But put too many ads and you risk turning people off. So, it's a delicate balance.
As for how much they make off the ads, commonly referred to as the cost per mille (CPM) or cost per thousand views, you won't ever see anyone disclose it because of disclosure reasons. Twitch streamers aren't allowed to share these. Also, as someone who is also advertisement supported, the ad rates will fluctuate based on demand. I'd imagine that the rates go up a lot around major game releases and go down otherwise.
As a viewer, I haven't seen anyone press the Ad button and they only show ads during major game releases. I imagine this isn't a major percentage of revenue for Twitch streamers since ad block will prevent the display of ads too.
For the more popular streamers, I imagine this category makes up the bulk of their income.
On Twitch, you can get notifications when a streamer is about to stream just by following them – click the Heart and leave Notifications (the bell) on. That's free.
But you can also “subscribe” and that puts money in a Twitch streamer's pocket.
There are up to three tiers of subscriptions (all renew automatically:
- Tier 1: $4.99 per month (1 Subscriber Point)
- Tier 2: $9.99 per month (2 Subscriber Points)
- Tier 3: $24.99 per month (6 Subscriber Points)
As a Twitch streamer, you can get to upload custom emotes whenever you reach a certain number of subscribers. This is based on the concept of Subscriber Points (each tier gets you different Subscriber Points). You start with 25 and can get up to 60.
A viewer gets some perks for being a subscriber, depending on the streamer. Here, for example, is what you get if you are a Tier 1 subscriber to John Bartholomew, a Chess IM and Twitch streamer:
- Ad-free viewing on JohnBartholomew's channel (with limited exceptions).
- Chat during Subscriber-Only Mode and not affected by chat slow mode.
- Watch and chat during Subscriber Streams.
- Resubscribe to retrieve your highest unlocked Sub Badge.
- And 10 Custom Emotes
Twitch streamers earn a minimum of 50% of the subscription fees. The more subscribers they have, the more they get to keep.
“Top tier partners” get up to 70% of the subscription fees.
If you know how many subscribers a streamer has, it's relatively easy to calculate how much they earn each month through subscriptions. Twitch doesn't release the number of subscribers a streamer has, so any figures you see online are guesses. The number of Followers you see at the top of each Profile is NOT subscribers, those are free followers, but I suspect that's what online lists use as a way to guess actual subscribers (and other factors, like live viewers).
TwitchTracker has a list of subscriber counts that looks as accurate as any other, so based on those figures, here's how much some of the top streamers make each month on subscriptions (assuming a 70% cut):
- CRITICALROLE – $37,783.263
- SHROUD – $36,107.295
- RFUE – $35,609.637
- GAMESDONEQUICK – $39,360.216
- NICKMERCS – $64,990.492
- TIMTHETATMAN – $34,504.939
- MOONMOON_OW – $43,371.797
- XQCOW – $26,073.502
- NINJA – $19,647.39
- DRLUPO – $42,836.92
Who knows how accurate these figures are but even if they're close, that's some good money!
If subscriptions are the cake, sponsorships are the icing.
For sponsorships, companies pay streamers to promote their brand. The most visible one is to pay streamers to play their games (sponsored streams). Reportedly, Electronic Arts paid Ninja a million bucks to play Apex Legends. EA did this with Battlefield V too. The easiest way to tell this is happening is that you'll start seeing #ad appearing in stream titles, to comply with FTC guidelines.
The rate streamers get paid for sponsored streams ranges from 1¢ to $1 per viewer per hour. If you get 10,000 viewers, that's $1,000 to $10,000 per hour of gameplay.
You will also see streamers being sponsored by companies that make gaming equipment, from headsets to chairs to keyboards. Each individually negotiated and that information isn't made public by anyone.
There are some sponsorship networks (google them to find out more) out there which will connect brands with “influencers” too – so that's a way forward once you get your channel up.
Off-Twitch Ways to Make Money
The four ways listed above are where streamers make money directly off their Twitch streams.
There are, however, a couple of other ways to make money from your channel outside of Twitch.
Uploading Videos to Youtube
Twitch streamers generally only make money when they are streaming. But with all that content, why not post it to Youtube?
What you will see a lot of folks do is upload individual games or sessions to Youtube. They will put a title to it (to make it easier to search for on Youtube) and limit it to Youtube-friendly length, around 7-15 minutes. They'll try to do unique things, sometimes clickbaity, or funny things – to get people on Youtube to watch.
How much can Youtubers make? According to my friends at Millenial Money, anywhere from 0.3 to 1 cent per view. Youtube runs ads before, during, and after a video – which the streamer gets.
As for the top Youtuber earners, Millenial Money Man has a list from 2018:
- Ryan Toys Review – $22 million
- Jake Paul – $21.5 million
- Dude Perfect – $20 million
- DanTDM – $18.5 million
- Jeffree Star – $18 million
- Markiplier – $17.5 million
- VanossGaming – $17 million
- Jacksepticeye – $16 million
- PewDiePie – $15.5 million
- Logan Paul – $14.5 million
As you can imagine, you have to be a decently sized Twitch streamer to get paid for live appearances. 🙂
Sometimes they tie these live appearances along with Snapchat/IG stories and other social media bumps.
Much like a blog, you can earn affiliate income from your Twitch stream by sending viewers to sites like Amazon.com to purchase items. If they buy something, you earn a small commission on the sale.
If you look at a streamer's profile, you may see some widgets promoting different physical products. Amazon Blacksmith is a popular widget some streamers use to list products.
You can also sell branded merchandise – something StreamLabs also supports, through their Merch program.
Here are some of the items in Anna Rudolf's (streamer who is a Hungarian chess player holding the FIDE titles of International Master and Woman Grandmaster) StreamLabs Merch store:
Actual Twitch Streamer Income
Disguised Toast gave us a look inside how much he makes from his Twitch stream, which gives some good high-level information on the different streams:
Some of the numbers he cites are examples, with some massive subscriber counts for well-known streamers, and they're eye-popping.
For him specifically, he earns each month (video is dated October 2018):
- Donations – $2,500
- Advertisements – $10,000 (only pre-roll ads and banners, no Ad buttons)
- Subscriptions – When he posted, he had 4,000 subscribers and made about $14,000 each month.
- Sponsorships – He averages 10,000 viewers so he can get paid anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 per hour. He can also get $5,000 per 30 second Youtube video and $5-10k for live appearances.
All in, he makes $20,000 per month off ads, subscribers, and donations.
I hope you enjoyed this post and it gave you a sense of how much money can be made as a Twitch streamer.
It can be quite a bit!