Feature

Gaming For Fun And Profit – A Pro’s Guide To Game Streaming

by Ben Reeves on Jul 24, 2015 at 09:53 AM

Playing games can be a form of leisure. It can be a way to socialize with friends. It can be a sport. And now, for many, it’s a job. While livestreaming can earn you fame and fortune, it’s difficult to become a big-name streamer. We’ve made it a little easier for you by turning to some established pros for advice on how to turn your game time into a show that people might actually want to watch.

Our Pros:

RULE 1: Make a schedule and keep it
Ross: It’s very important to have a schedule. People need to know when you’ll be on air. You need to make it easy for them. It’s essential in the early days of a streamer’s career that you find a schedule and stick to it. Bonus streams with little notice are a nice treat for your fans. It’s extra content for them to enjoy.

Cassell: People will come back if you’re a consistent stream. That’s how I managed to change from doing 10,000 viewers per stream to 60,000 to 80,000 viewers per stream. Consistency is key.

Sohinki: It’s kind of like treating new media a little bit like old media. There’s so much clutter on YouTube that it’s nice to know that this person uploads a new video at this time, and you can always count on that amidst all the other chaos.

RULE 2: Twitch or YouTube – focus on one
Zagursky: There is a pretty massive difference between pre-recorded content and live broadcasted content. Some people are inherently better at chatting with a live audience and playing games with the community directly involved on a second-by-second basis. Others are more comfortable having the ability to edit their content or completely focus on the gameplay itself rather than being distracted by a community of live fans. I think the entertainer should focus on whichever suits their personality the best. Being a Jack-of-all-trades is next to impossible.

Futureman: I just do Twitch, but have a YouTube channel that I dumped extra videos on or highlights from my Twitch stream. YouTube is great and I see a lot of people coming in starting on YouTube, and while you should focus on one, you can use both. I have a couple videos that get a few hits every week and I get a lot of people coming into my stream from those YouTube clips.

RULE 3: Engage your audience
Zagursky: Interactivity is the cornerstone of my stream. I often find myself playing my games with my peripheral vision because I look at chat more than the actual game. I treat my fans as a community that I am just a member of. My chat is constantly having conversations with itself on topics I don’t even mention, and I love that they feel they can do so. We don’t always have to be talking about the game; we are a community of people who enjoy gaming and have come together in an interactive way.

Futureman: A lot of people try to name their communities, which I think is a good idea. I call my viewers the N.E.R.F. Squad, which is a great way to have everybody feel a sense of pride and make them feel like they’re part of something. I know some guys do events where everyone in the community just plays games together at the same time while they’re in the chat, and I’ve been thinking about doing things like a movie night where everybody watches a movie off stream and then talks about it on the stream.

Ross: It’s very easy to be interactive as long as you pay attention to the chat in your channel. The viewers always have interesting things to say. It's easy to strike up a conversation with them as you showcase your game of choice, and that is the magic of Twitch.

RULE 4: Exaggerate your personality...but be real
Sohinki: I think people are very perceptive, and they know when you’re not being yourself. I’m not the craziest guy when it comes to my personality, but you need to amp it up a little bit. There are people watching so you want to be a little entertaining, but at the same time don’t be someone you’re not. If you’re not that wacky guy, I think people will see through you if you’re not being genuine.

Cassell: I know a lot of people who are characters, and they’ll get off a stream and be like, “Oh, thank God I don’t have to be like that anymore.” They’re all hyped up and energetic, like, super-hyped – and as soon as they get off, they’re like, “Oh, my God, I hate myself.” I’ve seen it and it genuinely shocked me that such popular people have kept that up for so long. So, just be you and be who you want to be for the future.

RULE 5: Find your niche
Sohinki: I knew people who were just starting out on Twitch, who would keep an eye out for popular games that were not being streamed. For example, if StarCraft came out, they might say, “Oh my gosh, none of the big streamers are streaming StarCraft.” And so they’d stream StarCraft. It’s a good idea to try to find that niche that needs to be filled. On YouTube, Pewdiepie built an entire channel by playing weird silly games that nobody ever heard of.

Barn: For the first three or four years of my YouTube channel, I focused mainly on Call of Duty. It was the biggest game on YouTube at the time. I really grew my audience – which I thought were crazy numbers back then – through focusing just on [Call of Duty].

Zagursky: Think of new and creative ways to engage your community, give people a reason to tell their friends that you’re someone to be watched. Think outside of the box. Much of broadcasting is being a creative person both with your community and with the content you produce. Do things that have never been done and gauge the reaction of your fans. If they liked it, keep doing it!

Next Up: Find out what kind of gear you need and how to fend off discouragement.

RULE 6: If all else fails, get a gimmick
Futureman: There are so many streams these days that it’s hard to get noticed. My stream is very different and very weird. I have a story that goes along with it. I recommend getting a green screen so you can do different things, like I have a spaceship that I sit in while I play. My gimmick is that I’m Futureman, a guy who was sent back in time to beat games in the present before they destroy us in the future. I think these kinds of gimmicks encourage people to stick around longer than if they were just checking out a normal stream.

Zagursky: You will find gimmicks all across Twitch because they are fun and they work. They’re fun for the audience and they’re great for the broadcaster. Many people like to push themselves out of their comfort zones, and that can lead to a lot of fun. This is actually the reason a lot of people broadcast, to get over things like social anxiety and help them be part of a larger community, and I think that’s awesome.

RULE 7: Don’t be discouraged
Barn: The first thing I say to anyone trying to get into YouTube at this point is that it’s a very saturated market right now. I don’t know the exact statistics, but there are a few hundred game channels made every single day. It’s not always a game of creating the best content. It takes some sticking to.

Sohinki: If you start from zero you shouldn’t expect to grow extremely quickly. It helps to reach out to bigger people, because a lot of people build their channel by collaborating with other streamers. I don’t think there’s a channel that’s too big or too small to collaborate with somebody else. You can’t go into it expecting overnight success. That happens very rarely, and a lot of people grind out a lot of hours doing tons and tons of videos before they build up a large following. I think if you’re consistent and you keep at it and content is good you’ll make it eventually.

RULE 8: Have fun!
Barn: Make sure you are enjoying what you’re doing, otherwise you’re probably going to burn out before you get to a point where you have a big audience.

Ross: Always be positive. Don’t worry about how many people are in your channel, but instead focus on the viewers you do have. Be patient and be determined. Live streaming is very hard work, but also tons of fun.

What Kind Of Gear Do I Need?
Anyone with a modern console can stream to channels like Twitch, but very few of the big console casters actually use the built-in streaming functionality embedded in the consoles. Instead, most live streamers capture their gameplay using a dedicated PC with a capture card. If you’re looking to become a pro, you’ll probably want to invest in some more expensive hardware.

“You need high-quality gear,” says Tom Cassell, better known as Syndicate. “There are a lot of people who stream off of potatoes, which doesn’t work well at all. Using their microwaves or whatever to stream. The quality does not come through. You can get cheap systems, so try to step up your quality game.”

Below, we break down the bare essentials you’ll need for streaming. 

  • A Streaming Machine: Encoding a stream is a very CPU-intensive process. The higher the resolution, frames-per-second, and bitrate you want to broadcast, the more taxing your stream will be on your CPU, so your go-to gaming machine might need an upgrade. Some professional live streamers actually offload the work of streaming a game to a second computer. If you have a top-of-the-line machine, you won’t necessarily need to do that. To get an idea for the power most pros are working with, we asked Matthew “Sevadus” Zagursky to give us a breakdown of his dedicated broadcasting rig.•  CPU: Intel Core i7-3770k processor overclocked to 4.2GHz
    •  CPU Cooling: Corsair H100i
    •  GPU (doesn’t matter at all, I threw it in because I had it lying around): Radeon HD 7750
    •  PSU: Corsair CX500
    •  Hard Drives: Crucial M500 SSD and WD Green 2TB disks for auto-archiving (EVERYONE should
        be archiving all of their broadcasts as they stream them)
    •  Capture Cards: AVerMedia Live Gamer HD, Black Magic Intensity Pro, Magewell XI100DUSB-HDMI
    As far as the cost of a dedicated streaming rig, you can create a lower-end machine for around $400-$500. Much of that cost is actually in the capture cards, which leads us to…
  • A Video Capture Card: A capture card is one of the more important items in your live streaming toolbox, as it’s the technology that actually allows you to send video game footage to your computer. Several of the streamers we talked with recommended the AVerMedia Live Gamer HD (http://gamerzone.avermedia.com), which retails for around $180.
  • Dedicated Streaming Software: You need some dedicated streaming software to record the gameplay footage. In this case, your wallet will be happy, because many professional streamers get by with a free software package called Open Broadcaster Software (obsproject.com). Hardcore streamers who want a few more features and plug-ins can opt for a program called XSplit (xsplit.com), though many of its more specialized features require a subscription of $4.95 or more a month.
  • A Microphone: Several pro streamers we talked with feel like viewers are willing to put up with a lower quality video stream, but are less willing to forgive a stream with poor audio. Therefore, a good microphone is probably one of the best places to splurge. Many of our streamers recommended the Blue Yeti Microphone (bluemic.com/yeti), which retails for around $150, or the Zoom H4N Audio Recorder (zoom-na.com), which will set you back $200.
  • A Camera: Some professional live streamers don’t use a camera, but those are rare instances, so you probably want at least a basic webcam to get started. Several of our pros recommended the $99 Logitech c920 (logitech.com), but almost any good webcam will get you started.