What is Streaming?
Have you ever wanted to earn a living playing video games while sharing your experiences with a community? Ever wondered how many other people have the same passion for gaming that you do? Through the power of livestreaming you can share your gaming and entertainment with the world. Streaming might seem hard at first, but it’s a lot easier to get into than you might think. Today, we’re going to break down exactly what it takes to start streaming in 2020.
Streaming is a relatively new concept, as it’s only been in the last decade or so that the technology and internet speeds required have become widely available. While it might not be old, streaming is already huge – and it’s not showing any signs of slowing down.
In the short time since its inception, streaming has surged ahead to become one of the most hotly consumed entertainment mediums, with top platforms such as Twitch claiming a huge stake of online entertainment with over 55 million monthly active users – and there’s more than just Twitch.
If you have a passion to create entertaining content, and have a dream to play games for a living then live streaming is for you. It’s never been easier to get into the game either, with global events sparking a shift towards people looking for content online, and turning to video games more and more, both the playing and watching.
What Platform Should You Stream On?
The world of streaming has been gaining traction incredibly quickly since it first began, but recently that’s seriously escalated. A number of big companies, such as Microsoft, Google and Facebook have all thrown their hat into the ring with platforms such as Mixer, YouTube Live & FaceBook Gaming.
But with all these players getting involved, there’s chaos in the streaming industry. Platforms are starting and growing, then shutting down, leaving millions of fans displaced from their usual platform of choice and hungry for new creators to follow and watch.
Case Study: Mixer
Mixer was one of the world’s most known streaming platforms and had a large community of well-loved streaming professionals. Launched in January of 2016 as Beam, it was acquired less than a year later by tech giant Microsoft and renamed to Mixer in 2017.
Microsoft leveraged Mixer’s low-latency streaming protocol in its marketing and integrated the service with its Xbox division, setting the stage for a serious challenge to long-reigning streaming king, Twitch. Even going so far as to sign a number of top Twitch personalities on exorbitant contracts, Mixer was however unable to scale, and Microsoft announced its closure on June 22, 2020, with a shutdown date of July 22, 2020.
What does that mean? It means the space is volatile, and the prizes are huge. With top streaming giants competing with each other the space isn’t stable, creating opportunities for new streamers, new personalities to grow and capture a share of that displaced audience. So many people look back on the early days of streaming, and wish they’d jumped on sooner. Even as far back as the early days of YouTube, when the term ‘content creator’ hadn’t even been thought of yet.
This might just be the second wave, the second great opportunity to get into the content creation game and take your gaming to a professional level.
Most popular Streaming Platforms in 2020?
So you’re ready, you’re raring to go. The first thing to do is pick a platform, download the necessary software and get going right? Well, you ‘ve gotta think about which streaming platform you’re going to focus on. There are a variety of options to choose from and each has its own benefits.
Right now, the most dominant platforms are Twitch, owned by Amazon, YouTube, owned by Google, Facebook Gaming, owned by… Facebook, and a relative newcomer to the scene, DLive.
Considering it’s premier position as one of the biggest social networks on the internet, and of the modern world’s internet giants, it’s no surprise that Facebook would eventually unveil a streaming platform of its own. However, Facebook Gaming came with a huge inherent advantage, a monstrous platform and tried and tested web-environment, with billions of monthly active users.
But is it a good streaming platform?
It’s a great choice if you have a large friend group on Facebook, as that free advertising is your main advantage with this choice and can be enough to give your streaming career a head start. Facebook is primarily full of users that check their newsfeed, notifications and pop-ups regularly. Most of these people are on mobile, and Facebook Gaming is still more suited to mobile gaming. However, this means that friends, family and everyone else on your list will get a relevant notification- and curiosity gets the better of us all, so you’ll gain a small audience interested in what you’re doing, which in turn will attract more people!
YouTube gaming was the first of the big giants to get into the gaming live streaming contest, with their official service launching in 2015. Similar to Facebook, YouTube entered the game with a significant advantage, that being an already established footing and internet presence, a solid, tried and tested web-environment and a veritable army of creators and viewers.
YouTube gaming blurs the line between streaming and static content, allowing viewers to easily transition between the two, and consume both forms of content as they choose. With previous streams staying available and a comprehensive account system alerting viewers of when you’re scheduled to go live, there are many great arguments to choose YouTube gaming.
What makes YouTube an even more enticing choice is that after you finish your stream, you can still gain revenue by having your live stream posted to your Youtube channel. Top this off with streamlined Google Ads integrations and channel monetisation and you’re looking at a seriously achievable way to take gaming full-time.
Twitch is easily the most famous live streaming website currently on the internet. The first and the greatest, it grew from the original streaming platform Justin.tv in the early 2010’s. The benefits of Twitch are pretty obvious, with the biggest names in streaming and the highest viewership counts, it’s hard to look past. However, the competition on Twitch is fierce, as for many streamers, making the front page on Twitch is considered ‘making it’.
Acquired by Amazon in 2014 for just shy of a billion USD, Twitch has become synonymous with streaming, and remains firmly at the top of the streaming ladder. Not just live gaming anymore either, Twitch has evolved to host virtually every form of video content available, with the category ‘Just Chatting’ often claiming one of the highest viewership counts on the platform.
Short of becoming renowned as a professional esports player on an established team, popularity on Twitch is one of the best ways to start growing a name in the live gaming scene, but it can also be hard without a solid strategy and the right tools.
The newest, and one of the most interesting streaming platforms around. DLive is being personally backed by a few very popular internet influencers, such as Pewdiepie. Dlive is one of the best chances to gain popularity in the current landscape, as there’s a solid chance of this platform really taking off soon. Coupled with the shutdown of Mixer, the birth of Dlive and their recent signing of big names means there’s a golden opportunity for creators willing to seize it. People are curious, and there are huge, displaced audiences looking for their next favourite streamer.
DLive as a blockchain platform
On an interesting note, and definitely something to consider, is DLive’s technical side. The software itself is built on blockchain technology, with both the servers and systems operating (as of July 2020) on the TRON network. Both creators and viewers are rewarded with TRON’s coin, TRX. This blockchain basis is part of DLive’s strong brand promise of giving all the revenue generated to creators and viewers.
While what that means for the future of gaming, and the future of live streaming isn’t clear, it’s definitely something to keep an eye on.
But how do you actually earn a living playing video games and streaming?
With each of the streaming platforms we’ve mentioned here, there are a few different ways to earn a living. The most obvious is an advertising partnership with the platform itself. Once you’ve amassed a certain number of followers and racked up viewing time that clears the requirements, you can partner with the platform. This will allow you to monetize your content, through advertising revenue but also through donations and subscriptions from your audience.
But advertising and donations, while the majority of your income, aren’t the only ways to monetize your entertainment value. Affiliate marketing is also hugely profitable, partner with companies like Amazon and G-Fuel to name a few, and earn a commission every time one of your followers makes a purchase using your affiliate link or discount code.
Maybe the hardest to attain, yet most lucrative, is an exclusivity deal with one of the platforms themself. If you’re an high profile streamer with a massive fanbase, many platforms will approach you with an exclusivity deal. Meaning, you agree to only stream on their platform in exchange for an often ridiculous cash package.
What hardware do I need to stream in 2020?
Outside of the gaming console or PC of your choice, to stream your games and run an overlay, you need a strong CPU, decent internet and a good graphics card. That’s the basic rundown, but let’s go a little more in depth. When streaming your screen, as well as other important features like overlays, your CPU is your main driving force that keeps everything running smoothly. If your CPU is old or just isn’t strong enough, your whole livestream could end up suffering, with problems like frame drops, thermal throttling or even just straight up crashes.
When looking for a good cpu, you need something with great rendering capabilities. Some big CPU manufacturers that deliver this are Intel and AMD. AMD’s Ryzen 5 series with 6+ cores would be the most affordable choice to keep your stream running without any problems.
Some broadcasting softwares, like Streamlabs OBS, allow for GPU acceleration- meaning that some of the rendering is passed over to your graphics card.
If your computer might be a bit slow or really old, don’t despair just yet; there is another potential workaround. As long as your current computer or console can handle all the gaming, you can set up another computer and essentially ‘outsource’ the streaming. This is both a perfect option if you’re tight on cash, or just want to play really intensive games. For advanced streaming on consoles you can use a video capture card which is able to take the video from a console and send it to your computer in order to livestream with greater control.
Broadcasting software options
Now it’s time to talk about the software that’s going to stream your gaming experience to the whole world. When it comes to broadcasting software there are 2 powerhouse options available. What’s amazing about both softwares is that they are totally free, and are great for newcomers, veterans and full-time professionals users. Which is the best software for you? Let’s take a look.
Streamlabs OBS is the most popular broadcasting software and it has earned that title for a good reason. What this program excels at is allowing you to customise your stream to your heart’s content. Most of the additions that would be hard for other programs to implement can be accomplished with just a few clicks while also giving you the option to change the designs. Just like most broadcasting software, this program is completely free and is great for people who are starting out. Streamlabs is different from most broadcasting software as it gives you the option to stream to multiple platforms.
XSplit has had its foot in the broadcasting software department for a long time and has gained a fan-base. XSplit is like Streamlabs with a large amount of customisation but steps away from Streamlabs by the use of innovation. Something to note about XSplit is that there is an upgrade option which costs money but there is also a free variant so it’s still a good option. XSplit is full of great utility and extra features that are unique to it. For example, a part of the XSplit program can use AI to remove the background around you without you needing the use of a greenscreen.
Building your brand with stream overlays
In the 2020 streaming environment, being a great, entertaining streaming with a talent for video games is no longer enough. Gone are the days of raw, amateur streaming that got fans excited and eventually grew into multi-million dollar entertainment brands. Now, you have to start with a brand. Fans need to feel like you’re the real deal, and a big part of that is perception. If an audience sees your stream with clean, professional graphics and a defined brand, next to an uninteresting, ‘homemade’ streamer’s preview, guess who they’ll choose to watch?
Enter Streaming Overlays, or Twitch overlays as they’re so often referred to. Overlays, a major part of the streaming business, have helped many different professional streamers gain the audience they needed so that they could quit their job and switch to streaming full-time. So what is an overlay?
An overlay is as the name suggests, an overlaying design that is a combination of static and dynamic graphics that act as unique borders and animations for your stream. They’re used to transform the game’s HUD, make your webcam more than a floating head and provide you with attractive images to use for events like donations, new followers and more. The best stream overlay packages will also include custom sounds to signal and amplify stream events.
These overlays don’t appear directly on your screen, but instead are only visible on your viewers screens as well as your broadcasting software. So how will overlays help enhance your streaming experience and seperate yourself from the others?
Stand out from the crowd with Stream Overlays
When streaming, there is a good chance that other people are already streaming the same game that you are playing. The trick to separate yourself from other streamers is to have eye-catching visuals that will reel them in, and a personality that will make them want to stay. A person that is browsing a streaming platform is given many different thumbnails that are just still images of the stream. Having an overlay that sits on the front of your stream and is eye-catching, different from others constantly displayed will make your live stream their most likely choice.
On top of just drawing people in and creating your own brand of online entertainment, stream overlays and stream sounds will also keep your viewers and community engaged. It turns the stream from just live-action gameplay to an interactive, fun environment and community. Delivering both entertainment and a sense of community will keep your viewers coming back time and time again.
Your overlay is the foundation of your brand
The streaming journey starts with a brand, and can play a huge part of your success. Ninja wasn’t signed by Mixer, then YouTube purely because of his gameplay, but because of his brand. There’s a reason some of the biggest names in streaming aren’t pro players, it’s not their skill that matters. Ninja’s blue hair? That’s not just a fashion choice, but a constantly evolving of his unique entertainment brand. Your brand is very important in the streaming community as it shows what kind of person you are, what kind of impression you want to give and defines the experience you deliver. And of course, the bigger the community you have the you’ll get noticed by streaming platforms and the greater your chance of signing a ridiculous deal and making it in the online entertainment world.
When you have a large enough brand plus a large committed following, the streaming platform companies will give you a partnership deal. Some companies have requirements laid out while others might hide the information, so it’s important to pick the platform that’s best for you. When you are partnered you can start playing ads- one of the main methods of earning revenue. Most platforms offer other ways of earning revenue like donations, subscriptions, and once you grow a large community it’s likely this will be a great source of income. Creating your brand and a dedicated community all starts with an overlay.
Custom Overlays vs Premade Overlays
Now comes the important question that you should ask yourself, do you go with a premade overlay or a custom one? Both are fantastic options, but they’re definitely suited for different stages in your streaming journey. If you’re ready to commit all the way, and know what sort of brand you’re trying to create, a custom overlay is the best choice. But for new streamers, and streamers that are more focussed on just getting in and creating content, a premium premade overlay is just the ticket.
Premade overlays can be a lifesaver for those who want to start fast. Creating a custom overlay takes time, and when you consider that the earlier you start streaming, the faster you can grow an audience and get paid- there’s no time to waste. Often, a well-built premade overlay package will do everything you need it to, and be perfectly capable of meeting your demands. Most premade overlays are top shelf designs, tweaked and analyzed to attract and retain an audience. A great stream overlay designer will generally be more than happy to include minor customizations and tweaks to make the premade overlay suit you perfectly.
Custom overlays are the go-to option if you really want to create your own individual brand, and have complete control over every aspect. Custom stream overlays really do give you complete freedom to build exactly the brand you want to, and tweak every part so it’s just right. A custom overlay package can also really set you apart from the crowd, and once you’re growing and starting to gain real traction it’s definitely a worthy investment.
Get active in the community
One thing that the internet does well is allow people with similar interests to create a community where they can chat, collaborate and discuss popular topics. Streaming has its own amazing community full of people who are ready to help fix problems or know some tricks about how you can boost your stream quality and entertainment value. These groups can be found in many different places but some of the best are Reddit, Facebook and Discord, but don’t be quick to discount YouTube’s community, and turn to ready videos to answer problems and quick tips.
Gaming has been on the rise for decades, and shows no signs of stopping with an ever evolving competitive scene and huge community. People want to watch gamers who are funny, helpful and good at the games they play, and that’s an audience of millions. If you’re serious about climbing the ranks you need to get serious, because that audience of millions has attracted an equally huge number of hopeful streamers. With 2020 being the year of staying at home, more than ever this is a brilliant chance to make your move, and finally take the plunge into professional live streaming.
Streaming of both video games and other interests is a past-time and an entertainment of choice for millions of people and is still on the take-over. With the potential to earn large amounts of money while gaming with people who share your passion, there is no reason you shouldn’t take advantage of the opportunity.
All it takes is choosing a game, platform and broadcasting software, picking an overlay package and getting started. What are you waiting for?