When I was growing up in the ‘90s, I never would have imagined I could get paid to play video games.
If I’d known that it would one day be possible to pad my income by letting strangers watch me game, right now you’d be enjoying a Rocky-style montage of me training to be the best gamer in the world.
My gaming brethren, the video game platform Twitch can validate our geekiness… and help us make money with it.
Here’s how to make money playing video games and streaming them in this free gaming community.
1. Ask for Donations
As soon as you sign up to stream (it’s free), you can add a donation button to your channel, which allows viewers to throw cash your way.
Donations can be anything from $1 to even thousands of dollars in one fell swoop. While the latter case isn’t the norm, some Twitch streamers have received large donations on their channels. (Remember: While they’re called “donations,” the IRS will still want its share.)
The best part about donations is that you don’t have to pay for a Twitch subscription or have a set number of followers to qualify. Anyone can add a donation button to their channel, and strangers who enjoy watching can toss you a few bucks.
2. Collect “Bits”
In October 2016, Twitch announced a tipping system called “Cheering,” through which viewers can gift their favorite streamers online currency called Bits.
Viewers can earn 5 to 100 Bits (100 Bits are worth $1.40) by watching 30-second ads. They can also purchase Bits outright via the Amazon payment system.
When a viewer likes something you did in your game, they can type “cheerxx” into the chat bar on your channel, where “xx” is the number of Bits they want to gift. For example, if someone types “cheer1000,” you’ll receive 1,000 Bits, which are worth $10.
3. Collect Subscribers
Leveling up requires a bit more work, but it packs a bigger payoff. Once you’ve amassed a steady following — at least 500 regular viewers — you can apply to be a Twitch Partner at no cost. Becoming a partner is key to earning more revenue on Twitch.
One of its benefits is the illustrious “Subscribe” button. Subscribers are people who really like you and want you to succeed. For each subscriber you gain, Twitch will pay you about $2.50 per month.
You don’t even have to be the best at the games you stream. If you are entertaining and market yourself on social media, you can gain valuable ground in the streaming world.
Try setting up a YouTube account where potential followers can get to know you before they commit to subscribing to your channel. Posting highlight reels from your streams will entice them to visit your channel on Twitch. Think of it as investing in a trailer so people will want to watch the whole film.
The most successful Twitch streamers interact with their viewers, display their gratitude for donations and are expressive. Humor and quirkiness will set you apart from the crowd.
4. Earn Ad Revenue
Nobody likes ads, but they do make the World Wide Web go ‘round.
If you’ve registered as a Twitch Partner and started gaining subscribers, you’ll also start earning ad revenue. Your channel will bring in about $250 per 100 subscribers per month.
When You Love What You Do, You Beat the Game of Life
While success and earnings vary, the truly dedicated have proven that video game streaming can be a lucrative full-time job. You can even gain the exposure required to go pro and compete in eSports tournaments in front of millions of viewers for millions of dollars.
Or it could just be a fun way to make a little extra cash on the side.
How to Get Started on Twitch
1. Sign up with a username, password, email and your birthday, or by connecting your Facebook account. You’ll need to be at least 13 years old.
2. Download Twitch-compatible broadcasting software, if you’re using a PC or laptop.
To stream from a PC or laptop, click the “Stream Key” link on your Twitch dashboard to get your personalized key. Copy and paste this key into your broadcast software. If you’re streaming from a PS4, click here. From an Xbox One, follow these instructions.
3. If you want other people to see you while you play, you’ll need to invest in video capture equipment. If you want them to hear you, you’ll need a microphone.
4. Set up a PayPal account to collect the money you earn from streaming.
5. If you have Amazon Prime, connect your Twitch account. Twitch is owned by Amazon, and the retail giant recently dropped the news that if you have an Amazon Prime subscription, you get Twitch Prime for free.
Twitch Prime offers free in-game loot, game discounts, zero ads, and more bonuses you’d normally have to pay for.
Maybe I’m blinded by the sheer awesomeness of this, but I don’t see a downside. Before Twitch Prime existed, the previous top-tier subscription, Twitch Turbo, cost $8.99 per month.
Your Turn: Have you tried video game streaming on Twitch? Did you make any money?
Kristi Simpson has been gaming since she was 14 months old and has the picture to prove it. She is also a world traveler and plans her trips based on where she wants to eat.