Every time I passed by the Kappa Theatre at TwitchCon, there was a massive show happening.
At one point it’s a live event from VideoGame Championship Wrestling, a series that uses the create-a-wrestler feature in the WWE games to make likenesses of personalities from fiction and reality and put them in a story just as silly and convoluted as real wrestling. Then it’s the H1Z1 Invitational, a high-stakes tournament centered around a popular PC zombie apocalypse game.Amazingly, a presentation featuring Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst discussing how he got into Twitch streaming doesn’t make it into the Kappa Theatre. Durst might be a celebrity, but he’s not quite a Twitch Celebrity yet.Twitch is one of the most highly-trafficked sites on the planet, where millions tune in daily to watch other people play games live. And to the 20,000 fans who gathered recently at Moscone Center in San Francisco for the first ever TwitchCon, Durst is just another streamer. Anyone on the site is free to stream themselves playing games, but if you want to ascend to the status of Twitch celebrity, you’re going to need more than just a once-successful music career.
One panel late on Saturday, the second and final day of the event, featured several streamers who have “made it” giving advice to fans on how they can turn their stream into a moneymaking venture, and perhaps even a full time job.
“Making it” on Twitch means getting “partnered,” an exclusive contract with Twitch to receive revenues from your streaming activities. A Twitch partnership is the dream for many Twitch streamers, as it means more promotion and visibility on the service, but meeting the criteria for a partnership is a significant mountain to climb. You need to stream very regularly and to maintain a healthy viewer count average, and there are numerous unspoken factors that could influence a decision either way. It’s the barrier that separates “streaming for fun” from “streaming as a job.””I’d worked for almost a year to get it.””I’ve been streaming for about a year and a half now,” a well-known streamer named HayliNic, who has almost 48,000 followers, told me. “It’s a great combination of everything I want to do in my life.” She had initially majored in journalism, which she eventually realized wasn’t her calling in life. “I was in my junior year of college when I found Twitch,” Nic said. “It was kind of unbelievable that people could make money playing video games.”
A friend suggested she make the jump from watching to streaming, which she did with the popular first-person shooter Counter-Strike. After meeting with several other streamers at the PAX South gaming convention, she began to take game streaming more seriously.
“I applied for partnership a couple of times, but I got denied,” she explained.
Yet, her channel was going strong, thanks in part to getting linked from a few big-name streamers.
“I thought I was a shoe-in, because I was averaging over 500 consecutive viewers,” Nic added. “I applied, and they said, ‘We want to see how you do without any help.'” She needed at least 100 consecutive viewers on her own, and said she reapplied about two weeks later. At which point, the person who handles Twitch partnerships entered her chat. “In the middle of my stream, he sent me the confirmation,” Nic remembered. “I’d worked for almost a year to get it.”Twitch’s director of partnerships John Howell told Motherboard that the company gets well over 1,000 applications for partnerships a week, and that while viewership counts, it’s not the deciding factor.”Interacting with your audience is the ultimate way to drive engagement and continued growth on Twitch,” Howell said in an email. “If a broadcaster is focused on creating a healthy community, we’ll work closely with him/her to make sure they get to where they need to be. Our community tends to rally behind broadcasters who are authentic, personable and entertaining. As a result, this type of personality is common among many of our top broadcasters.”
Howell said Twitch doesn’t comment on contract specifics out of respect to streamers, but said that there’s a fair revenue share in place.
TigerWriter, a scruffy, tattooed streamer with a trademark beard and a jovial attitude, described a similar, long and hard road to partnership. He worked as a taxi dispatcher in Denver when he started gaming and streaming to fill the downtime.
“I streamed for eleven hours a night because I had eleven-hour shifts,” he explained. “I’d just answer the phone when necessary, then get back to streaming. Eventually I was getting over 70 viewers every night.” He got partnered in January, and then in February got a spotlight, which landed him on the front page of Twitch for a week. He said he’s now sitting at over 40,000 followers.