Until PUBG, I was never big into watching people stream games. The closest I got was watching League of Legend pro games, but watching a Riot-produced broadcast isn’t really the same as watching a single individual’s Twitch stream. With PUBG however I do occasionally watch Shroud stream live, and I’ve been watching a good amount of streamer highlight videos that get posted on the PUBG Reddit.
Based on this chart of just how popular streamers are right now, especially Shroud, I’m certainly not the only new convert to watching Twitch. In a lot of ways this makes sense. People for decades have watched professional athletes on TV by the millions, and with gaming really taking off in the 80s, today lots of adults know, understand, and are still interested in gaming. This is a huge newish market, and we are now seeing how it’s being represented.
Twitch also solves another problem pro-gaming had; income. Prior to streaming, professional players had to depend on sponsorships and tournament payouts, which sometimes didn’t even cover travel costs for anyone who didn’t come in first place. That was a major problem, because even if you were talented enough to compete at the highest levels, if you couldn’t earn a good living off of it, you eventually needed to ‘grow up’ and get a real job, which in turn hurt the total talent pool of eSports, making it less entertaining.
Shroud is easily going to make over a million dollars this year, and likely multiple millions at that. Other top streamers are easily going to pull in hundreds of thousands as well. That isn’t just a livable wage, that’s the kind of money that inspires others to ‘chase the dream’, similar to how young people dream of being a professional sports star or making it in the entertainment industry. That’s great for gaming, just like professional sports being so popular is great for fans who watch them. The more people drawn in, the higher the talent pool, and the more likely you are to see something incredible.
And just like being a professional athlete is a rare combination of talent and hard work, being a top streamer isn’t easy either. For starters, Shroud is usually streaming 8-10 hours a day, often close to 7 days a week. That’s a crazy amount of hours ‘worked’, and while he is playing a game and not doing hard physical labor, doing anything because you must as your job eventually stops being nearly as fun. I know if I was ‘forced’ to play certain games 8-10 hours a day, for years, I’d find it a hell of a lot less fun than I do gaming right now. Also if he goes on a week-long vacation like most ‘normal’ working people do several times per year, that’s likely going to massively hurt his subscriber numbers. Hell if he gets sick and doesn’t stream for a day, I’m sure that hurts him too. He has momentum right now, but he has to be a machine to keep it going (which I’m sure he knows, but that alone must be incredibly stressful).
So not only does he have to work insane hours with little to no choice of taking a break, but he is somewhat at the mercy of what game is popular and what game he is entertaining to watch play. If tomorrow PUBG stops being popular and, say, an RTS games is the next big thing, perhaps Shroud sucks at RTS games, or he isn’t entertaining to watch. Poof, his massive income is gone, and he would have little to no control over it. Just like if a pro athlete suffers a career-ending injury they had no control over. It’s a high risk, high reward field, and one that most don’t hit the big time, and even fewer are able to sustain it long enough to truly change their life (making a million dollars in a year is cool, but if the years before and the years after you make 30k, it’s not nearly as cool as it seems, especially if you aren’t smart and save/invest the majority of that one-year burst).
On a somewhat related note (but not really), having been a blogger for so many years, and watched this medium go from pretty popular to what it is now, I do wonder if this is the ‘final form’ of gaming entertainment, or if tomorrow the next Twitch comes along and changes the whole landscape again. Along with a dozen other reasons, its why I’ve never thought of this blog as anything but a hobby, and why I’ve turned down companies coming to me offering money for advertising or sponsored content. Sure, I did make those millions pimping Darkfall back in the day, but even that was self-serving in that I wanted Darkfall to be popular so more Darkfall could be made, and not because I needed the millions personally from this blog. Once you turn something you do as a hobby into something you depend on for your income, it changes the whole dynamic. It makes it a ‘job’, which by definition isn’t nearly as fun as a hobby you can drop at will and not having it dramatically impact the rest of your life.
Either way, congrats to Shroud and the others, and it will be interesting to see how all of this continues to play out.
Edit: Post now actually has a title.