A Small Streamer’s Guide to Success (Part 1)
Written by Ben Vollmer
Finding success on Twitch.TV as a streamer can be perilously difficult. Even aside from real-life responsibilities, reaching your goals as a broadcaster presents a long and arduous battle. So where can you begin?
Before we get started, it’s important to define what successful means to you. There are streamers who earn enough to do it full time who feel like it’s not enough. Conversely, having a stream where just a few familiar faces pop by daily is plenty enough for others. It’s a matter of perspective and taking a moment to assess your goals is really important. You could be like me, and write them out. Or maybe you’d prefer keeping your goals tight to the vest, and work quietly toward meeting them.
Do you want to be a big caster who makes a living off Twitch? Do you want a community you can play games with? Do you want a stream where you can have ongoing conversations about the modern political climate? Maybe you want to have a community where the only thing you do is play games in peace and quiet with a few wandering eyes on you. Sometimes these things need to be separate from one another, but generally, you’ll find a way to venn diagram some things and create a happy middle of several different types of community.
With that being said, and your goals as a streamer envisioned: how do you get there?
Whatever You Want To Do, Be Consistent About It
When I first started casting, I had a start time of 10 PM EST. I was a college student still living with my folks during the summer. They usually didn’t turn in until around then, and in a family where an open-door policy is less of a mandate and more a sign of good faith, streaming without too many external variables made my life easier.
All the same, I was rarely on time. I’m lucky that the few viewers I did have bothered to show up (most of them stopped after a couple instances of being over an hour late), as I rarely did what I said I was going to do.
This is a problem, right? It’s not because you owe your community or stream anything (even though I think that’s a bit of an antiquated theme that has been passed to streamers), but because they have lives and thousands of other streams to choose from. Chances are, you’re not so good that no other streamers will live up in comparison. Especially early on, there’s a good chance that that viewer who was gearing up to be in your stream wandered off and found something else new and interesting.
Obviously, this is a deeper issue than being on time. Having a constant daily schedule is really important, too. Even if it’s just one or two days a week, let your streamers know that you will be there when you say you are going to be there. As an example, check out my good friend Shadow Mario on Twitch. Regularly the largest streamer in the game he’s playing, Shadow typically only streams once a week. When Tuesday rolls around, you know he’ll be live.
It’s imperative to find a schedule that both you and your potential viewers can be comfortable with. Pick a time slot where you know that external variables won’t be a problem (perhaps late at night or when you’re first waking up) and that you can hit regularly.
Be Really Good At Something
This isn’t something that will apply to everyone. Hell, I don’t think it has applied to me and I have definitely found my own version of “success” on Twitch. But it’s really, really helpful to be very good at one thing that separates you from the other hundreds of streamers playing the same game at the same time.
It’s also really hard to be very good at something. Chances are, you’ll have to work on it. Whether it’s being really good at a specific game or being funnier than the people who are playing it, find something that you can have success with. Take BabaYetu, a Civilization streamer, for instance. Civilization has more of a cult following than anything else, but BabaYetu has reigned supreme as one of the top streamers in the game for years now. Why? For one, he’s really freakin’ good at the game. Sometimes it takes a little patience, but if you continue playing a game and showing off your skills, people will follow along.
Pick A Game, And Choose Wisely
This one is tough. Most streamers, including myself, don’t want to be pigeon holed into one specific game or even a specific genre. But make no mistake about it, sticking it out with one or two games is MUCH easier than doing a variety. Even smaller games like MapleStory have really niche communities that you can grow inside of. It’s important to choose a game under the umbrella of two things:
- You can bring something unique to the table, as mentioned above.
- You enjoy playing.
The only other thing under consideration should be saturation. Getting big in a League of Legends or Counter Strike is going to be next to impossible, at this point. It’s a sad reality that the games people love to play the most are also most difficult to stream and find success in. Perhaps take this as an opportunity to broaden your gaming horizons and find something new that interests you.
For those like me who don’t want to find yourself playing the same game over and over again, be persistent. Find a healthy balance of things that your “regulars” can enjoy and something that has the potential to bring in some new folks. Don’t become disgruntled if one game is less popular than another, it’s not an indication of growth or regression, it’s just the nature of being a variety streamer.
Want to Variety Stream? Get Ready To Be Bad
Okay, so this one is something I have a LOT of personal experience in. Playing a lot of different kind of games under a lot of different genres is going to lead to a lot of… well, sucking. You’re going to suck. This is the nature of trying to learn new kinds of mechanics, all the while trying to keep up with your chat and other things going on. So why does this play a role in finding success as a streamer?
First and foremost, one or two bad instances of hostility can turn away even the most regular of people. The unfortunate part of being bad at games comes with 1) getting frustrated and 2) others getting frustrated that you’re not able to adequately play their favorite games. This is important to acknowledge and be okay with. Just remember that, when you’re playing a game that is inevitably one that people enjoy watching, being overly critical of it might turn them away for someone who better aligns with their taste in games.
So what can you do? Have fun with it. Even when the going gets bad, just enjoy it. If something in a game is really poorly designed, chances are that your viewers will see it too. Learn how to be critical without being dismissive. Quitting a game because you don’t enjoy it or because it’s giving you a hard time can be fatal as a variety caster, as people will pick up on the fact that you’re not following through on games when you start them. If a game is giving you a hard time or just not what you hoped, put it aside for a while with the possibility of coming back later.
Thanks for reading! Check back later this week for Part 2 of the series.