All over the world, we’re seeing people embrace video games as their surest means of navigating the logistical and emotional hurdles of the COVID-19 virus and subsequent lockdown. Video games can provide us with an escape to a fantasy world, leaving our fears, anxieties and preoccupations at the door of our psyches for a few hours. In recent months we’ve seen the Final Fantasy VII remake reintroduce gamers to familiar characters providing the perfect blend of nostalgia challenge. We’ve also seen games used as a means to stay social in a time of social distancing. There’s no finer example of this than Animal Crossing: New Horizons on the Switch. A game that seems to be single handedly boosting moods and improving mental health all over the world. Through the game’s interface, friends can interact, visit one another’s islands and exchange gifts. The adorable and wholesome game has seen casual and seasoned players alike find comfort and solace. Some forward thinking parents are even using video games as an educational tool, supplementing their kids’ learning outside of school.
At a time when many of us have been furloughed, are struggling to stay productive and motivated when working from home or have lost work, clients or income altogether, video games can also represent something else. A potential revenue opportunity. All over the world, enterprising gamers are using this opportunity to launch their streaming careers and hopefully grow their followings and potentially turn their passion into profit.
If you want to be one of the successful ones, you need to prepare yourself for the realities of streaming.
Wanna be a streamer? It’s time to get serious!
If you’re thinking of becoming a streamer, you face enormous competition. Especially with much of the global workforce unable to go about their work. If you’re serious about getting ahead of the competition, you need to take the business of streaming seriously. You need to treat it as a business.
Being a streamer is about much more than getting paid to play video games. Like any business there are some parts which are fun, rewarding and satisfying… as well as some which are tedious, repetitive, boring and soul crushing. If you expect to be able to enjoy the former, you need to show that you can handle the latter.
This will separate you from the chancers and wannabes who will give up as soon as streaming starts to feel like work.
You need to define your parameters for success and set clear goals
First off, everybody wants to be a successful streamer. But far fewer prospective streamers can tell you exactly what success looks like for them. Goal setting and visualisation are essential tools for any business strategy. And without clear goals it’s really hard to track your progress and stay motivated. If your motivation starts to dovetail, you could find yourself in the 60% of would be streamers who give up after 2 streams.
Your goals will inform your ongoing strategy (which is hopefully more elaborate than “Play games. Get rich!”. Like any entrepreneur, you’ll need to set long and short term goals. These might include;
- Becoming a Twitch partner within a year.
- Gain 10,000 Instagram followers.
- Collaborate with 5 established streamers.
- Get an income (whatever size) from streaming within 6 months.
Whatever goals you set, ensure that they are SMART. This is a common business terminology, The acronym means ensuring that your goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound.
Sure, sitting down with a pen and paper and mapping these out won’t be the most thrilling part of your streaming career… but it might just be the most important.
You’ve got to be prepared to do the admin work
Streaming is just like any business in many respects. One of which is that it requires you to do some admin and paperwork (even if there’s no actual paper). You’ll need to familiarise yourself with the kinds of contracts that most streamers are beholden to and understand your commitment to partners and sponsors. You’ll need to learn how to fill out your self assessment to HMRC. You’ll need to pick up some rudimentary bookkeeping as you scan and save your receipts for tax deductible expenses. You’ll also likely benefit from using documents technology to use and amend business document templates. So you can save time and effort spent on admin and free up more time to meet your goals.
You need to commit your strategy to writing. For every goal you’ve set, create a list of activities you need to carry out to achieve it. Each of these will take you one step closer to your dream.
You need to log things you’ve tried out to engage with your audience, and what tangible results they’ve yielded. Don’t assume that you can store all this data in your head. Commit it to writing in a notebook or Google doc.
Again, this might not be the most fun part of streaming, and it’s certainly not a part that successful streamers share with their audiences. But it’s the admin work that will separate the pros from the also-rans.
You need to carry out market research and give your audience more of what they want to see
Market research is a massively important undertaking for business. And one that companies of all shapes and sizes channel a great deal of time, effort and resources into. Streaming isn’t just about you. It’s about your audience. If you’re not giving them what they want, you can’t expect to keep them. Success in streaming depends on your ability to build a community around your online persona. However, you can’t afford to assume that they’ll come to you. You need to take steps to engage them and meet their needs proactively.
One of the most important qualities for any streamer is consistency. Nobody wants to follow a streamer who sporadically posts content when they feel like it. They want to be able to engage with you regularly. Part of the grind is maintaining a consistent streaming schedule while also engaging with your followers (and prospective followers) on social platforms. This is easier to do if you cater to a specific niche like FPSs or JRPGs. The more passionate you are about said niche, the more likely you’ll be to provide tailored and relevant content for them, delivering a satisfying experience every time they log in to Twitch, Hitbox, YouTube etc.
Look closely at who’s following you. What are they posting about on social platforms? What characters, series and franchises are they passionate about? What can you provide for them that they wouldn’t be able to get from other streamers? Speaking of whom…
You need to carry out competitor analysis and identify opportunities
Finally… you’re not streaming in a vacuum. Whatever niche you’ve chosen to call your own, there will be other streamers vying for the attention of your followers. The moment that another stream becomes more relevant or entertaining for them, you can expect to lose them. Maybe not straight away, but they may engage less and less with your online persona. And if your audience dwindles, partners and sponsors will be less likely to see your value proposition.
Take a look at other streamers’ content. What makes them engaging and attractive to audiences? What can you incorporate in your own strategy while still being true to your brand? What opportunities do their activities represent? For instance, when Ninja moved from Twitch to Mixer it was a strategic move to reach a wider audience. Keeping an eye on the competition allows you to be a lot more proactive, allowing you to preempt trends and come out on top.