This millennial is making $560K a month playing a video game on Twitch — here’s how

Tyler "Ninja" Blevins puts Fortnite for Android to the test on the new Samsung Galaxy Note9 at Samsung's launch event on August 9, 2018 in New York City. Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Samsung

The online video streaming service Twitch has not only turned into one of the world’s most popular places to watch and broadcast games, but also a place where users can make millions of dollars.

That’s true for at least for one particular video game streamer — 26-year-old Tyler Blevins, well-known for his online alias Ninja.

Launched in 2011, Twitch (owned by Amazon) is a platform that lets you watch other people play video games, as well as broadcast your own to the world. It boasts about 100 million monthly viewers a month, with gamers playing eSports tournaments, tuning into gaming conventions like Comic-Con and listening to podcasts and music.

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More than 10 million people have subscribed to Blevins’ channel in order to watch him play a popular game, Fortnite.  In March, he pulled in more than 600,000 viewers in one streaming session while playing the video game with rapper Drake.

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The gamer told Forbes, that his monthly income is generally about 3.5 times his subscription count, which puts him at $560,000. That’s not taking ads, donations and his revenue from other sites, like Youtube, into account.

According to Polygon, Blevins started in the professional gaming industry, also known as eSports, in 2009 by participating in Halo competitions. He left eSports last year to concentrate on a full-time streaming career — which involved him broadcasting himself playing Fortnite and providing a running commentary to his subscribers.

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Blevins isn’t the only gamer making huge money from the platform.

Twitch has about 14,000 high-profile streamers, or elite gamers, who generated US$60 million in 2014 through ads and subscriptions, according to CNBC.

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However, that number could be an overestimation.

“Twitch has some 150 million people who watch, and of those two million people who stream themselves, only 3,000 or 4,000 make a full-time living playing it,” Mark R. Johnson, a postdoctoral fellow in the department of political science at the University of Alberta said.

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This amounts to 0.1 per cent of streamers who can make a living off it, he said.

Johnson, who also studies gaming and Twitch, said if you are one of the gamers who want to play full time on Twitch and make a living, the competition is fierce.

“It’s very difficult to make a living off of this. A large part of this ‘make it and not make it’ is time. You need to play about eight to 10 hours a day, seven days a week. They have to find time to do this on top of their full-time job too,” Johnson said.

On top of that, he said the gamers who have “made it” on Twitch, were already “big names” and had a following  (on YouTube or Reddit) before joining the streaming platform.

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Successful live streamers work around the clock, playing games, advertising on multiple social media platforms and trying to build their fan base.

Johnson said a lot of Twitch players talk about how their “lives have been damaged” by streaming, such as having to give up a pet, having a boyfriend or girlfriend leave them and gaining weight because of a sedentary lifestyle. But the trade-off seems to still be worth it.

“Streamers can share the downsides, but they still love it and say it’s the best job they ever had and would not change a thing,” he said.

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Why Twitch’s popularity continues to grow

Twitch has become so popular, especially in competitive gaming, that Syracuse University in New York launched an eSports media course for the fall 2018 semester.

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The university’s Newhouse School of Public Communications developed a course called Esports and Media designed to explore the “historical roots of competitive video games to the current multi-billion-dollar industry.” Syracuse University is even collaborating with Twitch to help teach the course.

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“With the growing interest in and popularity of competitive gaming — not just in terms of participation, but also broadcasting and marketing — we made it a priority to offer our students a holistic look at esports and media,” Newhouse Sports Media Center director Olivia Stomski said in a statement.

“The world of esports is expanding at an astonishing rate, as are the number of careers associated with the industry,” she said.

Johnson said the reason Twitch is so popular is that it creates a sense of community and belonging.

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“Streamers are very skilled and they know you and you know them, and you watch them play games like you would with a friend,” he said.

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The platform is “cleverly built” to keep people engaged — through subscriber icons that mark them, rewards for long-term viewers and Twitch’s link with Amazon, which makes it easy to pay, he added.

“The platform itself is impressively ‘sticky’ when it comes to keeping people there once they’ve gone on once.”

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