Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, March 15, 2023
Video game streaming

I never made the switch from blogging to streaming, in spite of knowing that blogging is a dying art. I know that because as a consumer, I don't follow blogs anymore, I watch streams on YouTube and Twitch. For example recently, I watched at lot of Phantom Brigade streams. Phantom Brigade is a very complex and interesting game, but with a lot of flaws, things that outright don't work, and features that are not explained. Watching somebody else play and comment on his game helps understanding what is going on, which then makes playing the game more fun.

Now Phantom Brigade is not a very fast game. The tutorial to conquer the first province already takes hours, and if you don't know the game very well, the second province can take tens of hours to conquer. So when looking for streams that covered the game beyond that second province, I realized something: A lot of video game streamers keep their stream interesting by frequently switching to the next hot game. Some extremely so, covering a game like Phantom Brigade with a single video that doesn't even get past the tutorial. Most in a moderate way, making a dozen or so videos before moving on to the next game. Finding Phantom Brigade videos with the player beyond level 4 is actually difficult. One streamer I found made the wise decision to not show the early game videos, and start his series of streams at level 4, but then he also just made few videos before moving on.

I mostly watch videos on YouTube, but for Phantom Brigade I also looked at Twitch. So Twitch then reminded me that I was technically still "following" some World of Tanks streamers. Which led me to the other extreme end of the spectrum: Video game streamers that stick to one game forever. World of Tanks released in 2010, and like all "live service games" has seen a decline in its user numbers. It hasn't helped that World of Tanks is Belarusian, with the Russian servers being the largest, while the North American servers and Steam version have tiny player numbers in comparison. So I wonder how that works out for video game streamers that play World of Tanks nearly exclusively. Does that translate to dwindling revenues, and a feeling of being trapped in one game, unable to switch your stream to something else?

So, covering every game only for a limited time and then moving on might well be the better business strategy. But I remain skeptical of the viability of video game streaming as your main source of income. I am sure that it can work for some time, but the internet is fickle, and you might well go out of fashion. And it isn't as if YouTube or Twitch offered pension plans for content creators.

The reason streamers or content creators get stuck on one game is because their viewership tends to tank if they play anything else.

I'm subbed to several content creators on YouTube who are currently trying to branch out from the niche and it's rough. Their main niche videos get thousands of views while their other videos don't even reach 500. This also is detrimental to their main content as the algorithm recommends their channel less due to the poor performing videos.

It's very hard to become a variety content creator once you achieved some form of success in a single game.

And you'd be surprised by how "few" viewers it takes to make an okay living. I sub to several Battletech/Mechwarrior youtubers who only create content for that niche, get about 2k-5k views and that is their full time job. Between consistent videos on YouTube, twitch streams and merch they do alright.
I can't comment on streamers because I don't watch them, however I do watch video game content on YouTube, where I've seen the same thing that @Bigeye described. I've also seen some gamers successfully transition to different games and actually increase their viewership. My takeaways were that those that varied content and didn't lose viewers didn't initially lock themselves into any single game to begin with. Other successful transitions were due to the strength of their persons personality or their ability to communicate.

One that comes to mind is Mtashed on YT. I believe that he initially found his niche with Destiny, transitioned to Destiny 2, and then to Genshin Impact. His channel really exploded with GI and then he did feel trapped due to his success from GI. Last year he was very bored with the game and wanted to branch out but like you mentioned those videos would receive 10% of his GI videos.

I think the key to longevity for the streamers/youtubers is for a large part of the value to be their personalities or abilities. Whether it's a very engaging personality or being very adept at explain complex game mechanics and theories simply or being part of that 1% that can excel at almost any game they put time into. To me that's a big part, however the other big part is to stay abreast of the gaming environment and take advantage of waves of interest to transition to other games. It seems like there needs to be a gradient in coverage (established game, vs new kid on the block) so you keep your current subscribers and build new ones. Of course, they can always create a second channel to expand the content while not diluting their cash cow.

It's a business and like any business you need to invest in the business for its long-term health.

As far as long-term viability in general - that's for the less risk-adverse of us out there. Starting any small business, at least in the US, doesn't guarantee you anything so I'm not sure how or why this job differs.
Luckily for you, I watch video for pop music, but when it comes to blogs I want the text!
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