The camera focuses on two bare feet as a Twitch streamer, who goes by JrocTheGod, destroys boss after boss in Cuphead with just his toes. After a few failed attempts to defeat the evil final boss (plus a few breaks to rest his feet), J-Roc rolls credits on Cuphead while members of his community drop a “gg” in the chat.
“Job or full-time industry, my own well-being comes first,” says J-Roc. Breaks are important to him. Although he has worked hard to cultivate an online community and has been recognized by the Amazon-owned platform as a Twitch Ambassador, J-Roc is one of thousands of dedicated streamers with day jobs.
WIRED’s Will Bedingfield reports on how streamers with small audiences struggle to grow. Even those with a decent following are struggling to make ends meet on the platform. “If your immediate goal is to make a living as a creator, you’re probably setting yourself up for disappointment. Be more realistic,” says Mike Minton, VP of Monetization at Twitch.
“I’m not going to sit here and say, ‘Yeah, it’s easy to become a live streamer and do it full time. Because the data doesn’t support that,” says Minton. This is not a problem unique to Twitch. Only a small group of full-time social media creators earn a living wage in the entire industry.
At TwitchCon in San Diego, the platform’s top earners expressed deep frustration that the company cut the amount some people earn from subscriptions after receiving $100,000 a year. Less popular streamers trying to pursue a career on Twitch encounter even more financial instability. Earlier in 2022, Valkyrae, an influential creator who transitioned from Twitch to YouTube, discouraged a member of her community when asked for growth advice. “Don’t quit your job,” she said. “Streaming as a hobby.”
Far below Amouranth playing just dance and HasanAbi reacting to his live Twitter feed on Twitch, a legion of unnoticed streamers want more discoverability on the platform. “Taller streamers are great, but there are a lot of smaller streamers who are great fun,” says Rose Evergreen, who performed at TwitchCon’s Drag Showcase.
“Twitch just keeps growing,” says Tom Verrilli, Product Manager at Twitch. “So the number of people we have to help surface is also growing exponentially.” The platform exploded at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many streamers don’t stream to anyone at all.
Those who rely on streaming as their primary source of income often suffer from burnout. Sometimes they stop streaming altogether. “I think the most rewarding aspect of streaming isn’t the growth aspect. In particular, it’s about finding people,” says Mary Kish, director of community marketing at Twitch who streams during her free time. Twitch is incentivized to change the community’s view of compensation at the platform’s current pay rates. A person who considers streaming his job can be devastated to get $800 a month from the platform. amateur may be delighted to receive the same amount.
Instead of trying to play all the hot titles on the platform, like Apex Legends or value, several part-time creators successfully connect with like-minded people through distinct shows and particular game choices. “My plan is my plan; it won’t be yours,” says J-Roc.
“Get better as you go. You don’t have to be elite to start with,” he says. As tempting as it might be to recreate a PC battle station used by Twitch superstars , high-end gear is not at all necessary for someone who is a weekend warrior and streams a few times a month.
What if your postman was a V-tuber? Or your teacher broadcast Surgeon Simulator 2 after a long day of school? Fans are the future of Twitch. Instead of incessant group messages from this friend about a DJ set or a yoga class, expect to receive invites (with links attached) to watch their live stream. An interest in video games is not necessary. Your friends can cook a fancy dinner live or complain about their fantasy football draft. They might even drag you into the digital scene.