So you’ve finished top of the scoreboard in your last match and you’ve just been promoted to master tier. Have you ever thought about becoming a professional gamer? Maybe you think there’s not enough money to be made or only the really good players make it. Well, you’d be surprised. So how exactly can you become a professional gamer?
The Definition of a Professional Gamer
You may think this is a trick question but it actually is really not. What exactly is a professional gamer? A pro gamer is a full-time competitive player who is paid to play video games. It’s almost like a career in the gaming field. Most professional players are normally paid by their teams or sponsors to compete in the biggest esports tournaments around the world. Many of these tournaments offer huge cash rewards for the winners and can make up the bigger part of a seasoned gamer's earnings.
Gamer or Streamer?
Ever since online gaming has become popular, there have been methods to showcase skills and talent. Originally, players were uploading a collage of their best plays to their YouTube channels, as it was the only website back then that attracted the majority of gameplay viewers. Many gamers still do that nowadays, but there’s a much bigger and better website for showcasing your gaming skills - Twitch.tv.
Twitch.tv and Mixer.tv are online streaming platforms that allow players to stream real-time gameplay to an audience all over the world. Instead of just watching the best bits from an edited video, people can now watch the full, raw, unedited gaming action. The transition from YouTube to Twitch and Mixer has been seen as a good thing and has done wonders for many gamers' earnings.
Not only does it allow audiences to interact live with the player, but also allows for contributions to the stream and support the streamers via live donations.
Now there is a slight difference between a gamer and streamer. A gamer is normally a professional player that is paid by a company or sponsor to play games for a living. Whereas a streamer is someone who streams online content and mainly makes their money from donations, adverts, and affiliate income. Although a streamer, in general, doesn’t have to stream specifically gaming content, the majority do it. In 2019 this has been the most popular way to be involved in the gaming space and people love watching high skilled gamer's streams.
How Do Streamers Make Money?
Unlike professional gamers, streamers provide their audience with live content in return for subscribes, donations, affiliate schemes, and ad revenue. For example on the Twitch.tv platform these are the 4 main ways a streamer can make money.
Twitch.tv gives viewers a chance to subscribe to their favorite streaming channel for $4.99. The subscription unlocks a lot of special features including new emoticons in the chat room, a special subscription badge and even the chance to have a shout out from the streamer themselves.
On the default split, 50% of this goes the streamer for providing the content and the rest goes to Twitch, sounds pretty fair right? It is rumored that bigger streamers with a large number of followers and viewers can negotiate higher split deals with 60% to 70% in their favor.
The amount of subscribers a streamer can get varies a lot depending on the content they make. If they’re the biggest streamer for a certain game category then the chances are they could be getting $500 or more a day. The schedule of the streamer also affects subscribe rates. If a streamer is only streaming once or twice a week for a few hours then they’re less likely to receive subscribes. Compare this to someone who treats it like a career or job and streams 6+ hours a day every day they’re obviously going to get more subscribers.
The second way streamers earn money is via donations. A viewer simply donates a given amount of money anywhere from $1 to $1000+ and the streamer receives it directly. The donating party receives no special emoticons or privileges, just the satisfaction that they’re supporting the streamer.
Many streamers set themselves daily goals on how much they are aiming to get every day, this can range from $10 to $100 as most people like to have realistic goals. The largest recorded donation seen on Twitch.tv is currently $57,000 USD which was donated by the mysterious user Amhai to Sodapoppin, who is famous for having an awesome humorous attitude in his "World Of Warcraft" streams*. As you can imagine that’s a lot of money and can easily pay for the next few months to a year of living expenses for the streamer.
Since streams attract a very specific demographic this can be a goldmine for businesses looking to sell their products. Many streamers use this to their advantage to promote affiliate products. It is common for streamers to put affiliate links and banners in their channel description for viewers to use.
Many people know these are affiliate links and will still use them as they are supporting the streamer and it doesn’t cost them any more money. If anything, sometimes the stream has special discount codes that actually reduce the cost of the item, so it’s a win-win for everyone. The viewers get a discount on the item, the streamer makes a commission and the business sells their product.
For every sale, the streamer gets a commission ranging from 3 – 10% for physical products such as keyboards, mouse mats, t-shirts and anywhere from 10 – 50% for digital products such as eBooks, game codes, etc.
Another form of ad revenue is paid revenue from sponsors or other businesses. Many companies will offer big-name streamers deals to help promote their website or product on their stream. This can be mentioned on the website of the streamer, in their stream, or having a banner and a link in the gamer's stream description.
Another major part of ad revenue is ad videos on Twitch. While streaming, the gamer has the option to display a short ad, the first moment someone joins the stream, anywhere from 30 to 60 seconds long. This is also good when the streamer needs a quick break but doesn’t want to leave a blank screen for the viewers. For every advertisement that shows on the stream, the player will receive a CPM also known as a cost per 1000 views. This can range anywhere between $2 – $3 dollars per 1000 views, although the actual figure varies from streamer to streamer.
Some of the biggest streams on Twitch.tv regularly have over 30,000 viewers at any given moment. Showing an advert to them would, in theory, generate $60 – $90 each time, but due to ad block being a common thing on the internet this reduces many of the potential views and therefore reduces revenue for the streamer. It’s fairly common for streamers to regularly show ads ranging from 3 to 6 times over a 6-hour streaming session. It may not sound like a lot but these ad revenues can add up over time.
If you’re not too bothered about making money and want to compete in a competitive gaming team then streaming can also help you achieve this. Streams can provide a platform for you to showcase your skill to the world and attract attention.
If you’re a really good gamer but you’re hiding away in the shadows how is anyone going to scout you? Getting yourself noticed is an important step if you want to make it like a pro. Not only do you need to build a fan base of loyal fans but you also need to show off and get noticed by scouts.
Many high-level streamers have gone on to join professional gaming teams all because they used streaming as a way to get spotted.
The Master Plan: How to Become a Pro Gamer
So now we’ve covered some important basics it’s time to break it down step by step on how to become a professional gamer.
Decide Your Game and Goals
Gaming is a general term and if you want to become a pro gamer then you’ll need to pick a specific game to play. Whether it’s League of Legends, Dota 2, Overwatch or something entirely different there is a few important things to consider first.
The first most obvious one is which game are you good at and which do you enjoy? Choosing a game you enjoy is a good option as you are less likely to get bored with it. If you’re good at the game then that’s also a bonus. If not, then you could always practice!
The second thing you’ll need to decide on is if you want to become a competitive gamer that is part of a team and travels around the world competing in gaming tournaments or a professional streamer. Being a competitive gamer is very demanding and involves lots of hours of practice. If you want to win the big bucks then this is the way to go, the grand prize at the League of Legends, World’s series is $1m shared between the whole team. Doing some quick maths this would be around $200k per player unless you included subs and managers then it would be slightly lower. Another highly popular game is Dota 2 and currently has the record for the highest eSports prize with the winning team receiving $6.6 million between them.
Now, these prizes might sound really good but the bad news is the chances of you winning them are very low. The good news is that on the other hand, you don’t need to be a competitive pro gamer to earn that amount of money.
If you’d rather make lots of money instead of having your name written in the gaming history books, then streaming is probably the way to go. There are hundreds of examples of full-time streamers that have made a successful career on Twitch.tv. In fact, many of them actually earn more than competitive pro gamers.
Practice Makes Perfect
Regardless of whether you decide you want to be a competitive gamer or a streamer you need to constantly practice, practice, practice. If you’re a competitive gamer then you’ll constantly be battling against the best gamers in the world and you need to make sure your skill level is up to scratch.
On the other hand, if you’re a streamer then people will only watch high ranked players. If you’re not up to scratch then your viewing figures will suffer and you’ll lose subscribers, donations and ad revenue. After all, nobody wants to watch a Bronze 5 player!
Practicing makes all these problems go away. Whether it’s researching game strategies, practicing CS or learning some new champions, every bit of practice will make you a better player. A good tip if you want to improve your game is to watch other professional streamers. Many competitive pro gamers have Twitch.tv streams as part of their contracts with their team. This means you can watch world-class competitive players practice and play games online. This is great for picking up new tips and tricks for your chosen game.
No matter if you want to be a pro-competitive gamer or a streamer you should definitely start a stream. Using Twitch.tv as a platform to showcase your skills and talent is a great way to advertise yourself to the world.
In addition to this, making a YouTube channel is also a good idea as it gives you a place to store all your videos such as your best plays. You can also gain ad revenue from the YouTube ad share program. So not only is it a great place to store videos but could also bring you in a little extra money.
Once you have your stream and YouTube channel set up, it’s time to attract an audience to your content. Getting views is the most important thing in building a social media following. Making sure you have fan pages on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as it’s a great way to get visitors to your stream. Then you will learn to keep and grow your streaming audience.
If you are seeking a place in a competitive team, then reaching out to current pro teams for updates is useful. They’ll keep you informed if they’re looking for new members for their team, or whether they're conducting tryouts.
If you’re looking for a team then starting off in a not so well-known team is fine, as it’s unlikely you’re going to jump straight into TSM or Fanatic after no professional experience. Just keep at it no matter how bad the team is and if you become a star player you could easily be scouted out by a better team.
Attend Local Gaming Events
This final step is more aimed more towards people looking to join a competitive team. Playing with other players online can be great, but playing them face to face in front of a crowd is what you’ll need to get used too.
To get this experience you’ll have to start attending every local gaming event in your area. This will help you build confidence when playing in front of a crowd as well as getting used to the structure, rules, and competitors of the tournaments.
If you regularly attend gaming events you’ll probably become friends and be in contact with a lot of players. This is great as it will help you build important relations that could end up getting you a place in a competitive team. If all else fails you could always look at making your own team if you can find enough team members to do so.