For a lot of people out there, getting paid for playing video games sounds like an impossible dream, but for a small group of around a dozen Maltese people, this is a challenge worth accepting.
Sites like YouTube and Twitch have over the last couple of years hosted people from all over the world steaming themselves playing video games, and in the case of gamers like PewDiePie (who is currently the most subscribed-to person on YouTube with over 53 million followers), the dream of being able to live off of video games has not only become a reality, but has recently taken a turn into the insanely lucrative.
Over these last couple of years, tens of millions of gamers looking to make a living from streaming have moved to Twitch, an online video broadcasting platform that promises to put gamers first. As it stands, the site is now the fourth highest trafficking site on the Internet during peaking hours, right after Netflix, Google and Apple. With nearly 10 million daily active users and mechanisms put in place for viewers to donate money, Twitch has become a hub for people all over the world who come to stream, view, interact with each other, and try to make a living out of video games. The potential income kicks off when a successful Twitch user who amasses enough followers and constant videos gets an offer to become a Twitch Partner, whereby a subscriber button will directly translate to money. And with a monthly income of $4.99 per subscriber, some of the most popular Twitch streamers easily earn a bare minimum of $200,000 per year!
While any aspiring Maltese gamer might think it’s absolutely impossible for them to make it big due to just how small our island is, the great thing about the internet is that geography rarely plays any part in these matters. Maltese streamer Neville “Neviilz” Caruana, for example, started off back in May 2014, and has since then gathered over 55,000 followers. “The main challenge that I had was probably people around me not believing in this passion of mine,” Neville admitted. “I never really wanted a ‘normal nine to five job’ and I have an extreme passion for gaming, so streaming seemed to be the best option.” And Neville’s time and effort seem to have properly paid off, with this year marking his second anniversary since he was made Twitch Partner. In September 2015, Neville was donated $4,200 on a live stream from a viewer who commented “congratz on 10k subs”.
Of course, for every one person making it big time, there are at least 10 others who are still struggling to gather a hefty enough number of followers, but if Neviilz’s story is anything to go by, resilience and determination are key.
Currently standing at 267 followers, 20-year-old Beppe “captaingecoo” Grech has his eyes set on success, but it’s not the high-life that’s really on his mind. “I am one of about 10 people who stream from Malta, but I raise money for operations that I need personally,” he said. “I used to work in a kitchen, but I’ve been feeling ill for the past year now, and I had to stop because of the pain.” For Beppe, it’s been constant medical appointments, meetings with doctors and trips to different hospitals, and making a living from streaming is not just a dream job, but a necessity that’s come out of his health issue. “Not a lot of people watch and support the Maltese gaming community, and of course there’s the general online hate and cyber bullying that you have to face on a daily basis. But that doesn’t bother me; I believe hate brings views…” Beppe trails off. To add insult to injury, streaming is not a matter of switching on a camera and playing a couple of games. “You need good equipment to be able to offer quality videos. I spent at least €3,000 on my setup. And it’s not just the money. Streaming for more than five hours every day can get very stressful and tiring.” But when everything is said and done, being able to do what you love and getting recognized for it is a thoroughly rewarding experience.
Beppe Grech, and where the magic happens.
The most important thing seems to be to keep one foot firmly on the realistic side of matters, and not treat this as a ridiculously easy endeavour with instant gratification. “I’ve been streaming for the past three months, and since then I’ve made €100 from donations. I used all that money to improve the viewers’ experience by improving the quality of my sound and video, and I gave away other donation money on streams as games,” Beppe said. “Honestly it’s about building the community.”
“Don’t go into streaming with the mindset of making money,” Neville added. “Although you have to treat it like a job to make it viable, keep in mind that only 1% of streamers can viably do it on a full-time basis.”