Apr 21 2015 - 12:39 pm

How exactly do Twitch streamers make a living? Destiny breaks it down

Your average news story about streaming site Twitch usually begins with a statement that's meant to shock readers: You can make a living playing video games
Jay Egger
Dot Esports

Your average news story about streaming site Twitch usually begins with a statement that's meant to shock readers: You can make a living playing video games

But this isn't really news to anyone who's followed the platform over the past four years. Twitch is now the No. 4 highest trafficking site on the Internet during peak hours, putting it right behind Netflix, Google, and Apple. If you’re sleeping on the effect that gaming has on the Internet, think about how the second youngest company (Netflix) on that list was founded 14 years before Twitch existed.

Yes, you can make playing full-time video games a full-time job. But what's less known are the details: How much can you make? And how exactly do you make it?

I spoke to one of the more successful streamers on Twitch, Steven Bonnell (often referred to by his Twitch name Destiny) to break down how a career in streaming works.


Twitch publicly details how its users can monetize their streams, though it doesn’t go into specifics on the average amount of money flying into bank accounts. Bonnell has an advantage over the average, casual streamer on Twitch—he’s a partner.

To become a partner, Twitch requires that your average viewership be above 500 and that you stream at least three times a week. New users coming from sites like YouTube should apply only if they have over 15,000 views per video and over 100,000 subscribers. The advantages of being a partner? First, you can add a broadcast delay, which makes it possible to stream a tournament without having cheaters on the other end updating players with what the other team is doing. Another benefit is the more applicable here: You can get subscribers. Partners charge $5 monthly to allow for private chats, emoticons, and whatever else the streamer can come up with.

Twitch doesn't go into specifics on its website. How much money could be made for $5 subscriptions? How much of that money does Twitch pocket? What are the rates on ads, especially with a tech-savvy audience that mostly has AdBlock installed. Bonnell, a mega-popular streamer known for his skill in StarCraft, broke down how he makes money streaming, looking at every single revenue stream. He has 62,071,582 total views at the time of publication.

Bonnell's income stream is different than many other streamers. He has his own website where he has his own subscribers at various levels, which differs from the standard $4.99 subscription cost that Twitch allows for streamers. This shows how Twitch can be used as simply a piece of the income puzzle—a very important piece, of course, and oftentimes the first.

“I make probably less than $1,000 a month off of Twitch, streaming around 200-250 hours a month, with an average of maybe 2,500 concurrent viewers,” said Bonnell. “That's just ad revenue.”

Two things are worth noticing here. First, Bonnell works roughly 60 hours a week, 20 hours more than your average, full-time employee. He wouldn’t have time to even think about another job. Another thing worth pointing out is how low his ad money is. I asked him if he thinks that users using AdBlock effect this number.

“It's entirely possible, though it's hard to say 100 percent that AdBlock causes the low numbers,” said Bonnell. “My estimates and personal polling have shown AdBlock numbers in the Twitch community to be around 75 to 80 percent.”

But there's another important source of revenue on Twitch. Bonnell makes the majority of his money from his Twitch subscribers, and he says the split with Twitch is $3/$2. He said he couldn’t get an exact count, but probably makes around $5,000 a month solely from this source. That total is then boosted, because he also has subscribers to his website, and for those he naturally doesn't need to the typical $3/$2 split back to Twitch from those subscribing from his website.

Instead, he takes about 95 percent of the money, while the rest goes to Paypal or whatever monetary service he is using at the moment. He has four subscription levels that range from $5 to $40 a month. His subscribers get access to chat during subscriber screenings, custom emoticons and the joy of supporting someone who puts in 6 to 10 hours of streaming daily.

Bonnell also gets money from donations—an even bigger source of money for some. He recently started a new Twitch account based on a tournament he hosts, so he told me that naturally the donations will be bigger during the month we talked, in which he made $6,000. He told me that he typically makes about $1,500 a month from donations.

Finally, he has several other small revenue streamers that increase his yearly income. These are: AdSense from his website (varies), YouTube ($2,000 yearly), sponsorships (varies) and Amazon and other affiliate marketing programs (about $1,000 a month). We added his yearly income from last year up to land right around $100,000. This number will only go up if he continues to put out content and bring in new viewers.

You can get a rough estimate of how much other top Twitch streamers make. Take Lirik, who has nearly 900,000 followers. I set up a Twitch chat user account called “twitchnotify” that allowed me to see the amount of people who are subscribing to an account. By looking through the logs, I saw all of Lirik’s subscribers for March. He had around 6,000 subscribers. By adding up the numbers and applying the $3/$2 split from Twitch, we see that Lirik would be making $18,000 a month solely from subscribers. That adds up to $216,000 a year—which is, remember, just an estimate on my part. But keep it mind Lirik also gets plenty of money from advertising, donations and sponsorships. Lirik did not respond to a request for comment on this story, so we weren't able to confirm these estimates.


So yes, you can make a living (and a pretty good financial one) through a stream on Twitch. If there’s any lesson from Bonnel, however, it's that this isn’t easy. It requires an immense amount of time and dedication that it wouldn’t fit the lifestyle of a casual gamer. It wouldn’t be possible for Bonnell or Lirik to make a living off streaming by playing only two hours a day or casually managing their account. They make it a part of their lives.

“I don't have a work-life balance," Bonnel said. "They're pretty much become inseparable at this point.”

Does he regret making this his job?

“Nah," he says. "I think I'm making more money now than almost any easily attainable 4-year I could get, and the experiences in treading new waters and everything and getting to travel all over the world have been amazing.”

Photo via 401(K) 2013/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0) | Remix by Fernando Alfonso III

Today - 5:28 pm

Combo Breaker announcement may imply the end of auto-qualifiers for Capcom Pro Tour

Capcom may be trying to simplify its 2017 Pro Tour.
Steve Jurek
Dot Esports
Image via Capcom

A big change is coming to the 2017 Capcom Pro Tour, but yesterday's announcement may have hinted at an even larger change—a possible end to players winning automatic qualification into the Capcom Cup through Premier events.

The Street Fighter V tournament at Combo Breaker is being upgraded to a Premier event for the 2017 Pro Tour, Capcom announced via Twitter. The event, which will take place in the Chicago area over Memorial Day weekend, served as a Ranking event in 2015 and 2016. Its spiritual predecessor, the Ultimate Fighting Game Tournament, filled the same role in 2014.

Premier events award more Capcom Pro Tour points to top performers compared to Ranking events. A yet-to-be-announced number of the season's top points earners will earn a spot in the Capcom Cup, the season's championship event. Premier events also offer a Capcom-provided pot bonus. The figure has not yet been confirmed by Capcom, but it is believed to be $15,000.

In previous years, a player who won a Premier event received an automatic berth in that season's Capcom Cup. Thursday's announcement, however, may have implied that this is no longer the case.

An update on Combo Breaker's website stated that placing well at the event "will earn you valuable ranking points that put you well on your way to qualifying for the Capcom Cup!"

Notably, the statement makes no mention of an automatic berth into the Capcom Cup, something that every Premier event winner has been awarded since the Pro Tour's founding in 2014.

The statement does not necessarily confirm that auto-qualification into the Capcom Cup has been eliminated. It does, however, fall in line with statements made by Capcom esports director Neidel Crisan. In conversations with both Yahoo! Esports and EventHubs late last year, Crisan mentioned the possibility of eliminating auto-qualification berths in order to simplify the qualifying process.

A player had three ways to qualify for the Capcom Cup in 2016; winning a Premier event, placing high in the global Pro Tour points standings, or placing high in each region's Pro Tour points standings. The system confused fans, commentators, and players alike.

We may not know how qualification for the Capcom Cup will work in 2017, but we do know that the tour itself will look a bit different than it has in previous years.

Combo Breaker will presumably fill a gap left by Stunfest, a French gaming convention that that served as a Premier event on the Pro Tour in each of the last two years. Organizers of that event announced a "pause" for the convention late last year with plans to return in 2018.

The tour will also be without Cannes Winter Clash, the other French event that was part of the 2016 tour. Organizers of that event, which will take place during the last weekend in February, announced the change last week in a Reddit post. The event had served as the Pro Tour's season opener in both 2015 and 2016.

"Obviously with Cannes and Stunfest out there will need to be at least one French replacement event," Samad "Damascus" Abdessadki, a competitor and commentator who is involved in the organization of the Cannes Winter Clash, told Dot Esports. "[Capcom] can't leave France out of [the Capcom Pro Tour] when it's arguably the biggest community in Europe - and maybe [the] strongest."

France is the only European country that has sent two players to the Capcom Cup in each of the last two years. It is also home to Olivier "Luffy" Hay, the only player from outside of Asia to win a Street Fighter IV Evo title.

One event that will return is Final Round. On Wednesday, Capcom announced that Final Round will serve as the first Premier event of the season for the fourth straight year. That event, now in its 20th year, will take place in Atlanta during the second weekend of March.

Capcom will announce full details of the 2017 Pro Tour in late February.

Disclaimer: The author of this article has worked as part of the volunteer staff at Combo Breaker/Ultimate Fighting Game Tournament since 2014.

Jan 19 2017 - 7:32 pm

The future of Echo Fox: Using stats to change the esports recruiting game

Echo Fox has big plans for its teams and the way it recruits players.
Nicole Carpenter
Dot Esports
Echo Fox player Radek | Photo via Twitch Interactive

For Echo Fox, TwitchCon 2016 was a test—a very important one. The H1Z1 Invitational at the streaming giant's annual convention was the final stage of a long process it hopes to use to shake up its esports recruiting process.

It paid off. For months Echo Fox scoured the Twin Galaxies leaderboard to help find exceptional H1Z1 players for its new roster. Twin Galaxies, acquired by Echo Fox CEO Jace Hall last year, is a site that tracks video game world records and great plays. That new roster was then to compete in the H1Z1 Invitational, a test of sorts to see if the recruiting process worked. And it did. Echo Fox’s Czech player Radek Pozler took first in the tournament’s first match, earning more than $40,000 in prize money. Clement "JerkChicken" Graham took fourth place for Echo Fox, earning more than $13,000, in match one as well. Not bad for Echo Fox’s first move into H1Z1.

Its success convinced the organization the Twin Galaxies model of recruiting actually worked. Now Echo Fox has a whole new way to scout potential players.

“There’s a certain amount of vindication that exists because of the process we used to pull our team together,” Hall told Dot Esports. “You can, like the movie Moneyball, statistically build a team, draft, and then have results.” Those results aren’t limited just to H1Z1, either. “I think we’re on to something that could potentially change not only H1Z1, but everything,” Hall added. After all, it gave Echo Fox its first official win—its first championship.

“It’s nice to actually hold the trophy,” Echo Fox owner Rick Fox added.

Photo via Daybreak Games

Using the organization’s unconventional Twin Galaxies model, Echo Fox expects to win more. The process operates similarly to the NFL’s scouting combine, where player skill is determined by testing measurable skills, like the 40 yard dash and bench press exercises. Because these are video games, Twin Galaxies doesn’t measure player’s physical prowess, but instead tracks statistics of player scores. Though it won’t guarantee a team that actually works together, it does ensure a minimum skill criteria for each player, Hall said.

“That’s a big difference than a group of friends that happen to find each other, they get ‘good,’ and then they play in some tournament and they beat other groups of friends that found each other,” he said. “That’s the equivalent of a group of friends finding each other and playing football and then they beat the other group.”

It’s just not an accurate way to measure skill. But analyzing statistics is—and Echo Fox expects the process to work outside of H1Z1. Previously, scouting for Echo Fox meant picking and choosing from the best of the best (who has the most followers) on a streaming service like Twitch. Word of mouth, too, only went so far. Scientific analysis changes this.

“Now that we’ve discovered some science, there’s a whole bunch of thinking now that can take place because if you’re not a personality with a big Twitch following, how do we find you?” Hall said. “I think we’ve started a little shift in esports.”

Echo Fox hasn’t announced exactly what games they’ll use the Twin Galaxies model of scouting for in the future, just that it definitely will use it. “In other cases, we may acquire a team that we think is good and then create a combine around the game itself and start to take in applications and start drafting,” Hall said. “Then [we’ll] reshape the team over time on the basis of what we see coming in there.”

Since TwitchCon 2016, Echo Fox has expanded into new titles, like Gears of War, but more investment is on the horizon. Picking up a fifth and final H1Z1 player is part of that plan. “Technically, we almost have a five-man H1Z1 team,” Hall said. “H1Z1 has fives built into it, there’s team play.”

The survival massively multiplayer game has competitive modes for individual players, groups of two, and teams of five. With four on the Echo Fox H1Z1 team so far, a fifth is inevitable, Hall said. But right now, there just aren’t many major tournaments for the game, but that could change. H1Z1 developer Daybreak has plans for more, though it hasn’t specified what.

Fox’s traditional sports influence is apparent when considering the way he and Hall are looking to scout players for their esports organization. It worked for Echo Fox in the H1Z1 Invitational. Will it work in other titles? If it can, it could esports recruiting forever.

Image source: Daybreak Games | Additional reporting by Saira Mueller