How Much Do Twitch Streamers Make in 2020?

The growth of popular streaming website Twitch is no joke. As of 2019, approximately 3.7 million unique streamers broadcast on Twitch every month. Over 1.2 million people are watching streams on Twitch at any given time. And throughout the day, over 15 million viewers tune in to Twitch, spending on average 95 minutes on the site per day. (source)

Some Twitch streamers have managed to capitalize on all of this interest, making it their full-time job to play games and entertain their fans. If you’re wondering how much Twitch streamers can make, and how to become a full-time streamer, we’ll answer those questions and more in this article.

My Friend’s Story of Attempting to Become a Full-Time Twitch Streamer

I have a friend who tried to make it as a Twitch streamer. He had worked at his corporate job for a couple years, making a decent salary, but his true passion was gaming. So he quit his job and tried to make it as a streamer, giving himself one year to do so. If he failed at the end of the year, he’d go back to his job.

Now, a little info on the guy. He’s really smart. Top of the class in college, well-spoken, likable, and friendly.

He also took streaming seriously, sticking to a consistent 4-hour a day schedule (during prime hours), five days a week, for at least 6 months. During the day, he’d also make YouTube videos, pumping out several videos a week.

So he wasn’t your average kid who thought it’d be easy to make a living playing games. No, he took it seriously and treated it like a full-time job. And he was on a clock, so he was fully invested in making it work.

By the end of it all, here were his rough stats:

  • Twitch all-time views: 7,000
  • Twitch donations: $100
  • YouTube subscribers: 500
  • YouTube all-time views: 200,000

Assuming he made $1 per 1,000 views on YouTube, that’s about $200 from YouTube and $100 off Twitch donations. I’m not sure how many Twitch subs he had or what other advertising deals he may have gotten, but let’s say $500 in total.

$500 for 6 months of full-time work. In the end, he decided not to give it the full year he had allocated for himself and went back to the corporate world.

This is the reality that’s often overlooked of those who try make it as a Twitch streamer. It’s easy to look at guys like Ninja who are making millions of dollars playing video games and want to do the same, but you have to remember he’s just one example.

The point of this story isn’t to discourage anyone from attempting to make it as a full-time video game streamer, but merely to point out the other side of the story that’s often ignored.

How to Make Money Off Twitch

Ok, so with that story out the way, let’s get into how people actually make money off Twitch.

In order to make money from Twitch, you need to either be a Twitch Affiliate or Partner. The Affiliate program is the stepping stone towards the Partner program.

Here is the criteria if you want to join the Twitch Affiliate Program:

  • Obtain at least 50 followers
  • Receive at least 3 viewers per stream on average
  • Stream for at least 7 days within the last 30 days
  • Stream for at least 8 hours within the last 30 days

Twitch will automatically invite you to the Affiliate Program once you meet these requirements. Once you’re qualified as a Twitch Affiliate, you can earn money with the subscribe button, Twitch Bits, and game sales.

While the Twitch Affiliate standards are cut and dry, the Twitch Partner requirements are a little more ambiguous. Twitch wants people who they think would be great brand representatives and have a strong, loyal following. They’ll look at the following factors:

  • Average viewership (generally 100+ average viewers)
  • Stream frequency and schedule
  • Your content

Twitch Partners enjoy all the benefits of Affiliates plus more. They can turn on ads on streams to earn additional income, negotiate better subscription rates, improve stream quality, and enjoy various Partner perks at events. The full breakdown of Affiliates vs Partners can be seen in the chart below.

Estimated Income of Popular Twitch Streamers

According to twitchstats.net, the top 10 streamers with the most subs on Twitch are:

  • xqcow – 36k subs
  • moonmoon – 27k subs
  • drdisrespect – 26k subs
  • nickmercs – 25k subs
  • timthetaman – 24k subs
  • castro_1021 – 21k subs
  • lirik – 19k subs
  • summit1g – 18k subs
  • admiralbahroo – 17k subs
  • cohhcarnage – 17k subs

You’ll notice Ninja or Tyler Blevins is notably missing from this list. That’s because on August 1, 2019, Ninja started streaming on Twitch competitor Mixer instead.

How Do Twitch Streamers Make Money?

Twitch streamers can make money in a variety of different ways:

  1. Twitch Subscriptions
  2. Twitch Bits
  3. Sponsorships
  4. Ad Sales
  5. Affiliate Links
  6. Game Sales
  7. Selling Merch
  8. Winning Tournaments
  9. YouTube
  10. Patreon

Let’s explore each of these in more detail.

Twitch Subscriptions

Twitch subscriptions are a monthly recurring fee viewers pay to support their favorite streamers. Subs cost either $4.99, $9.99, or $24.99 per month, which is split 50/50 between Twitch and the streamer (some top streamers have a more favorable payout).

So based on the estimated Twitch stats above, we can conservatively assume that someone like xqcow makes over $1 million off of subscriptions alone (36,000 * 2.5 * 12).

When you consider subscriptions are just one source of revenue for streamers, you begin to realize just how much the top streamers can make.

Twitch Bits

What are Twitch Bits, you might be wondering? Bits are virtual currency that viewers can buy that essentially act as donations. They can be used to Cheer on someone’s channel, which lets you amplify your voice in chat, or be used to buy custom emotes.

Streamers earn one cent for every Bit used on their channel.

Sponsorships

Popular streamers will often be sponsored by one or more brands that want to get their product in front of their viewers. These contracts can vary from anything to a sponsored show to a monthly contract. Sponsorships are usually very lucrative to the streamer.

Ad Sales

Just like on TV or YouTube, you’ll notice ads during shows on Twitch. Part of this ad revenue goes directly to the streamer, paid on a per thousand viewers basis. While this usually doesn’t represent a huge part of a streamer’s income, it does add up pretty quickly if you have a large following.

Affiliate Links

Streamers will usually post links to their gaming setup and equipment they like to use. Every time someone clicks through those links and purchases, the streamer earns a commission. Since computer hardware and office equipment tend to be high-ticket items, this can represent a good chunk of income.

Game Sales

Viewers have the option of buying the game the streamer is playing. When they do so, the streamer gets a commission of 5% of the game price.

Selling Merch

Sometimes streamers will setup a website or use a print-on-demand service that allows them to sell merchandise, like t-shirts, mugs, and hats. Creating products of their own lets them take home a larger portion of the revenue they earn compared to affiliate sales.

Winning Tournaments

Of course, another income source for streamers is to win tournaments for a particular game. Many streamers got their start because they happened to be really good at a game. And with the massive prize pools of popular e-sports titles like Fortnite and Dota, this can represent a large sum of money.

YouTube

Twitch streamers often have YouTube accounts where they can post highlights or other videos, which in return can be monetized from advertisements.

Patreon

Patreon lets people support their favorite content creators by paying them a set amount of money every month. In return, they get special benefits from that creator based on their tier of support.

How Much Do Twitch Streamers Really Make?

Now that we’ve seen the different ways Twitch streamers can make money, how much do Twitch streamers actually make?

In the video below, popular Twitch streamer DisguisedToast revealed the curtain and provided a look into exactly how much he makes. At the time of the video in October 2018, he had just over 800,000 (free) followers on Twitch, 4,000 paying subscribers, and about 700,000 (free) subscribers on YouTube.

DisguisedToast claims he made over $20,000/month just in “base salary” from Twitch, broken down as follows:

  • $14,000/month via Twitch subscriptions
  • $4,000/month via Twitch ads
  • $2,500/month via Twitch donations

Additionally, he said that streamers earn anywhere from $0.01 to $1 per viewer per hour for sponsored streams. For him, who averaged 10,000 viewers, that means $1,000 to $10,000 per hour for a sponsored stream.

And while he didn’t go into too much detail about other income, it’s very likely DisguisedToast and other popular streamers make revenue off of affiliate ads, sponsored tweets/posts, partnership opportunities, and the other avenues mentioned above.

Essentially, the income you earn as a Twitch streamer will be a function of how many viewers you have. Someone like Ninja, who is the most famous streamer in the world, earns over $6 million a year according to his interview with CNBC.

How Much Does an Average Streamer Make?

You might be thinking that’s great and all that Ninja makes $6 million a year, but how much money does the average streamer make?

While it’s impossible to know, as Twitch doesn’t provide any general stats around these figures, we can find some small streamers on reddit who have provided how much income they make streaming.

Tokki88:

After two years I’m making about minimum wage in WA for 40 hours a week. I average 45 people or so with 250-300 regulars every night now. Still running the same schedule but unlike the first year I take a day off every month or so.

Since minimum wage in WA is $12/hr, we can estimate Tokki88 makes about $2,000 a month streaming.

vflowertwitch:

In my case, I get around 100 viewers, have 384 subs (a lot of them gifted, included in that are 63 tier 3 subs, also a lot gifted) and I’m currently able to stream full-time. My total revenue from streaming for 3 months so far is $17224. That’s before taxes and includes donation goals for VR/PC parts.

Griosu:

I am a female streamer with 7k followers, 100 subs and 40 viewers average. I make around 700-1k per month (donations, sub revenue, ads, etc). A friend of mine (male streamer) has maybe 300 followers, 20 viewers on average and earns around 1.5-2k per month.

SaveusAlex:

I went full time streaming 1 year ago after streaming on Twitch actively since 2012. I also balanced a full time job alongside it. Honestly, it wasn’t easy. My life was wake up at 4pm, go to work for 5, get home for 12-1, stream until 7 or 8am and go to sleep for work again. I really wanted Twitch to work out so I worked hard at it. 50-60 hours a week for streaming, networking and learning in addition to my job. Even after accomplishing my goal of going full time and being able to afford my bills it’s still a struggle to find the time to keep up with everything that I do (It’s a minimum of 80-85 hour weeks now).

Hopefully this provides some insight into how much money an average streamer brings in. As with any new venture, don’t expect to be making lots of money immediately. It can often take 6-12 months to grow your following to a point where you can start bringing in any sort of meaningful income. If money is your sole motivator, you’ll likely get frustrated and quit too early.

How to Become Popular On Twitch and Make It as a Streamer

So, let’s say you’ve read all this and are interested in streaming. How exactly do you become a successful Twitch streamer?

Have a following outside of Twitch

One of the best ways to give yourself a headstart on Twitch is if you already have a following on another platform, like YouTube, Instagram, or Facebook.

If Kylie Jenner decided tomorrow she wanted to play video games on Twitch, there’s no doubt she’d have hundreds of thousands of people tuning in to watch, just like that.

Now, obviously you don’t need to be Kylie Jenner or world-famous to succeed on Twitch. But if you already have an audience on another platform, definitely try to leverage that onto Twitch.

Be exceptionally good at a game

People often watch streams to get better at a game themselves. So if you’re exceptionally good at a particular game, that definitely helps your chances of attracting an audience. If you can teach people how to play or explain your actions while you stream, all the better.

Be entertaining

Along with learning from those better than them, people tune in to Twitch to be entertained. If you’re not the best at a game, you can make up for lack of skills with entertainment value. Entertaining can mean a lot of different things. You can try to be funny, have great reactions, tell stories, have a great personality, or something else to keep your viewers engaged.

Be attractive

There’s no doubt that being attractive helps on Twitch, just like it does in every other area of life. So hey, if you’ve got a great visual to look at, you can use that to your advantage.

Stand out from everyone else

Do something no one else is doing. DisguisedToast largely got his rise to fame through finding various exploits in Hearthstone and broadcasting them publicly.

What separates streamers who succeed and those who don’t? 

You can do all of the above and still never become a successful Twitch streamer – why? Let’s take a look at what separates the top streamers from the hobbyists.

They stream consistently. They stick to a consistent streaming schedule and tend to play the same game. It’s much harder to build a following when you’re playing a different game frequently.

They have a long-term approach. Unless you already have a sizable following, you can’t expect to grow a following on Twitch overnight. It takes months and sometimes years of consistent streaming in order to make it on Twitch.

They treat it seriously. The top streamers treat streaming as a business and work at it as if it were their full-time job. It’s fine if you want to stream as a hobby, but you can’t expect to do so and make a full-time living at it.

They know how to monetize. Making money off streaming isn’t an easy as just turning on your webcam and playing a game. You have to know how to effectively monetize your channel, which is a rabbit hole that goes deep.

Luck. Of course, there is always an element of luck and survivorship bias when we look at those who are at the top of anything. Sometimes you’re in the right spot at the right time, like if you stream an unknown game that eventually becomes popular. Or maybe a popular streamer rebroadcasts to your channel. Whatever it is, though, you still have to put in the work for luck to hit.

Conclusion

Hopefully this article has helped you learn how you earn money off Twitch, how much income streamers can make, and some strategies around how to become a successful streamer. If you have any additional comments or questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

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