Back in the summer of 2014, I faced a slight dilemma: I had many streamers that I loved to watch but none of them streamed during the majority of the time that I was online. While I occasionally enjoyed watching past broadcasts, I found that it wasn’t quite as alluring as watching a livestream. Therefore, I was constantly browsing twitch and finding new streamers to watch. There were so many different streamers with such a wide variety of personalities that I started to consider whether I had anything to contribute to this growing community as a streamer instead of simply a viewer. With a quick test on speedtest.net and a download of Open Broadcaster Software (OBS), I launched my first stream.
As expected, I got 0 viewers. Besides sacrificing a few frames to be able to stream at the same time, I realized there was no harm in simply letting my stream run while I play video games. At the time, the alpha version of ArcheAge on the NA servers was dominating my time spent gaming… so essentially all my time. As some of you may know, players interested in participating in that alpha had to pay $150 dollars, so there was a rather large barrier to entry. This meant that for some, the only way for them to experience the game was through watching others stream the game. This ended up working wonders for my stream.
I usually streamed from the hours of 12 AM to 6 AM. There were far less viewers on at this time than during the middle of the day and this meant far fewer streamers. One day, I was lucky enough to get 4 other viewers watching my stream. I found myself interacting with the viewers through the chat as they were fond of asking questions about the game. I hadn’t managed to lose these viewers and subsequently, my view count progressively started to rise. I ended the night with 30 unique viewers and considered it a massive success.
The next day, I decided to stream again. Things were slow for the first hour as I only got a viewer every here and there. Suddenly, however, I saw a message in the chat and recognized the name of its author; it had been a viewer from the night before. I welcomed him back and soon enough, my view count then rose to 4. I checked the Game tab of ArcheAge on twitch and saw that my 4 viewers put my stream as the #6 stream in the ArcheAge section. From 4 viewers, it avalanched once again to 30 viewers. Pushing past my exhaustion, I continued to stream and capped the night at 60 unique viewers. I was both excited and nervous to have been hosting so many people in my relatively new stream. Needless to say, the thrill of streaming had me hooked.
I streamed every night and achieved relatively the same view count each time all the while increasing my follower count. This was all within a week’s period of time. I attributed my short term success to two factors in particular: luck and personal branding. Obviously I wouldn’t have gotten any viewers had it not been for the first few viewers that I luckily got. They provided the starting point for my view count to then have an “avalanche” effect. But as many streamers know, there is a massive difference in getting viewers and keeping viewers. For me, this is where personal branding came in. I kept viewers watching through branding my stream to what I considered to be my strengths as a streamer: knowledge about the game.
I encouraged viewers to ask their questions about the game. I advertised myself as an experienced player who was capable of answering most, if not all questions. I went as far as putting Q&A Stream as the title of my stream every night and giving the personal guarantee to my viewers that I would answer every question they put in the chat. I would do an activity in the game while also answering questions that my viewers had and this is what I believe kept my audience entertained and coming back for more. When I wasn’t streaming, I was continuing to brand myself as a “knowledgable” streamer by hosting Q&A threads on the game’s subreddit.
I continued streaming for a few weeks and I believe my all time highest unique viewer count was somewhere over 110 (Link to my socialblade stats).I quickly had established my name as a streamer in the community and was consistently the top stream for ArcheAge during the hours of my stream. That being said, I was getting heavily burned out on ArcheAge and streaming in general.
The next day, I turned my computer on and had attempted to launch the ArcheAge client as I had done for weeks daily. However, the game would not properly load. Through repairs and reinstallation I had attempted to fix the issue but to no success. I contacted the game’s support team but didn’t get any solutions (thanks Trion). I took this as a sign that it was time to take a break from ArcheAge and simply do what everyone else seemed to be doing and go back to League of Legends.
With my exit from ArcheAge I had also decided to take a break from streaming. A few weeks passed without a single broadcast coming from my channel. It was late into the month of August when I decided to do one more stream before school started back up again and was surprised to see that, although my follower count was roughly the same, I had not gotten any viewers for the entirety of the stream. I wasn’t playing ArcheAge and I wasn’t streaming at the regular times that I used to. Yet, I still expected that I’d get at least a few of my followers to tune back in. I was wrong.
Now I stream rarely. Every now and then one of my followers from my “prime” will watch for a little while but will often not say anything. It’s been quite some time since I’ve reached over a 10 viewer count. This isn’t to say that I have any complaints or regrets; quite the opposite in fact. I enjoyed the ride finding success as a streamer but I also didn’t expect the amount of burnout that came along with it. I ultimately decided that streaming isn’t for me.
While I don’t think I fully understand what things I did right to find success and what things I did wrong to backtrack on that success, here are some key takeaways I’ve learned from my experience:
• Think about yourself as a streamer in the long-term: how long can you maintain your current schedule, do you have the drive to continue streaming for months on end?
• How can you brand your stream to play into your personal strengths in order to differentiate yourself from other streamers?
• What can you do when you are not streaming to advertise and improve your stream while staying on-brand?
• How can you not only attract viewers but motivate them to continue watching?
• Take advantage of games on the rise/in development: if there are barriers to playing but you are able to play, use it to your advantage as a streamer. As the game gains popularity, so too will your stream.
To all you aspiring streamers: I hope you are able to take something away from my story on your way to having what you consider to be a successful stream. When I began streaming, success as a streamer meant having the highest viewcount and follower count possible. But as I engaged more and more with my viewers, I realized it was those interactions that had been the most meaningful. So, best of luck to you all!