It’s probably not news to you that some of the top video game influencers and streamers make buckets of money doing what they do – most of them make more in a week than I probably will in my life, to be honest.
But while we’re all too aware that streaming can bring in the big bucks, I wasn’t aware just how big those bucks were until a recent report from the Wall Street Journal, later confirmed by industry insiders to Kotaku, found that some of the top Twitch streamers can make $50,000 (£39,200) an hour streaming new titles.
You won’t be surprised to learn that the brunt of this money comes not from ad revenue or donations, but allegedly from publishers such as EA, Activision, and Ubisoft, who pay big streamers to play their latest releases to their massive audiences of dedicated followers.
As it turns out, a number of insiders who spoke to Kotaku in its follow up to the Wall Street Journal’s piece claimed that £39,200 an hour isn’t even the highest figure they’ve seen. Yikes.
Omeed Dariani, CEO of the Online Performers Group, which manages a number of top streamers, told Kotaku:
We’ve seen offers well over $50K an hour, as well as many six- and seven-figure deals for longer-term engagements. I can’t share specific companies, as the payment terms are usually confidential. We had one offer from a AAA publisher that was $60K (£47,000) per hour for two hours. The broadcaster declined it—and the publisher came back with a ‘blank check’ offer, which was still declined. Bigger audiences (typically anything over 5,000 viewers) tend to be younger and have lower engagement, so you can’t just say something like ‘1 viewer for 1 hour = $1.’ Not all streamers (and their viewers) generate the same results.
Thanks to the rise of Twitch and YouTube, tuning in to watch an affable, friendly personality play a video game live in their bedroom or studio is more popular than ever before. Having a game you’re publishing be the number one trending title on Twitch is massively valuable, and apparently more cost effective than simply running an ad.
Just look at how Apex Legends was promoted, and how insanely well that managed to do. Reports surfaced back in March that Ninja was actually paid an eye-watering $1 million by EA to stream the free to play battle royale, leading some to question just how transparent – and ethical – this relatively new approach to advertising is, especially when it’s not always obvious when a stream has been sponsored.
EA has previously made it clear that all creators it works with must disclose their partnership, noting:
EA requires full disclosure and transparency with every Game Changer, content activation, or paid sponsorship that we are involved with. This is mandatory for every country, language, or influencer that we work with. We do not partner with influencers, agencies, or talent who do not support proper disclosure.
Still, while the majority of streamers do disclose their partnerships in some way, it’s not always as immediately obvious as a straight up advert or sponsored post would be, which will inevitably (and rightly) draw criticism.
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Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.