Video game streaming feels like it’s been around forever, but it really wasn’t until 2014 that the mass streaming we have today kicked off. It was mostly thanks to the PlayStation 4’s Share button, which made streaming video games so easy, even a caveman could do it. Some people had so much fun with it. Some people were really good at it, and they were tech savvy enough to make their streams look unique enough to separate them from the chaff. Just a few short years later, streamers like PewDiePie and DanTDM climbed to the top of YouTube subscribers for their streams.
But then, suddenly, PewDiePie announced he was going to take a break from streaming in 2020 for an indefinite period of time. In his video that announced the break, he claimed that he was “feeling very tired.” It’s easy to dismiss his statement as being whiny or tired of dealing with haters. However, his decision to take a break from a rather lucrative career speaks to the behind-the-scenes truth when it comes to becoming a YouTuber: it’s harder than it looks.
While timing definitely factors into the successes of PewDiePie and several others, as it’s easy to climb to the top when you’re one of the firsts, it’s not easy to stay there. It’s a lot like high school popularity: it’s hard to get to the top of the social ladder, and then it’s harder to stay there. It may seem like this is such an easy gig, because seriously, you just play games, AMIRITE? But what no one sees on YouTube is how hard all of the work is to put together a decent video.
It’s not the underpants gnomes theory; streaming does not always equal big profit, because there is that phase two no one realizes: hard work.
For starters, not everyone has a personality for streaming. I’ve streamed games a few times for work, and I learned after the first stream that this was not my thing. I don’t like talking while playing, and it’s even harder for me to constantly talk, concentrate on what I’m playing, and be upbeat the way streamers are. It’s exhausting to me. When streamers think they can stream and go without constantly trying to entertain an audience, the stream will go nowhere. Even for people who naturally entertain on stage, it’s still hard work to keep it up.
Secondly, if you want to make evergreen content on YouTube or even video episodes, the video has to be edited and edited well. This takes both talent and equipment know-how. Even then, editing video is a lot of work.
Third, there is the constant upkeep with your fanbase. You need to keep them happy to keep them subscribing and bringing in other subscribers. Fans, especially entitled ones, will pile on the pressure to both constantly provide quality content and appease their demands, whether it’s about how one feels about a game or how they feel politically about a situation.
If you’re willing to take on all this work in phase two, then perhaps you will find some YouTube success. Most importantly, however, you should never go into streaming for the dough. It’s easy to spot these streamers, and they fail nearly 100% of the time. Do it because you love it, which will make phase two seem like not much work at all.