Notes and tips from a gaming creator.
This story first appeared as three separate posts by GamerZakh. He shared what you need to know before starting a gaming channel before talking about the basic gears and equipment new creators can get on a budget. He ended his series on how you can make money as a gaming creator. This story is a compilation of his insights, plus additional bonus tips and tricks.
A new decade is upon us and we’ve all been watching our favourite video game content creators and streamers. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could be like that, too? Stay at home, play video games, and make a lot of money! That’s definitely the life we want.
It’s easy right? Make a gaming channel, upload some videos or start streaming, and get famous. Why isn’t everyone doing this!? Well, coming from someone who has been through it, I’m here to tell you conclusively what really goes into becoming a ‘successful’ gaming creator and how you can do it too.
There is a lot to talk about and learn when it comes to starting a gaming channel in 2020, but here’s how you can get started right this second:
1. Think of a name for your channel
You might have an idea of what topic you want to cover or you don’t want to commit so hard so early. Naming yourself ‘The Malaysian Starcraft Guy’ is going to box you into Starcraft forever. In all my experience, the name doesn’t actually matter. Think of channels like Day9, TotalBiscuit, and BlueXephos. The names don’t mean anything and they can become huge. Pick a name and go with it.
2. Sign up for an account
Should be simple enough. Maybe your chosen name isn’t available, so think of another one. Then go to the platform of your choice and set up your channel with a profile picture and banner image. Honestly, all the details don’t matter at this point. The main thing is to get started.
3. Make bad videos about what you like
Your first videos are not going to be masterpieces. Even if you have design and video training, gaming platforms are a world unto itself. Here’s the thing though, it’s important to get into the habit of making videos in the first place, so purposefully try to make bad videos. What’s going to happen, your zero subscribers are going to complain? Now is the time to mess around and experiment. If you ever build a successful channel, that’s when things get rigid and difficult to change, so enjoy the freedom and lack of consequence when starting out.
4. Do that for 7 years
“What? 7 YEARS!?”
Becoming a gaming creator in the new decade is overall pretty simple, but making a successful channel where you can make a living doing what you love is going to take hard work and patience. You could get lucky and it takes three years, or it could take even longer than seven years, but you have to keep making videos and trying to get better with each one.
For reference, it took me four years before I could quit my day job and five years before I was earning a ‘proper’ salary. It wasn’t until the seventh year in when things started to be really good and stable for me.
Face the facts
The age of ‘getting in early’ is over
One of the best ways to become successful on any platform is to start early. The age of starting early ended in 2012. After that, everyone realised that gaming was a viable career path and jumped at the chance to become a video game creator. For example, there’s a whopping 37.5 million creator channels on YouTube! This was written at the start of 2020, so if you check Social Blade again today, it’s going to be even more.
Less than 0.5% of YouTube channels have reached 100,000 subscribers
So of those 37.5 million creators on YouTube, how many have ‘made it’? Right now, about 160,000 channels have crossed 100,000 subscribers. Sounds like a lot right? Well that’s only about 0.4% of 37.5 million. Last I checked, 35,000 subscribers puts you in the top 1% of all YouTubers, including big corporations and celebrities that explode on YouTube due to their mainstream popularity.
That’s the reality. Less than half a percent have reached that level, and as an individual creator, it’s an even smaller number.
The BIG misconceptions
You love video games so you’ll love being a gaming creator
Watching gaming channels, it looks like all they do is stay at home and play video games. That’s just the part you see though. There’s a lot more to being a creator online but if you only love the gaming and hate everything else, you’re going to hate being a creator. This is where many aspiring gamers give up once they realise how much more there is to it. Here are some things you’re going to have to enjoy to really love your job as a gaming creator:
– Editing videos
– Designing graphics, like your logo
– Creating thumbnails for you videos
– Managing social media & dealing with hate comments
– Talking a LOT while being engaging to the audience
– Researching & writing scripts
– Learning software & hardware
Playing video games is the easy part. If that’s all the job needed, everyone would do it. The rest of this stuff is the real process, so learn to love all of it or you’ll hate your path to becoming a creator.
It will take one or two years, right?
Like I mentioned in the quickstart, things take time. It seems like every day that a new creator becomes famous, with 100,000 or a million subscribers. Surely since it happens so often it only takes a couple years of work. Wrong! We’ve already been over the numbers, 0.4% ‘make it’. Personally, it took me eight years before I hit 100,000 subscribers.
So many try being gaming creators for one or two years and then give up thinking that it’s just not working. If you expect to earn a living online from your passion in less than five years, you’re being incredibly optimistic, so if you’re going to try, keep this in mind.
Making money is complicated
Subscriber number doesn’t actually matter
From an outside perspective, subscriber count is what seems to be the most important thing. At 100,000 subscribers or followers, you can often be verified with a check mark and companies actually put you in a different category when it comes to sponsorship.
Everyone talks about how Pewdiepie crossed 100 million subscribers. Does anyone talk about how he has 24 billion views?
Views is where the money comes from, so the more views you get, the more advertisements can be played to people and the more money you make. Subscriber count is really just a status symbol. You could have 300,000 subscribers but be making no money. Meanwhile, you could have 25,000 subscribers and be earning a salary. You have to keep this in mind if you’re trying to make a living as a creator.
How advertisements (ads) make money
When you upload a video, you can monetise it with ads. You can put ads at the start, end, and in the middle of the video (if the video is longer than 10 minutes). So people watch your video, see ads, and you make money. Simple, right?
There are many things to consider when it comes to ads:
1. When someone watches your video, they might not see an advertisement
Even if you set your video to have ads, it doesn’t mean the people watching will see one. How ads work is that a business buys an ad on a platform and they specify the type of people who they want to see it. Age, location, interests, and so on. So that means certain demographics will see more ads than others because, for example, a fast food business would prefer to advertise to 18-25 year olds compared to 55 year olds, since younger people are more likely to eat fast food. So, a 55 year old would be less likely to see that fast food ad at all.
2. People using Adblock
Not only do some people not get ads because businesses didn’t pay to advertise to them, some people use software to block ads entirely. When someone does that, it means they never see ads and you never get paid for those ads.
These 2 points make the difference between what’s called ‘monetisable views’ compared to ‘unmonetisable views’.
3. Location of the viewer matters
If a viewer is from Malaysia and they see an ad, it would most likely be an ad bought by a Malaysian business. Meaning the ad was paid for in Malaysian Ringgit. If your viewer is from the United States, the ad they see would be an American ad most likely paid for in US Dollars. That makes ads from higher earning countries worth more in total, which means they’re worth more to you.
Basically, if you make videos that attract a US audience, you will make more money from ads compared to making videos that attract a Malaysian audience.
Alternative sources of income
Now that you know advertisements are complicated, one way to help secure extra money is by sponsorship deals. You advertise a product or service directly on your videos. Now, you might be thinking that you have to be super big and popular to do those deals, but you can just charge less. When trying to secure sponsors, contact 100s of companies and businesses that you would be willing to work with. Give them your numbers and charge them based on how much money you’re making from ads right now. If you’re being paid $1 per 1,000 views, then set your price to be slightly over that, like $2-$5 per 1,000 views. If you advertise a brand across 10 videos and you get 5,000 views, well then that’s an extra $10-$50 in your pocket at a price that’s fair to the brand. It can be tough finding a sponsor when you’re small, so keep contacting people and ask a lot of questions on what they want as a business. Think about how you can provide value to them first.
Crowdfunding is one of the biggest changes for creators over the last decade. The rise of Kickstarter, people giving real money to streamers on Twitch, and of course Patreon, where people donate money directly to a creator. If you are making something that people watch, then there will be a tiny percentage willing to donate their pocket change to keep you going. It could just be a dollar here and there, but it adds up and can make a real difference.
Sign up for a Patreon account and give people a good reason to give you money.
Even terrible designs can sell if they’re interesting or funny. It might be hard to get sales, but as you grow, it can be a nice extra bit of money to keep your channel afloat in tough times. There are many merch stores online where you can simply upload a PNG image and immediately turn it into a T-shirt, mousepad, sticker, and more. You should look at all the options, but personally, I use Design By Humans because I like the quality of their T-shirt printing.
It’s like a business with good and bad seasons
At the end of the day, your gaming channel is a business that you run. You create products (videos) for customers (your viewers) and the better your product, the better it will ‘sell’. You can build things like brand loyalty, reward active ‘customers’, and make changes to improve your business for you and the viewers. There are also good and bad seasons. Advertisements pay the best in November and December, while it’s the worst in January because businesses spend much of their ad budget at the end of the year. Viewer habits will change with the seasons, depending on where your audience is from. School holidays could matter and public holidays could have different ads depending on your audience (like a US audience will see Thanksgiving ads). If you’re trying to be a video game content creator, then you should start thinking of your channel as your business.
Levelling up through the ranks
Do you think that you can create an account and then start making money immediately? Not everywhere! You have to be approved for partnership most of the time and there are often requirements, and as you grow platforms will recognise your growth by giving you more features, access, and sometimes even a bigger cut of the money. Officially, there’s no real names or hard lines, but companies have tiered ranks that they use to determine how big an ‘influencer’ is.
1. The hardest part – Nano-influencers (1,000 – 10,000)
Growing from 0 subscribers to your first 1,000 is the slowest and most painstaking part. You are no one, you have no followers, and you’re probably not that good yet. It’s time to work hard, experiment, and keep at it.
2. Proof that you can ‘make it’ – Micro-influencers (10,000 – 50,000)
Once you cross 10,000 followers, then you can be pretty confident that growth is just a matter of time. If that many people decided to subscribe to you then there’s no reason why many more wouldn’t too, people just don’t know about you yet.
3. Making it – Mid-tier influencers (50,000 – 500,000)
This is where things start to get real. You begin getting some real offers, you’re making some liveable money, and the world who thinks subscriber count is important will see this as important.
4. You’re kind of a celebrity – Macro-influencers (500,000 – 1,000,000)
Since you’re starting out, you shouldn’t really be thinking of this at all, but anyone who gets their channel to this size is basically known and sought after. Half a million is a number where pretty much anyone can say that they ‘made it’.
5. Everyone knows who you are – Mega-influencers (1,000,000+)
Very few people have reached this level and it’s practically celebrity status because so many people know you and will even recognise you on the street. If you’re looking for sponsors, businesses will consider you to be a ‘mega influencer’.
I’m going to assume that you are already a gamer and have a PC or laptop. It doesn’t need to be high end, just able to play the games you want to play, so besides that, let me recommend a few pieces of affordable equipment that is either cheap or has other uses besides making videos for your gaming channel:
1. Blue Yeti microphone
A little pricey, but it’s a super good USB mic that’s easy to use and has plenty of uses outside of making videos. It’s great on calls and will keep your voice clear when playing with teammates.
2. A 1080p 60FPS webcam
Cameras aren’t always essential, you can make videos with just your voice, but if you’re getting a webcam, make sure it has 1080p resolution and records at 60 frames a second.
3. Cheap green screen
If you’re going to use a webcam for your face, then you might as well get a green screen. They are super cheap now, and you can just tape it to a wall. You might need a couple of extra lights to brighten things up though.
1. OBS Studio
It’s free and easy to use (with some practice). Watch a couple of videos on how to set up OBS Studio and you can use it to record games, put your face on the video, do the chroma key green screen effect, and you can even use it to live stream. You can download it HERE.
Want to edit your audio a bit more after recording? Audacity is the one to use as it’s pretty good at doing everything a professional audio editor can do, plus, this is also free. Audacity is available HERE.
3. Video editor
Good video editors are hard to come by if you want it to be free. I personally use Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro is also good, plus, if you’re just doing cuts, YouTube has a built-in video editor that you can use from your YouTube dashboard. Honestly, if you’re just starting out, I’d keep things simple and just do basic cuts and transitions with whatever free editor you can get. If you really start to get into being a gaming creator, then you can splurge for a good video editor.
What else can you do?
1. Make more BAD videos
Your first video is going to suck. Think it’s good? Look at it five years later, and it’ll suck. This video here is my first ever video, it’s the game From Dust and I thought I did a really good job. It’s pretty cringe-worthy looking at it now, but it’s the most important video I have ever made. Without this crappy first video, I wouldn’t have made all the others. Make bad videos! Make really janky, unpolished, messy videos. Talk while you’re recording the gameplay and yes, you sound terrible, but just do it. Make them bad and just try to make your next video a little better than your last. Do that for enough years and you’ll become a master.
2. Don’t measure yourself against others
Define your own version of success. Are you just having fun? Do you want to make a living? Is fame a factor at all? You can have half the subscribers compared to someone else, but be making triple the money. Sometimes, a better option is to make less money but have more free time. That’s okay if it makes you happier. You shouldn’t use someone else’s success as a benchmark for your own because we all have different lives.
3. Do my kick-start exercise
Sign up for 7 social media platforms using the same name and post 100 things on each as quickly as possible. It doesn’t matter what you’re posting, just keep posting. By the end of the 700 posts, you’ll know if this is a career that’s for you because you’ll either want to keep going or you’ll feel like dying.
This is the trial by fire that I have come up with to throw you into the deep end. Essentially it’s exposure therapy to get over your fears and break your lazy habits.
Here are 7 social media platforms to opt for:
1. Facebook (Stream 100 times)
2. Twitch (Live stream 100 days)
3. Twitter (Tweet 100 times)
4. Instagram (Take 100 photos)
5. YouTube (Make 100 videos)
6. LinkedIn (Write 100 articles)
7. TikTok (Do 100 things)
BONUS: Discord (Set up a community)
After that, you’ll not only have the start of an online presence, you’ll know what to do moving forward and whether this is actually a career for you … or not.
But what about haters and trolls?
If you step out your front door, you’re going to run into people who don’t like you. It’s the same online. Put up a video, and even if it’s super successful, someone will say it sucks. The secret about haters is that they actually hate themselves, because why else would someone be so spiteful and spend their time of day going around leaving hate comments?
Good news is that all platforms have plenty of moderation tools now. You can ‘ban’ people very easily if they get too much. There are also automatic filters that help put ‘unfriendly’ comments in a separate section, so you know that those comments don’t mean much.
It takes a lot of practice to get used to handling haters and trolls, but that’s what it is, practice. It’s a skill that you can get better at, and after a few years, you’ll soon be brushing off the meanies like nothing.
Every time people ask me how to become a gaming creator, and I explain the nuts and bolts, they always come up with some kind of reason to why they can’t do the same. Usually, it boils down to either fear or laziness. You’re scared of being judged for making bad videos or you’re not willing to put in the time and work, but they always say things like this:
“I don’t have time”
Yes you do, but you need to sacrifice.
This is the No 1 excuse I hear all the time.
I have a full-time day job, I don’t have time to work on something else!
If you have zero free time, then you have to audit your day. You can’t find 1 or 2 spare hours to work on your channel? Are you sure? Do you ever:
– Watch movies
– Go clubbing
– Binge watch shows on streaming services
– Play video games for leisure
– Have ‘downtime’
– Sleep more than eight hours
Well, you have to cut some of that out! When I was starting, I did four jobs at the same time for four years. I was a full time school teacher, a TV host, a freelance designer, and I worked on my channel. After my job, I went to my second job for three hours, then I had dinner, and later spent 1-2 hours working on my content. I didn’t hang out with friends or go for drinks after work. I worked after work.
That’s what you need to do to turn a passion into your career. Put in two hours every day for years and you could get your side gig to become your main gig. If you’re not willing to sacrifice, then you won’t get it.
“I’m not good enough”
Do you really expect to start something new and be good immediately?
How do you think those people got good? They practiced! They worked for years trying to get better all the time. Here’s a protip: find a channel that you think is really good and go watch their first ever video. Unless they’ve deleted it, I can promise you that it’s not going to be very good.
“Only lucky people make it”
Whatever job you have, do you think you’re totally in control of how you get promoted? How much your raise or bonus is? Or even if you get fired or not? So much is not in your control. Your company could close down tomorrow, they might not make a profit, so your raise is tiny, and whether you get promoted might actually be about whether your boss likes your face … or otherwise.
Luck is always a factor, but we shouldn’t live our lives like that. Being a content creator takes hard work over a long period of time. Luck is about chance, the more work you do, the more chances you make for yourself. If you make 10 videos, there’s an infinitesimally small chance that you blow up and make it big. Make 1,000 videos, and you’ll have 100 times the chance of becoming successful. Personally, I had about 1,600 videos by the time I hit 100,000 subscribers, so when I say a thousand videos, I’m not kidding.
Put in the work. Make your own luck.
TL;DR – Too Long; Didn’t Read!
Couldn’t be bothered to read all the details? Well here’s the gist of it:
1. Only 0.4% of YouTubers have ‘made it’
2. Spend 2 hours every day after work/school making and uploading videos
3. Do that for 7 years while constantly trying to get better
That’s what it all boils down to. Hard work, persistence, and constant improvement over a long period of time. Could you get lucky and become famous immediately? Sure, you could win the lottery tomorrow, too. Just based on the numbers, there’s a 1 in 200 chance of ‘making it’ at all — immediate success is even rarer. If you really want it, you’ll work for it, and anything worth having is worth working for.
This article has laid it all out for you. What you have to do is to actually do it, which is entirely up to you.
Do you have any other questions about starting a gaming channel? Ask in the comments or GamerZakh directly!
GamerZakh is a Malaysian gaming YouTuber, Twitch streamer and content creator. He approaches gaming from a nostalgic perspective and always tries to incorporate educational elements into his delivery of entertainment. You can find his YouTube channel here.
This is a guest post and the views expressed here are the author’s own.