If you talk about watching other people play video games and earn money by doing so back 20 years ago, it’s an unlikely way to sustain your livelihood. Today, video game streaming has become a widespread phenomenon to grow in tandem with the multi-billion video games industry.
In the dawn of video game streaming, some of the biggest YouTubers like PewDiePie and Markiplier started out by making ‘Let’s Play’ videos, which focused on them providing commentary and jokes while playing video games. This also led the video company to extend their reach to gamers called as YouTube Gaming.
Apart from YouTube Gaming, other streamers have found their footings in other live-streaming services like Twitch and Facebook. In fact, a research from Limelight Network showed gamers aged 18 to 25 spend an average 3 hours watching other people play video games online compared to watching traditional sports in television.
Not only that, Malaysia is home to 14 million players and our country is listed in number 21 based on game spending according to Newzoo’s report. With all these factors considered, is it possible to swap an office desk into a gaming rig and become a full-time streamer in Malaysia? I talked to several local streamers to weigh on this matter.
In a glance, playing video games and streaming to the masses might seem like an easy-peasy vocation but there is a lot of background work that needs to be done in order to make memorable live streams. Azrul Anwar “Janda Hunter" has seen his fair share of the local video game streaming scene. He’s the man behind the viral Facebook live stream showing modded Malaysian politicians as wrestlers fight each other off in WW2k18.
“I stream anything possible to go along with the trends, play with sentimentality, or any current relevant issues,” said Azrul. Although he loves commenting and streaming fighting games, some of his streams are quite out of the norm and doesn’t show him playing video games at all from going on air for Malaysia’s 14th General Election results to even hosting a full-fledged tournament for an old-school tabletop game, Rubber (lawan pemadam in Malay). Despite his whimsical ideas that were able to garner local viewers to his channels, Azrul mentioned that playing popular video games such as Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) or Mobile Legends is certainly the easiest way to gain popularity.
Azlan Shah Anuar is among the local streamers who caught up in the battle royale craze. He goes by Alan Lembu to stream PUBG in his preferred live stream platforms: Facebook, Twitch and YouTube. When asked about the abundance of PUBG live streams on his channels, he replied, “It is important to gain viewers and be relevant in the industry.” However, Azlan stated anyone can play and stream any video games that they like.
Having streamed for almost 3 and a half years, Lizara opined, “Streaming popular games will definitely attract people to watch your stream.” Lizara considers herself as a full-time variety streamer who plays a diverse genre of video games from PUBG to Grand Theft Auto 5. But, putting up a great show is all that matters. “The most important thing for me as a streamer is that I interact with the audience and entertain them. So when I play and stream a game, it’s not just for myself but for the people who are watching me,” explained Lizara.
If you play it right, there is money to be made. Three of the streamers I interviewed agree on the biggest gaming live stream platforms in Malaysia are Facebook, YouTube and Twitch. Each of these sites have different ways to channel money for the streamers. Facebook launched ‘stars’, which is a tipping system for the streamers while they’re on air. YouTube has monetisation in place for each video played or repeated after the stream. Twitch introduced the Affiliate Program, which requires the creators to be consistent in their live streams in order to gain money known as ‘bits’ from Twitch subscribers.
In Malaysia, local streamers cannot stand on their feet just by relying solely on donations or tips. Azrul stated Malaysians are not accustomed to donations yet. “Donations are scarce in Malaysia, so endorsements and sponsorship are the way to go,” said Azrul. Currently juggling between as an esports commentator and a streamer, he told Gamehubs that he makes around RM6,000 to RM7,000 from product sponsorships and esports hosting gigs per month.
As for Lizara, she typically makes her money through contracts from clients who pay her to stream their games on clients’ desired platforms. She also credited Fundeavour, which acts as a ‘matchmaker’ with interested clients and helps her to focus more on her content. Currently, Lizara earns around RM1,500 to RM3,000 monthly. Different from Azrul, Lizara said it is possible to earn money through donations from followers using other websites like Streamlabs or Stream Elements. She made a remark that receiving donations while streaming games are likened to buskers who play music or perform on the streets and people who appreciate the performance can choose to donate if they want.
Azlan obtains his money mostly from a concoction of donation, sponsorship and endorsement in his streams. He once received a whopping RM5,000 from sponsored posts. Nevertheless, the number he earns every month varies as he also depends on Fundeavour to find sponsors or companies who are on the lookout for streamers.
To deliver continuous and entertaining video game live streams, Azrul revealed that a potential full-time streamer needs to face the fact that payment is due inconsistently, so you have to take care of your income and balance it between house utilities, equipment costs (PC upgrades) as well as marketing expenses such as giveaways and promotion posts.
Like any other professions or jobs, burnouts are also prominent in the video game streaming scene as well. Although streamers are free to show whatever games they want, you have to maintain an optimum energy level to communicate with the fans and produce enticing contents to cater to the viewers.
All in all, becoming a full-time streamer in Malaysia is a feasible option with its own ups and downs. If you love gaming as a hobby and are thinking about starting your own gaming channels, don’t be discouraged if no one is watching your live streams. Here is a thoughtful advice from Lizara: “The followers and the pay will not come immediately but you will need to work on it and do more research about live streaming and gaming to improve constantly.”
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