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How’s your celebrity knowledge these days?
Now, there’s a loaded question in 2021. After all, our connected world can make celebrities of just about anyone if enough people are interested in what they do. Outside of the classic parameters of fame – TV, movies and music – there is a whole world of celebrity that’s reaching the homes of the millions of people who love nothing more than to kick back in their ergonomic gaming chairs, fire up Twitch, watch their favourite streamer take down some aliens and get their Kappa spam on. And if that whole sentence leaves you with questions, then it’s probably a good idea to read on…
Like most things ‘internet’, livestreaming was born in Palo Alto, California in the early 1990s. However, it didn’t really take off until YouTube launched their livestreaming service in 2008. Since then, the medium has boomed and other platforms have joined the revolution, most notably Twitch, which focuses primarily on video game streaming and esports. With the right kit, anyone can stream their gameplay to Twitch, YouTube or similar, but as with anything, audience numbers can vary wildly. In fact, many streamers literally broadcast to zero viewers – but you’ve got to start somewhere, right? Especially when the rewards have the potential to be huge.
The most popular Twitch streamers have millions of followers and are earning big. At the time of writing, the most followed channel on Twitch belongs to the professional gamer ‘Ninja’ (real name Richard Blevins). With 16.7 million followers, Richard is reported to earn around $17m a year – a combination of revenue from streaming platforms and ‘tips’ or donation from fans, but mostly through endorsement deals, leveraging the power of his following to bring major brands to the table. It’s reached the point where Forbes famous ‘highest paid’ lists now has one dedicated to gamers, with players of Fortnite and Minecraft cleaning up when it comes to subscribers to their streams.
Of course, it’s an industry like any other and while some streamers have become ‘accidentally’ famous, these days success takes tenacity, perseverance and a clear focus on what your audience wants to see. Alongside this substantial emotional investment, and a commitment to regular streaming (Tfue, the second most followed streamer on Twitch after Ninja is notorious for streaming up to seven hours’ worth of gameplay every day!), there are also some necessary tools of the trade. Over and above a decent gaming PC, as a bare minimum you’ll need streaming software (this will let you broadcast your game and you as you play it), a microphone and a webcam. However, streaming is an entertainment medium and there can be a noticeable gulf in quality between streamers, so it’s pretty obvious who sees the value in presenting themselves in the best possible light – and yes, lighting and broadcast quality matters.
You see, it’s not just the gameplay that people are watching. They’ll have one eye on your camera (or cameras – some streamers broadcast their hands and face separately) and be actively using the live chat function to interact with you, using whole libraries of ‘emotes’ to get their points across. So, if you want loyal fans and their tips to keep rolling in, they need to know you care about what they’re seeing. At the world-famous Consumer Electronics Show in 2020, Canon USA brought pro-gamer Rusty Sessions to their booth to show just what a difference a camera can make. Putting a standard webcam and the Canon EOS M200 side-by-side, the difference in image quality was like night and day, with the M200 a much easier experience on the viewers eyes. On this side of the pond, consumer electronics behemoth and gaming experts Elkjøp are working with Canon to make quality streaming a one-stop affair through the creation of an exclusive ‘Essential Gaming Kit’, which launches in the Nordics this summer and also contains the coveted M200.
The M200 is, of course, a vloggers favourite camera and streamers often vlog too, playing the bigger game and rarely tying themselves to just one channel. Guinness World Record breaker ‘TommyInnit’, for example, has multiple accounts across Twitch, YouTube, Discord and more, routinely taking his followers with him on real life adventures. Among the masses of content created for his millions of subscribers, Tommy and his friends recently filmed their first skydive in all its comedic glory, then posted a fully edited version to YouTube. The scale at which Tommy and his contemporaries produce content means they have people dedicated to all these functional aspects of online life. The freefall aspect of the video was filmed by skydiving videographer Chris Cook who told local newspaper the Hucknall Dispatch, "what the video you see on YouTube doesn't show, in my opinion, is the amount of work these guys put into producing such entertaining content and they really do work so hard.”
However, while it certainly sounds like a lot of effort – the always-on life, marathon sessions and willingness to jump out of a plane at 14,000 feet for the enjoyment of your fanbase – for the millions of livestreamers out there, it’s just a way of life and a place to connect and share with people who love the same games they do. So, while they might be taking down towers and destroying their enemy’s Nexus, they’re also building and investing in communities.