You can’t call yourself a gamer today if you aren’t on the Amazon-owned Twitch. The 10-year-old platform, which features live feeds of hosts playing games for hours on end while enabling real-time chats with fans, has created a whole new class of talent: the streamer. Some 16% of all U.S. adults follow streamers on Twitch, according to Forrester. As Amazon notes, that’s 2.5 million people at any given moment. And the average expert streamer earns an estimated $3,000 to $6,000 per month in Twitch affiliate revenue alone, according to an analysis from the Business of Apps.
With 8 million followers, Imane Anys—aka Pokimane—is the seventh most popular streamer on Twitch today. Bubbly yet voraciously competitive, Los Angeles-based Anys says she earns seven figures per year playing League of Legends, Fortnite, and Valorant. But she also uses her massive platform to advocate for mental health—particularly when it comes to the unique challenges of streaming for hours on end daily. And she’s been outspoken about the harassment, often sexualized, that female streamers receive on both Twitch and the games they play. Recently, Anys has begun expanding beyond gaming: She has made sushi on Twitch and offers IRL diaries on YouTube. Fast Company spoke with her about the business of streaming.
You were in high school when you made the decision to start streaming in 2013. Why?
I was in my senior year. I played a ton of League of Legends. There weren’t many people in my high school that I could game with, so I mainly played with others online. [People] started sending me Twitch streams to watch. I figured that streaming on Twitch would be a way for me to make more friends to play games with. I fell in love with it.
When did you feel like, “Oh, wait, this might be my career!” You went to college to pursue a degree in chemical engineering, right?
I remember the specific moment. It was during my second year [at McMaster University]. I was still streaming part time and going to school full time. But agencies and sponsors started really entering the streaming scene, and one month I made over $10,000 off sponsorships, subscriptions, and donations. And when I saw that monthly amount, it blew my mind.
What don’t people understand about life as a streamer?
Livestreaming is probably the most all-consuming job or profession you could have, because it’s so clear that if you could stream 24 hours a day, it would probably be beneficial to you [financially]. But, obviously, that would not be a very healthy thing to do, which just leaves you in a situation where it can be difficult to create a very healthy work-life balance.
You’ve been outspoken about this balance on Twitch.
Yeah. I’m happy to see that there is a lot more variety in the types of streams that are successful on Twitch. Certain channels stream maybe five times a month, but because, like, every single stream is a show, and it’s really hyped, the viewership is great. Things like that are amazing. I had past managers telling me that I have to stream 8 or 10 hours every single day. And that just doesn’t really work for me. I need time to reset in order to be a happy, functioning human being.
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