Twenty years ago, people would have scoffed at the idea of making a living playing video games at home, but Twitch has made that possible. So how much do Twitch streamers make in 2021?
The top few make millions of dollars a year, but the vast majority get paid nothing. While making it big is difficult, it is possible to earn a good income streaming games on Twitch if you understand the different ways to monetize it.
What is Twitch Streaming?
Twitch came into existence in 2011 as a platform for streaming video games. This means someone can show themselves playing games live, and anyone can tune in to watch.
While it’s easy to think that people wouldn’t be interested in watching someone else play a game, it’s impossible to deny the enormous success Twitch has seen over the years.
At any given moment, there are approximately 3 Million people watching streams on Twitch, split between 100,000 active channels. The most people that have ever been watching Twitch at once is 6.5 Million.
People are interested in this platform, and there is potential to make some real money if you can connect with that audience and create content they’re interested in.
Become an Affiliate or Partner
While anyone can create a Twitch account and begin streaming games for people to watch, you’ll need to become a Twitch Affiliate or Partner to make money.
Twitch Affiliate Program
Becoming a Twitch Affiliate is the first step to monetizing your streams. To become an Affiliate, a streamer must have:
- At least 500 total minutes broadcast in the last 30 days
- At least seven unique broadcast days in the last 30 days
- An average of 3 concurrent viewers or more over the last 30 days
- At least 50 Followers
There is no application process. Twitch will contact you via email and notification after you become eligible for the Affiliate program.
Once you’re eligible, you can begin earning money from bit cheers, paid subscribers, game sales, and ads on your channel (more on those later).
A Twitch Partner is essentially a leveled-up version of a Twitch Affiliate. A Partner has better engagement with a larger audience and gets paid more because of it.
To become a Partner, a streamer must either demonstrate a large following from a different platform or complete the Path to Partner achievement on their Twitch account. Neither of these will guarantee Partnership but will open up the application process.
Becoming a Partner unlocks several benefits, including custom emotes for your subscribers, custom bit cheer emotes, your broadcasts are stored longer, and a larger percentage of ad revenue comes to you.
Differences Between Affiliate and Partner
There are a few key differences between the benefits affiliates and partners receive. As you can see, working to reach partner status can bring some big benefits.
|Bit Cheer Revenue||✔️|
(no custom options)
|Stored Broadcasts||14 Days||60 Days|
|Check Mark Next To Name||✔️|
How Do You Make Money?
There are a number of ways to make money as a Twitch streamer. We’ve put together a list of the most popular for you.
Subscriptions are the most reliable way to monetize a Twitch channel, and you must be at least an Affiliate to have subscribers. Viewers can subscribe to your channel, which gives them some perks in return for a regular payment.
A subscription costs a viewer $5 a month, and the streamer usually gets half of that, with Twitch keeping the other half. This means someone with 1,000 subscribers would make $2,500 in subscriptions alone.
Donations and Bit Cheers
A very straightforward way to make money is for viewers to make donations via a service like PayPal. The amount you can make through this varies wildly between streamers. Some streamers create exclusive content for donors as an incentive.
The popular streamer Disguised Toast shared that he makes about $2,500 a month in donations without any incentives.
Bit Cheers are a Twitch-only way to tip streamers. Viewers can purchase bits in Twitch and then cheer on their favorite streamers with Bit animations.
Bits cost the viewer about 1.4 cents a bit and pay 1 cent to the streamer. So a cheer of 100 bits costs the view $1.40, pays the streamer $1, and Twitch makes 40 cents.
Whenever a viewer tunes into a Twitch stream, they first see an ad, and the streamer makes a little bit of money from the advertisement. Disguised Toast shared that he makes about $4,000 a month from ads alone – a significant part of his income.
Additionally, Affiliates and Partners have access to an ad button that they can press at any point to play an ad. How frequently they do this is up to them, but it’s important to find a balance between making additional ad money and not frustrating your viewers.
Sometimes studios will pay streamers to play certain games and pay them between 1 cent and 1 dollar per viewer, per hour. So a person with 10,000 viewers can make between $1,000 and $10,000 per hour from sponsored streams.
These sorts of arrangements are usually offered to successful Partners with large existing followings. Most of the time, they’re already making a living off their channel.
Affiliates and Partners can also make money from game sales and in-game purchases. When streamers play a game that’s on sale or has in-game items for purchase, a link to purchase it will be visible to the viewer. When viewers use that link to make a purchase, the streamer gets 5% of the sale.
Streamers with big enough followings can also make money from selling merchandise. Putting their logo or catchphrase on a t-shirt or hoodie can bring in lots of cash if viewers are excited to wear their stuff.
The Bounty Board is a program that allows developers to connect with Affiliates and Partners who can advertise their creations. Creators offer a certain amount per viewer for Streamers to show off games or features of theirs, so the payment scales with the size of the audience.
Streamers get to choose which bounties to accept, so they can pick content that will resonate with their audience.
Example Twitch Streamer Incomes
The top 10 most popular streamers all make over $1,000,000 a year. These are people with tens of thousands of subscribers and millions of people each week watching them play video games full time.
Estimated Earnings of Top Streamers
Ninja is the most popular streamer and is in a league of his own. In a year, he makes approximately $5.5 million, with nearly $4 million of that coming from subscriptions.
After Ninja, the next most successful streamer is Shroud, bringing in a bit over $3 million annually. Excluding Ninja, the top 10 streamers all make between 1.5 and 3 million dollars.
Disguised Toast has been very open about what he makes. In the video below, he breaks down his income in detail. As a rather popular, but not top 10, streamer, he earns about $240,000 a year.
Another great example is CohhCarnage Streaming is a full-time job for him, and he typically has about 12,000 viewers watching at any given time, with about 15,000 total subscribers.
Since Affiliates and Partners make 50% of the $5 subscription fee, each subscriber earns him $2.5 a month. That gives him a baseline pay of $37,500 a month, or $450,000 annually. Since this is just subscriber income, his total income is probably about 50% more with donations and ad revenue.
How to Get Started
Streaming games on Twitch has the potential to earn you a lot of money, but it can be hard work to reach that level. The most important thing to remember is success in this field is not necessarily about your ability to play games. It’s about your ability to entertain an audience.
People will pay streamers who they enjoy watching, so you need to find a way to make your streams more engaging than the competition. You should create quality content and build up a community around your streams before looking to monetize it.
The only way to make money with Twitch is to get viewers who like you and trust you to create good content. Several things can be helpful as you begin.
If you’re new to the internet broadcasting industry, it may be helpful to take a class before getting starting. Udemy is an online learning platform that offers a number of courses related to online content creation. A few great ones to start with are:
- The Complete Guide to Twitch Streaming
- The Complete Twitch Streaming Course
- Learn How to Live Broadcast on YouTube & Twitch
Join a Twitch Team
The hardest part is building an audience. Twitch Teams can be helpful with this. They allow you to group yourself with other like-minded streamers and drive traffic to one another. Becoming part of a team can help your followers engage with more content and help you reach a broader audience.
Become a Brand
Twitch streaming is a form of entertainment, and it will be helpful to think of yourself as a comprehensive brand. You need artwork, an intro, an outro, and emotes that all work together. Your goal should be to create a community centered around the brand you’ve made, with everything you do reinforcing your brand’s values.
Alternatives to Twitch
While Twitch is the primary player in the game, there are a number of other streaming platforms out there. However, in our opinion, there’s really only one other platform worth considering: YouTube Gaming.
YouTube Gaming has different requirements for monetizing channels than Twitch does but allows the streamer to set their membership fees up to $100. To make money from a YouTube Gaming account, you must have:
- A minimum of 1,000 subscribers
- At least 4,000 hours of total watch time within the last year
- At least 18 years old
- Have an AdSense account
- No community guideline strikes
How Much do Small Streamers Make?
Small streamers make little to no money. On Twitch, you must be an Affiliate or Partner to monetize your channel and can then make about $2.50 a month per subscriber.
How Much do Top Streamers Make?
The top streamer, Ninja, makes about $5.5 million annually. The other top 10 streamers make between 1.5 – 3 million dollars.
How Much do Streamers Make Per Day?
It depends on the day. Regular income such as subscriptions is calculated monthly. However, they may have an excellent stream that brings in many extra donations and bit cheers. Additionally, they may have the opportunity to make tens of thousands of dollars in a single day by playing a sponsored game.
How Much do Streamers get from Bits?
Affiliates and Partners get 1 cent per bit.
How Much do Streamers make from Sponsors?
There is a vast range, depending on the Sponsor’s budget. It can be anywhere from 1 cent per viewer to 1 dollar per viewer, per hour.
How Much do Streamers Make per Viewer?
Twitch does not pay per viewer but by subscriber. Even so, streamers can make a fraction of a cent per viewer from ad revenue and sometimes get sponsors paying from 1 cent to 1 dollar per viewer.
How Much do Twitch Affiliates Make?
It varies based on their audience. They’re guaranteed $2.50 a month per subscriber.
How Much do Twitch Partners Make?
It varies based on their audience. They’re guaranteed $2.50 a month per subscriber, but this number will likely go up as they increase their audience, bringing in more in donations and ad revenue.
How Much do YouTube Streamers Make?
YouTube streamers generally make 10-30 cents per ad view, plus whatever they set their membership cost at.
It is certainly possible to make a living from Twitch. The top streamers bring in millions of dollars annually, and many bring in six figures.
But before you quit your day job to play video games, make sure you understand the work it takes to build a successful following as an entertainer. Even if you do it on the side, it may be possible to bring in a few thousand dollars a year with subscribers and ad money.