How to start a gaming channel

Around 8.8 billion hours of video game live streams were watched in the first quarter of 2021, marking a 3.6 billion hour increase over the past two years. Twitch, the largest streaming platform on the internet, estimates that it has an average viewership of more than 2.5 million people “at any given moment” and boasts that more than 30 million people visit the service every day. With numbers like those, it’s only natural that anyone with a passion for video games may want to jump in.

If you want to start a gaming channel, you’ll need more than a webcam, a microphone, and a good internet connection. Starting a gaming channel takes dedication, great brand messaging, and proper planning to get things rolling. By addressing those things at the start, you’ll be ahead of most newcomers to the world of game streaming.

In this guide, we’ll review:

  • Why you should start a gaming channel
  • The equipment you need to stream
  • What you need to pick before streaming, such as a streaming platform and the type of game you want to play
  • Steps to take to start up your gaming channel
Photo by ELLA DON on Unsplash

Why should you start a gaming channel?

There are countless reasons for anyone to want to start a gaming channel. Here are some common reasons that drive streamers to hit the broadcast button.

  • You’re passionate about games. Starting a gaming channel takes a lot of time and effort, so having an innate love of games makes the process more enjoyable. Whether you’re a maven of Minecraft or enjoy floating from one title to the next, most people tune into a video game stream because they have a fondness for the game you’re playing. Sharing that genuine enthusiasm can lead to higher follower counts and more subscribers.
  • You want to build a community of like-minded gamers. Multiplayer experiences can be one of the most engaging parts of gaming, and your channel can turn into a hub of like-minded players. Many streamers create Discord servers to help coordinate games and allow their community members to engage with one another as well as you, the streamer.
  • You want to be an authoritative voice in gaming. For some video game streamers, the actual act of playing video games takes second stage to discussing the game and the gaming industry. By sharing your opinions, your gaming channel can become a source of information that the community consults to learn the latest news or observe how a new game is played.
  • You want to be famous. For successful streamers, the size of their audience can be staggering. Popular Fortnite streamer Ninja has 16.8 million followers on Twitch and approximately 7,000 viewers at any given moment. Meanwhile, KarlJacobs has 2.94 million followers but has an average of 140,106 viewers per stream. With the right brand, content, and engagement, you can be successful, too!
  • You want to make a living playing games. If your streaming channel attracts a large enough audience, advertisers will see value in marketing their products and services through your channel. For example, RanbooLive, who regularly streams Minecraft, became the highest paid streamer recently, earning approximately $1.4 million annually from subscription fees on Twitch. Add in merchandising, licensing, and sponsorship deals and you can easily find prominent streamers earning significantly more than that.

    Just remember this important point: Striking it rich is not guaranteed. No matter your goals, however, it all starts with strong branding. Create your own logo and have a strong “why” behind your channel to set yourself up for success.

Five steps to set up and start a gaming channel

There’s a lot to think about when setting up and starting a gaming channel, but these five general tips can help you begin thinking about the essentials of your stream.

  1. Define your niche. Bring something new and exciting to the table. Defining your niche is one of the most effective ways to stand apart and build your personal brand as a streamer. As such, try to find something unique that you can add to your stream to make it fun and your own.
  2. Create a consistent schedule. If you think of your stream like a live television show starring you and the games you like, then it only makes sense to establish a schedule. Ultimately, you want to make it so your viewers can come to rely on your online presence, and a regular schedule is the best way to do that. 
  3. Network with other streamers. As you get started, watch other streamers in your downtime. Get involved in their communities and reach out to them for tips on how to grow your channel. Eventually, they may even refer their viewers to your channel as they sign off, which is commonly referred to as a “raid.” By greeting that streamer’s community to your channel, you can potentially add even more people to your community.
  4. Interact with your audience. Your channel will have a live chat where viewers can discuss the game you’re playing, ask questions, or get silly with memes. Keep an eye on the chat as you go about your stream. Call out viewers and answer their questions. That kind of engagement shows people that you care about the community you’re fostering and makes them feel like part of the show.
  5. Have fun! One of the biggest reasons why people watch video game streams is to have fun by extension. Sure, they’re not controlling the game, but they’re getting to see your genuine reactions and share in the experience of defeating a difficult boss or suffering a crushing defeat. At the end of the day, you’re playing video games, and that should be fun. If you’re frustrated about the channel’s growth or a lack of viewers, that’s going to show and could immediately turn off potential viewers.

What gear do you need to stream?

The equipment you need to stream depends on which devices you use for gaming. Do you plan to stream console-based games, PC-based games, or both? This will guide your decision making as you evaluate these options:

A streaming device

Though you can stream directly from your mobile phone and most modern consoles, nearly every professional gaming channel leverages the computational power found in modern PCs. That’s mostly because a high-end PC can encode live streams at higher resolutions. 

If you intend to stream PC games at the same time, you’ll need a more powerful machine. Typically, a PC with a strong CPU is necessary to do this. Similarly, you’ll need a strong enough graphics card to help handle the encoding load and display any games you’re playing. As your gaming channel grows, you may want to invest in two computers, one for gameplay and the other for streaming and encoding. But if you’re just starting out, one powerful computer is fine.

Game capture software

You’ll need specialized software to capture, encode, and broadcast what you’re doing. There are numerous options available online, each with their own price points, benefits, and drawbacks. Starting out, most streamers gravitate to OBS Studio, which is the open-source and free version of Streamlabs OBS. Other similarly popular software solutions include XSplit and vMix.

A good webcam setup

Your audience wants to see your reactions and your “game face” as you play. A good webcam can capture your reactions as you make your way through the game you’re streaming. Look for a camera that shoots in 1080p and can handle 60 frames per second. In addition to the camera itself, you may want to invest in a bipod or desk mounting solution, so you can keep your hands on the controls and off your streaming camera.

A good microphone

A dedicated microphone captures your commentary in professional quality audio so your viewers can hear you in crystal-clear definition. Microphones can be a significant, yet important, investment in your gaming channel. If you want to upgrade your microphone later, you can invest in a good quality gaming headset instead. 

Accessories

There are so many things you can use to make your show stand out. Better lighting will improve your image quality and let your viewers see you better, so an LED ring light or a soft box could do just that. Green screens can help you alter what’s shown behind you as you stream, while a capture card can let you stream your console games through a PC. With so many options out there specifically catered to streamers, the world is your oyster in this case.

What are your streaming platform options?

Streamers have three major choices when it comes to their main streaming platforms. You can select one as your “home base” as you get started, and then you can stream to multiple channels or add more as your channel grows.

#1: Twitch

Owned by Amazon, this purple powerhouse is the industry standard. It has instant brand recognition, an impressive support base, many viewer-friendly features, and the largest viewer count. These features are excellent for viewers and help establish your channel in front of a large audience, but Twitch is so vast that you need to work hard to break in. Make sure to choose brand elements like your logo colors and your brand story wisely to help your channel stand out.

#2: YouTube Gaming

YouTube Gaming has a smaller user base than Twitch, with 636,000 concurrent viewers reported in the first quarter of 2021. While that means your YouTube gaming channel will have a smaller pool of viewers to draw from, it also means that you’ll have less competition and more opportunity to grow.

#3: Facebook Gaming

Facebook has its own gaming streaming service in Facebook Gaming. Even though there’s a significantly larger user base on Facebook compared to Twitch, Facebook Gaming draws more than 500,000 viewers to its platform.

Great games you can stream

There’s certainly no shortage of gaming options for streaming. What’s most important is that you pick the game that you love as your audience will be able to tell when you’re truly enjoying the game you’re playing. Here, we’ve broken down your gaming options into major categories, each of which has a legion of fans that want to watch you play.

New releases

If you focus on the latest releases of the day, you give your viewership an in-depth look into what’s hot off the presses. Some viewers find this useful because it helps them make informed buying decisions, while others simply watch new releases get played so they don’t have to spend the time playing it themselves. 

Strategy games

Being good at strategy games can be incredibly impressive to watch. Whether it’s the turn-based gameplay of the Civilization series or the real-time nature of the StarCraft titles, these games require a level of quick thinking and finesse that the most skilled gamers can showcase on their gaming channel. 

Rogue-likes

A particularly popular—albeit masochistic—genre in modern gaming, rogue-likes introduce a concept called “perma-death,” in which your character’s death means the end of the game. As such, you’re forced to start over and take on the challenge once again if your character dies in the game. Since dying in these games has such dire consequences, viewers get to live vicariously through your gameplay, regardless of whether you’re successful or not.

Retro games

Who doesn’t like the classics? If you have the capability to stream some classic favorites from childhood, you can draw on your viewers’ nostalgia in a big way.

How to come up with a channel name

Viewers, gaming websites, and the gaming community at large will refer to you by your gaming channel name. A good, memorable channel name will be unique, and ideally, it can be an extension of your brand story. It should also be easy to remember, say, and spell, so the gaming community can get to your platform with ease. You should also try to make your name stand out, so language tricks like alliteration and puns can go a long way.

Perhaps the most important thing you should do when choosing a name is make sure it’s available. You can do that by conducting a Google search, in addition to relevant searches on whichever streaming platform you choose. You may want to have a backup name in mind in case your preferred name is taken. Sign up for your account right away to secure your chosen channel name.Once you come up with your name, consider incorporating it into a logo for your channel. Namecheap’s free logo maker offers intuitive tools so anyone, even someone without design experience, can select the right logo colors, shapes, and fonts to best represent their brand. Give the free logo maker a spin and see the possibilities.

How to monetize your channel

As your gaming channel grows, you may want to parlay that attention into revenue. Most streaming platforms come with built-in monetization options, albeit with some big caveats.

Over on Twitch, for example, you can make money through channel subscriptions, Bits (virtual currency used to cheer on streamers), and advertisements that run during your stream. Each of those methods require you to be a Partner or Affiliate, two user levels that only get doled out based on a channel’s popularity. As for advertising revenue sharing, Affiliates enjoy a 50/50 split with Twitch. All Partners get a piece of the revenue pie, though payouts only happen at different amounts.

YouTube Gaming has similar subscription products, which allows users to financially support their favorite channels. The platform also has SuperChats and SuperVODs, which allow viewers to push their comments or videos directly in front of the streamer. Regardless of your channel’s level of popularity, there’s a 70/30 revenue sharing split on YouTube Gaming.Along with built-in monetization options, you can always think outside the box and make money outside of the streaming platform. That can come in the form of merchandise with logos created through the Namecheap brand design maker, special giveaways, and other tangible items for your viewers to enjoy.

Go forth and game!

Starting your own gaming channel can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Though it may seem like a lot at first, there are many additional tools to make your journey into video game live streaming a memorable and potentially profitable one. Whether you need to create your own brand identity or want a personal website builder for your channel, Namecheap has free and affordable solutions to level up your operation.


Nick Allen

Nick Allen

Nick Allen is a writer, photographer, and content marketer. He’s also the founder of BrainBoost Media, a boutique content and operations studio. With a wide range of interests, he enjoys reading and writing about sports, entrepreneurship, and start-ups.
More articles written by Nick.

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