Twenty years ago, if you’d asked a pre-Internet kid what they wanted to be when they grew up, they might have said an astronaut, a teacher or a doctor. These days, it’s more likely to be a YouTuber or Twitch star. Veteran gamer and streamer Sacriel is living that dream.
But being a professional game streamer isn’t as easy as it looks. While it can be lucrative for some of the biggest players, it can also be surprisingly stressful. Especially on Twitch.
Twitch vs YouTube
“Twitch is much harder I think than YouTube,” explains Sacriel. “In YouTube-land you can sit there, play your game, answer your phone, watch TV in the background or whatever, you cut out all the bits where you make mistakes or get distracted and make yourself look really good.
“Whereas on Twitch it’s live and if you mess up people are watching. That mistake could make 50, 100 or 200 viewers turn off.”
There are six key aspects to success on Twitch. Have a few and you could do well. Have them all, and you may find yourself rising to the top. It all starts with a love of gaming.
“I’ve always been a gamer. My dad had a ZX Spectrum and I would load up something basic like Jet Set Willy and I loved it… Then, when PCs were still quite rare, we had two of them. I remember playing Duke Nukem 3D against my brother [via a Serial cable LAN]. It was my first experience of PvP.”
How Sacriel got started
In this pre-YouTube and pre-Twitch era, Sacriel found clever ways to share his early gaming experiences. He became famous on Quake servers for recording gameplay into in-game dm2 files and emailing them out. The positive feedback he received gave him the motivation to keep going.
“One day, I was playing Battlefield Bad Company 2,” Sacriel remembers, “and people were saying that ‘you must be cheating, you can’t be this good.’ I thought that I had to prove them wrong, I have to record a video so that they could see. I used a program called FRAPS and put it on YouTube. People started to comment, saying things like, ‘you should do more of this.’ So I made another one.”
At this point, making gaming videos was still a hobby. By day, Sacriel was a product executive for an Internet Service Provider (ISP). He would typically work a traditional 9-5, before going home, playing a game, recording a video of it, editing that video, and then uploading it to YouTube.
Number two on our list of things you need to make it as a Twitch streamer is to be the best at what you play.
“The first game I ever streamed…”
“The game I got famous for playing was DayZ, and it has an overly complicated medical system where you have a certain amount of blood, a certain amount of energy and a certain amount of water. [You need to balance it]. To this day there aren’t many people who know how the system works, so there’s always a demand for that content.
“DayZ was the first game that I ever streamed. The first time I heard about Twitch was when I watched a gamer playing DayZ on it. I thought to myself: I could do that. I’m doing YouTube, but I could do that.”
The ability to teach what you know in a fun and entertaining way is our third tip for success.
“From my earliest days, I wasn’t just playing games but understanding them,” Sacriel says. “I have been tinkering with code my whole life so when I play a game I have a mind that breaks it down into boxes, into the key gaming mechanics… Because I used to train people how broadband works, I’m able to show gamers how their favourite games work.”
Taking streaming to the Extreme
The rest is history. Since 2012, when Sacriel quit his ISP job his Twitch channel has grown to almost 400,000 followers, while his YouTube channel has over 105,000 subscribers. To deliver the best experience to his audience, he plays his games (including DayZ, Rimworld, Battlefield 1 and PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS) on a PC powered by an Intel Core i7-6950X Extreme Edition processor (10 cores, 25MB Cache, Overclocked up to 4.2 GHz).
That’s the fourth tip — the best equipment. It also helps if you stand out. That’s number five.
— Billy DT Greenwood (@DblTrbl29) July 15, 2017
“I was the first person, that I am aware of, who made cinematic level, real PvP videos,” says Sacriel. “The key thing is to have a unique angle. It’s incredibly challenging to start on Twitch now because once you click ‘live’ you are 600 people down on a list and the people at the top might have 10,000, 5,000 or 4,000 viewers.
“So you need to do something that people find hilarious or unique or interesting. One viewer might tweet a clip which brings in five people. And because you have an angle, these five people tweet out to bring in more viewers, and so on.”
The secret to Sacriel’s success
Success is also driven by consistency, the last of our six tips.
“This industry is all about burning brightly for a short period of time and you just have to make the most of it whilst you can,” says Sacriel. “It’s momentum based. If I say that I am going to take two days off a week, then maybe 20% of my usual viewer base are going to find someone else who they can watch six or seven days a week. I’m doing well now, but if I slow down, a year from now I could be earning nothing.”
If Sacriel’s career so far is any indication, being a successful streamer involves: a deep love of gaming, being the best at what you play, having the best equipment, finding a unique angle, putting the hours in and staying consistent. It might be harder to start out these days, but the popularity of game streaming shows no sign of waning.
Sacriel tells us that he now earns in two months what he used to earn in a year. But there’s a catch. “It does involve working 14 hours a day,” he adds, “six to seven days a week with no holidays. So it’s a bit like working three jobs!”
Why do people watch game streams?
“We are living in an era where techie people tend to spend so much time online that it has become their new social arena,” Sacriel suggests. “On top of that you get people who live vicariously through streamers like me – people who are not very good at games but they get excited watching someone who works to master them.
“For them, it’s like watching an endless movie. But it’s an endless movie where the main protagonist says your name when you ask him what he’s doing. And that is a powerful thing.”
Sacriel is an Intel ambassador. Follow his streams on Twitch and enter monthly prize draws to win Intel products.