For PC and mobile gamers in South Korea, Twitch is more than a useful platform. It is a key tool to play games together with others, create a community and make money through donations and subscriptions.
Taking advantage of Twitch’s intricate and convenient functions, top-notch gaming streamers, often affiliated with multichannel network firms, appear to make a living by playing their favorite games. No wonder, then, that a growing number of gaming enthusiasts are jumping onto the global platform and seeking a change in career or, at least to diversify their income as a part-time streamer.
Twitch is dominating as an almost invincible gaming platform, especially among real-time streaming services. It is now attracting an average of over 900 million visitors per month, with 10 million channels thriving in diverse genres.
One of the streamers’ channels I regularly watch involves role-playing and shooting games. The streamer, in her early 20s, is very talented not only in playing games but also in catering to her fans and nurturing a dedicated community.
As with other video-streaming platforms, some channel visitors are unruly and provocative, sometimes posting sexual jokes or malicious comments that are intended to hurt the feelings of the streamers.
The streamer mentioned above is relatively good at managing her chat room while playing games. She threatens, playfully, to block such ill-mannered visitors, or tries to sway such visitors with her cute facial expressions and charming gestures.
What’s interesting is that she runs a mobile community of her fans on KakaoTalk. Using KakaoTalk’s open chat function, she keeps talking with fans throughout the day. And the members of the mobile community, just like a K-pop fan club, organize events and discuss the amount of donations to help their heroine to keep her popularity and earn enough money in return for spending her personal hours for the Twitch channel.
As a result, existing fans and newcomers willingly pay monthly fees to sign up for the channel membership to remove ads and demonstrate their appreciation. At the same time, they play games together with her, a widespread practice known as “sicham,” or “the participation of viewers.”
For Twitch viewers, playing games with streamers in real time is a truly thrilling experience. Unlike other streaming services such as Netflix in which viewers are restricted to watching films and TV dramas passively, Twitch draws amateur gamers with its powerful real-time streaming capability.
Channel visitors, therefore, are eager to be selected by streamers to play together and appear on Twitch. It’s the equivalent to having a street interview with a major broadcasting station and the video footage being aired on national prime-time TV. Years ago, this type of TV interview was regarded as something that should be taken as a special event for ordinary people. With the rise of digital platforms, the influence of TV stations has weakened and gamers are now taking the sicham on a popular streamer channel as something that should be screen-captured and posted on their personal social media accounts.
The potential market for gaming streamers on Twitch looks largely promising as long as the platform comes up with better solutions and technologies to keep game buffs sticking around on the platform.
But not all streamers are as successful as the one mentioned above. For most novice streamers, Twitch is not the land of opportunity. As with other global platforms, it is extremely easy to create a new ID and start streaming, but it is incredibly difficult to gain popularity and secure a financial foothold as a full-time or part-time streamer on Twitch.
Playing one’s favorite games is essentially fun, but trying to make money and create a fan base on the competitive platform is no plaything.
By Yang Sung-jin (firstname.lastname@example.org
) Yang Sung-jin is the multimedia editor of The Korea Herald. -- Ed.