Before Fortnite taught us all how to dance, gaming was a different world. Today’s 160 billion dollar industry was once just a bunch of friends cramming bulky TVs into a basement every Friday night for some Halo split-screen. Now, watching esports is more popular than watching ‘real’ sports. So, it’s no surprise that starting your own gaming channel can feel a little bit daunting.
That’s why we’ve put together a four-step guide to help you find your feet.
In this guide, we’ll cover how to become a gaming YouTuber or Twitch streamer by focusing on four key stages to every great channel, including:
Ready to jump in? Let’s go!
Step 1: Brainstorm for your channel
Starting a gaming channel is a lot like starting a new game. Before you run off into a level 50 zone and find yourself curled up in a dark corner with all your gear missing, you need to get a sense of direction.
Think of the brainstorming process as your character-creation stage. At this point, you’re just trying to get a sense of how you might build your channel, and who you are as a presenter.
Start by going through gaming channels or streamers you already enjoy and jot down the answers to these questions:
- What kind of games do they play?
- What are they like as presenters?
- What’s the format of their content?
- Are they reaction videos? ‘Let’s Play’ videos? Player vs. Player (PVP)?
Take notes, and remember that what’s important here is what resonates with you. You’re far more likely to sustain the energy and enthusiasm needed to grow a channel if you genuinely enjoy the content you’re creating.
Once you have a broad idea, start honing in a little bit closer. See if you can solidify your thoughts around the following:
- Your gaming genre
- Gameplay type
- Your persona and presenter style (on-camera or off-camera? Solo or with friends?)
At the end of this stage, you’re just looking for a basic sketch of the kind of channel you want to launch.
This library of notes and inspiration will be something you can refer to and update as your channel evolves. Remember, the whole point of brainstorming is to get an idea of your starting point – not to tie you to one way of doing things!
Which games should you play?
Figuring out what games most popular YouTubers and Twitch streamers play can feel a bit overwhelming. With so many to pick from, it’s hard to know what ‘the best’ games are!
Generally, it’s a good idea to stick to what you know and love. But if you need some inspiration, here’s a quick round-up of the most popular games YouTubers will be playing in 2020.
Shooters are one of the most popular gaming genres to play for a reason. Huge communities and high-octane gameplay have helped some of the best streamers in the world build their channels into multi-million dollar empires.
- Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
- Doom Eternal
- Destiny 2
- Splatoon 2
- Battlefield V
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
Sports games have big audiences and are some of the most entertaining to watch. They’re uniquely competitive, simple to play, and easy to jump into.
- Rocket League
- Fifa 20
- NBA 2K20 and 2K21
- NHL 20 and NHL 21
- MLB The Show 20
Fast-paced and full of surprises. Racing games are pretty straightforward: don’t drive backward, beat everyone else to the finish.
- Mario Kart
- TrackMania 2
- Need for Speed Heat
- MotoGP 20
- Ride 4
- F1 2020
Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA)
MOBAs have some of the largest communities on the planet. They also have some of the biggest prize pools in eSports history, with League of Legends 2018 raking in a mouthwatering $6 million!
- Dota 2
- League of Legends
- Heroes of the Storm
- Arena of Valor
Battle Royale-style games follow a formula that has captivated millions: take a massive group of players and arm them to the teeth, then shrink the map until there’s one player left to take the glory!
- Call of Duty: Warzone
- Apex Legends
Sandbox games combine free-roaming maps with a focus on crafting, solving puzzles and building communities. They’re less fast-paced, but give players the creativity and time to shape their own world.
- Animal Crossing
- Grand Theft Auto V
- Kerbal Space Program
- No Man’s Sky
Generating a library of inspirational gaming channels and content will help you define your personal brand. Starting a gaming channel is as much about who you are as a person as it is the format of your content. If you have a sense of who you want to become, you’re far more likely to see your vision for your channel through!
Step 2: Find the right streaming gear
You’ve completed the character phase, and now you’re ready to get going. Now, it’s time to gear up!
Gear is an integral part of starting a gaming channel. But becoming a YouTuber or streamer requires a lot less tech than you might think. As many streamers have pointed out in “what gear do I use” videos, high-end equipment isn’t the defining aspect of your channel. You are.
Sure, good production value doesn’t hurt— if you can afford it. But since you’re just setting off, it’s important to focus more on content and less on what camera you’re going to buy at first.
Streaming platform: Twitch or YouTube?
Currently, the top streaming platforms for video games are Twitch (by a considerable margin) and YouTube. If there’s a game you want to play, there’s probably already a community on one of these platforms that wants to see your content.
Keep in mind that how you stream on each platform differs between PC and consoles. There are also differences between Twitch and YouTube in terms of how you’ll make money and how your viewers will find you. A lot of gaming channels tend to share their content between Twitch and YouTube, sometimes with more curated content on the latter—though this isn’t set in stone.
Gaming channel hardware: PC or Console?
Generally, if you already have a decent(ish) PC or console, it’s possible to start a streaming channel with a low initial budget.
How to stream depends on your hardware, with different steps required for PC/Mac, Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, and mobile gaming.
As a general rule of thumb, computer streaming gives you greater control over your channel during both capture and production but comes with a higher initial investment if you don’t already have a gaming PC.
Console streaming is less expensive upfront, but each console differs slightly in streaming functionality. Additionally, unless you buy a capture card, consoles offer limited flexibility in terms of what you can do with your streaming.
For PC, you’ll need to download a broadcasting application like OBS or XSplit. A broadcasting application allows you to capture your gameplay as it happens and send it to Twitch or YouTube. OBS is completely free and generally most streamers’ go-to since XSplit has a tiered pricing model for more advanced features.
For consoles, native streaming via Twitch also differs between brands, with some limitations to streaming via Xbox One (such as zero webcam functionality without a Kinect sensor…which aren’t being made anymore). PS4 seems to have a little more flexibility in this respect, as you can’t stream directly to YouTube with Xbox One either. Keep in mind that this could all change with the release of the PS5 and Xbox Series X later this year.
Finding a camera
If you’re on a PC or Mac, an entry-level webcam will do, to begin with. Spending between $30-$100 is a good investment while you figure out the basics, and brands like Logitech are a great place to start.
If you’re on the Xbox One or PS4, you can use your Kinect or PlayStation Camera.
Both Twitch and YouTube have native video editing functionality on PC. There are also a ton of video editing software tools you can use with varying levels of free or freemium pricing, like Shotcut, Lightworks, DaVince Resolve, and HitFilm Express.
At the higher end, many YouTubers go with Adobe Premiere Pro CC, Final Cut Pro X or Sony Vegas. However, starting on something free and easy will not only save you money, but it’s also a super helpful way to learn the principles of video editing in a low-stakes environment.
Picking a mic
To capture all your gaming witticisms, you’ll need an entry-level mic or headset. If you’re only focusing on pre-recorded content, most smartphones have audio recording functionality that could also work.
Ultimately, you want to make sure you have a minimum level of quality to your audio so that your audience can hear you. To be safe, a good USB mic is a great investment, and there are tons of options available. (Blue Microphones are pretty popular entry-level mics, for example).
To sum it up, here’s the recommended basic gear you’ll need to launch your gaming channel:
- A Console or PC (with a broadcasting application)
- A platform like Twitch, or YouTube
- A basic webcam
- A basic mic
Step 3: Brand and name your gaming channel
You’ve thought about the personality behind your content and the theme of your channel. You’ve invested time and money in your gear. Now, it’s time to create a brand identity that your audience can recognize. This means:
- Naming your channel
- Designing a logo
- Considering your thumbnail format
Naming your gaming channel
When you’re thinking of a name, it’s a good idea to keep it relevant to your genre, if you have one.
For instance, if you don’t exclusively play Dark Souls, calling your channel Oberon’s Significant Other, Goblin Fiasco, or Dark Matter, could confuse your audience into thinking you’re a death metal band or craft IPA, and not a gamer (actually, Dark Matter is a pretty sweet name…). If you see yourself as more of a ‘character’ streamer – like Dr DisRespect – think of something that embodies your persona.
Our recommendation? Keep your name short, simple, and broad to begin with. That way, if you end up pivoting later on, your name won’t clash with your content. You can also revisit your brainstorming and see if there’s a vibe that sticks out that you can put a name to.
Ultimately, nobody can tell you what to call your baby, or your Youtube channel. So if you want to call either of them Dingleberry McDingleburger, you go girl!
Designing a logo
When starting a gaming channel, you need a logo. Your logo encapsulates the energy of your channel and you want it to fit the character or genre you’re going for.
Create your gaming channel logo now!
A great logo is simple, personal, and instantly recognizable, and gaming logo design is no different. Check out other streamers for inspiration, and explore our beginner’s guide on how to design a logo if you’re unsure where to begin.
Think of your video thumbnails as mini billboards.
The best thumbnails use bold colors, key moments in the video (such as face reaction screenshots), and high-intensity text that creates suspense and interest. Most established YouTubers use a consistent design format on their thumbnail images. Find a format you like, and stick with it!
Branding your gaming channel is about bringing your personality into your name, logo, and brand identity elements like thumbnails. Part quality, part authenticity, effective channel branding makes you more shareable, and more users are likely to discover and remember you in the future.
Step 4: Grow your gaming channel
Okay, you’ve passed character creation and completed the in-game tutorial. Now it’s time to face the world. Once you’ve settled on your style, set up your gear, and branded your channel, you’re officially ready to launch your channel.
As you grow and refine your content, keep in mind a core set of principles to guide your progress below.
Create a community
The most important aspect of growing your gaming channel is building a community. Your viewers have taken the time, and potentially money, to connect with you. The relationship you and your community have is, therefore, priority number one.
Regular uploads (once every week or fortnight to start with), authentic content, and a sense of genuine rapport with your audience will be the foundation of your channel’s future growth.
Think like a marketer
The main aim of your channel is to be found and to be liked. The two basic questions you need to consider with any content you put out are:
- Is it interesting: would I want to click on this video?
- Is it relevant: does the title answer what I searched for?
Without the fist, you won’t create an incentive for users to become fans. Without the second, nobody will find your content.
Collaborating with other channels is also a great way to align yourself with the wider gaming community in your niche and raise awareness.
Monetizing your gaming channel
Yes, it’s possible to monetize gaming videos on YouTube or Twitch. On each platform, the upside potential of having a successful gaming channel can be stratospheric. Top YouTube gamers pull in earnings of over $3 million per year, with the highest earners – like PewDiePie – making four or five times that amount.
The best way to start making money through YouTube comes through ad revenue and influencer sponsorship opportunities. On Twitch, subscriptions are paid for and will form the bedrock of your monthly income once you get big enough.
But again, don’t get too caught up on the money just yet. Love what you do, create great content, and the rest will follow!
You’re all set!
Starting a gaming channel is just like any other business venture. It takes passion, grit, and vision. In this guide, we looked at the importance of building your channel in four key stages, from research to basic equipment, branding and naming, and finally, launching and growing your channel.
A common thread in every streamer’s success story is the time commitment, passion, and the care that goes into building a channel. So make sure you’re doing something you enjoy, and think carefully about how you brand and position your content. Other than that, good luck, and happy gaming!