Starting in the mid-2010’s, streaming has quickly become one of the largest and fastest growing new forms of entertainment. What exactly is video game streaming? It is when people broadcast themselves playing video games with commentary, in either pre-recorded or live streams online. On streaming platforms like Mixer, Twitch, YouTube Gaming etc. you can see how the top players play and have some insight into their thoughts. As streaming has become more popular the platforms for viewers have grown, Twitch itself has more traffic than Netflix and HBO’s online streaming service pulling in 185 million viewers, compared to HBO’s 130 million and Netflix’s 93 million in 2016. With all these viewers top streamers like Ninja, Tfue and Shroud are able to generate large amounts of influence and money. Now let’s take a look at what they do to generate their viewership and why these particular streamers are so popular.
Richard Tyler Blevins aka Ninja is one of the streamers you may have heard of before, and for good reason. His YouTube account has over 22.2 million subscribers as of December 2019, and he has been streaming since 2011 compiling around two billion total views as of December 2019.
Ninja began his career as a professional Halo 3 player in 2009, he played for several organisations before eventually joining Luminosity Gaming in 2017. That year Ninja started to rise to fame with his win at the PUBG Gamescom Invitational Squads. After that win he began streaming Fornite regularly, and his timing could not have been better as Fortnite took off that year. So much so that by September 2017 he had over half a million followers and six months after that he had more than two million. By March 2018 he set the Twitch record for the largest concurrent audience on an individual stream (outside of tournament events) at 635,000 viewers, a record which did not last as he broke it again a month later with 667,000 viewers during his event Ninja Vegas 2018. 2018 continued to be a great year for Ninja as he was the first Esports player featured on the cover of ESPN Magazine, announced a partnership with Red Bull, and released his own record. Additionally he was in the NFL’s “The 100-Year Game” ad which aired during Super Bowl LIII this year.
Along with all those accolades Blevins is making quite a career out of streaming. He was paid a reported $1 million to promote EA’s Apex Legends on his Twitch and Twitter accounts and he earns over $500,000 a month streaming Fortnite.
While he made a killing on Twitch, he decided to switch to Microsoft’s streaming platform Mixer as of August 1st, 2019. He did this as he felt Twitch was limiting his ability to grow his brand outside of video games. For instance he released a book in August called Get Good: My Ultimate Guide To Gaming published by Penguin Random House. He also was briefly a member of The Masked Singer on Fox as his wife is a fan of the show.
After all of his streaming success he has also done some quality fundraising for charity. In February 2018, he raised over $110,000 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Then during the first annual Fortnite Battle Royale Esports event he gave away $50,000 in prize money, with $2,500 going to the Alzheimer’s Association. The charitable works roll on as in April 2018 he took part in the #Clips4Kids event, helping to raide over $340,000 for the charity. Additionally his team won the Fortnite Pro-Am event, winning the $1 million prize for the charity of their choice.
Turner Tenney aka Tfue is another Twitch streamer and YouTuber who originally began streaming shooting games like Destiny and Call of Duty. Like many other streamers he switched to battle royale style titles such as H1Z1, PUBG and eventually landed on Fortnite as the game blew up in popularity. Lately his stream became incredibly popular, rivaling “Ninja”, as he boasts over 7.3 million followers on Twitch. He is a member of FaZe Clan since April 2018 and competed in Epic Games’ Summer Skirmish that same year.
While Ninja steered clear of any big controversies, Tfue’s career is littered with them. He was banned from Twitch in May 2018 for a month, after calling another player a “coon”. He did downplay the incident, claiming that the player was “playing like a snake, like a raccoon” and saying he “didn’t mean to say [the slur] in a racist way,”. He then went on to receive an in game ban from Fortnite because he selling accounts with rare skins, encouraging people to DM him on twitter to buy them. This is a direct violation of Fortnite’s End User License Agreement and resulted in the ban. Without seemingly learning anything Tfue was then banned again on August 23rd for unrevealed reasons. His brother claiming his chatroom turned toxic against another streamer, and his father saying he was banned for uttering a banned word on twitch. Others speculate he targeted a smaller streamer. According to fellow streamer Dextro he was banned for saying “I have AIDS” on stream.
Additionally during this time his YouTube account was criminally hacked around August 23rd 2018. His brother claiming “It’s been six days since his channel was deleted and it still has not been recovered, which completely and utterly blows my mind,”. Eventually his account was returned and on September 6th, 2018 his Twitch and YouTube accounts were reactivated. Tfue has not revealed why he was banned only stating “14 days, I got banned on Twitch for just some stupid, stupid stuff that I did’ ‘It wasn’t even bad, I honestly don’t even wanna get into it because it’s just so dumb.” Guess we’ll just have to wait and see if anymore is revealed about his suspension, for now we wish him the best of luck staying and hope he is able to remain streaming for years to come. Hopefully he can turn his image around and even contribute to charity using a similar model to “Ninja”.
Michael Grzesiek aka “Shroud” is a Canadian professional streamer. He began his career as a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) player before transitioning to streaming full time.
Prior to streaming he took first in all these events:
ESL ESEA Pro League Season 1 – North America 2015
iBUYPOWER Cup – 2015
ESL Pro League Season 4 – Finals 2016
Americas Minor Championship – Kraków 2017
All of those wins helped him build a viewer base and transition to streaming full time as people want to see the best of the best play. He is now famous for playing PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Apex Legends, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 which he streamed on Twitch. He has streamed over 6,000 hours on Twitch with a reach of over 345 million total views. Recently in October 2019 he followed Ninja’s lead and left Twitch for Mixer, most likely for a large pile of cash as his YouTube channel has over 5.3 million subscribers.
As professional streamers become bigger stars it is interesting to see how video games are influencing culture worldwide. Stars like Ninja, Tfue, and Shroud are ambassadors for Esports now and will likely have a large impact on the future of gaming. They can use their influence to create charities and help the world if they manage to stay out of trouble. But most importantly they are here to entertain us and we hope they continue to do so for as long as they choose too.